College Essays

George Washington Supplemental

Prompt: At the George Washington University, our students frequently interact with policymakers and world leaders. These experiences and those of our alumni can shape the future of global affairs. If you had the power to change the course of history in your community or the world, what would you do and why? (500 max)


Dating back to the early days of civilization, groups of human beings were forced apart by geographical limitations. It was only a few hundred years ago when Magellan circumnavigated the globe and only 150 years ago when an American could travel from coast to coast. Our physical separation created a cognitive one in many ways; because we couldn’t share culture, religion, and traditions, prejudice was born.

As a Ukrainian American and a member of the LGBTQ+ community, I have witnessed the conflict that stems from intolerance and lack of exposure to diverse groups of people. Countless Ukrainians, especially those living in rural settings, lack acceptance of the LGBTQ+ community simply because they have not encountered people who possess those identities. More often than not, prejudices grow from limited exposure; if I could change history, I’d physically connect communities to one another far sooner than it occurred.

In an effort to unify the world, I would have invented mass transportation of all kinds, making it accessible and affordable hundreds of years ago—as a result, exposing everyone to the rich diversity of the world. Historically, transportation facilitated trade and travel, which launched religions, cultures, and traditions around the world. Increasing shared ideas far sooner would have brought societies together, just as Christianity spread west and math spread east.  

More recently, transportation has grown cities where marginalized and minority groups can unite and find acceptance. Often, small communities thrive in large cities where they can congregate, like the gay community in New York City or the Iranian community in Los Angeles. If this growth occurred hundreds of years ago, people would inevitably face less prejudice today. 

In spreading ideas and bringing marginalized communities together, a more tolerant and accepting world would emerge. If my Ukrainian peers grew up knowing LGBTQ+ people, they would inevitably be more accepting. If transportation had unified our world centuries ago, intolerance and prejudice would decrease significantly, leaving a better world for all.

Tips for Writing:

Writing a supplemental essay presents a unique set of challenges. Word counts, unique and long winded prompts, and expressing yourself eloquently all combine to make writing a supplement quite difficult. Below are my suggestions for conquering each of these challenges:

DON’T Write to a word count. Rather, write what comes to mind, irrespective of a limit or target, and then assess. This way, you have all your thoughts and words together and they can be assembled to fit whatever limit you are given.

Cut out redundancy. So often, writers repeat themselves in a first draft. Cut out any repetitive sentences—or combine them to make your writing more eloquent and effective.

Avoid small words. “By” “of” “it” and other 2-3 letter words often waste precious words when limited by a prompt. Either, replace these words or phrases with something richer, or take them out completely. 

Every word counts. When you only have a few words to write with, EACH ONE counts, so don’t waste words on convoluted phrasing or small, boring words because they often add little to your essay and are “Dead Wood” that can be removed or strengthened.

Focus on the Question, not the Background. Many prompts are sentences long with quotes, contextualization, and other “fluff”. DON’T GET LOST in the excess. Focus on the last sentence or two where the main question truly lies, the rest of the prompt comes in after to build exigence and an overarching idea.

Vague prompts are an open door. Students fear vague prompts because they lack definite direction or instruction. This is an intentional decision by the college to assess how you handle an open-ended problem. Take any direction you choose; Little direction from the prompt means you can choose your own adventure.

Reference yourself. Use specific examples. In a “Why this school/major?” essay, reference specific places, courses, clubs, values, etc. to evidence your opinion of a school. When writing about your own experiences, don’t be afraid of personal pronouns, write your own actions, and take credit for what you have done.

Exigence matters. Ask yourself why you are writing an essay. When schools ask existential questions or for your broad ideas (like the prompt above) share why YOU are writing an essay, why your writing matters to you and the world. Use personal anecdotes and other facts.

Read the essay aloud. When writing, you often know what you mean regardless of the errors  present; you “autocorrect” these errors in your head. Instead, read every word aloud, as if you were giving a speech. This tactic reveals poor sentence structure (run-ons, confusion, etc.) and repetitive words. You also focus closely on each portion and can deep clean this way.

Cut out passive voice. Not only is passive voice improper, “he had been changed by his mother’s words” is 3 words longer than “His mother’s wisdom changed him,” making it an easy way to cut down on words AND improve essay quality.

Vary sentence structure. Short, blunt sentences often pack a punch stronger than a long complex sentence. A variety of sentence lengths and structures combine to create interesting writing and better deliver your message.

Don’t repeat words. Students often have go-to phrases, transitions, clauses, etc. Don’t overuse them. Don’t repeat other words either, use apt synonyms. If words are repeated, you may be repeating ideas and could combine/collapse sentences.

Avoid one word transitions. At times these transitions are appropriate, but when connecting big ideas, instead of using “Furthermore” or “As well”, connect ideas together.

Play with punctuation. Don’t fear semicolons, em dashes, and other advanced punctuation. Learn the functions of punctuators on your keyboard and use them. 

  • Colons can be used to show a sentence is evidencing the sentence prior. 
  • Semicolons connect two sentences together without wasting precious words on short conjunctions.
  • Em dashes replace commas before/after sentence fragments and are great for wordy, long sentences.

No more to be verbs. As a future college student, you’re more advanced than “to be” verbs. They are a sign of passive voice and weak writing. “He was sad” is boring. “His heart ached” is far richer and a better use of words.

Good Luck! This process is stressful and difficult, but you will succeed. Use the tips above when writing supplements and use all other resources you have available (Teachers, college websites, etc.) Have confidence in yourself and keep ahead of the game. You’ve got this!

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