William and Mary Supplemental Essays 2023-24

September 27, 2023

william and mary supplemental essays

Founded in 1693, the College of William & Mary is the second oldest institution of higher learning in the entire United States. With an acceptance rate that was 32% for the Class of 2027, W&M is a very selective school. It is even more challenging to gain admission into for out-of-state students. With that in mind, it’s important to put maximum effort into every aspect of your application. Of course, this includes the William and Mary supplemental essays.

 (Want to learn more about How to Get Into W&M? Visit our blog entitled:  How to Get Into William & Mary  for all of the most recent admissions data as well as tips for gaining acceptance.)

When applying to an institution like the College of William & Mary that rejects roughly two-thirds of those who apply, you’ll need to put maximum effort into every area of the application, including the Common App and supplemental essays. Below are William and Mary’s optional essay prompts for the 2023-24 admissions cycle. Additionally, you find our advice for composing strong essays.

Should I answer an optional essay?

In such a  hypercompetitive college admissions environment , not filling out an essay would be a suboptimal decision for a prospective applicant. With such cutthroat competition at a highly selective school like William & Mary, it would be foolish not to avail yourself of every opportunity to make a strong case for admission. Applicants applying to a dozen or more schools may be exhausted after already plowing through countless other supplemental prompts. However, this is simply not the place to cut corners.

Unfortunately, skipping an optional essay of this nature could hurt your candidacy at William and Mary, as this institution only offers non-evaluative interviews with current W&M seniors. As such, there are limited ways to connect with an admissions officer, and the supplemental essay(s) will be one of your very best opportunities.

William and Mary Supplemental Essays – (Optional)

William and Mary gives applicants the option to choose one or two of the six available prompts. Additionally, you’ll have 300 words of space for each prompt.

1) Beyond your impressive academic credentials and extracurricular accomplishments, what else makes you unique and colorful?

In W&M’s own words, “You are not a number when you apply to or attend William & Mary. You are a three dimensional person who has initiative, spirit and ideas.” Showing the admissions committee who you are at the core of your being is no easy task at this school. As such, here are some ideas of how you can most productively utilize these 300 words of space:

  • Talk about your deepest passions and the various ways in which you pursue knowledge in those areas.
  • Say more about your role in a particular community of which you are a member. This could be your family, your circle of friends, a religious organization, a job, a sports team, etc.
  • The college admissions process can feel very heavy and serious; telling a humorous story can help forge a personal connection, even via an otherwise dry application.
  • Be open about your idiosyncrasies and anything that makes you uniquely  you .
  • What ideas excite you? Where do you see limitless possibilities in the world?
  • Lastly, what moves your spirit? Discuss any art, movies, music, and books that you find deeply moving and personally important.

2) Are there any particular communities that are important to you, and how do you see yourself being a part of our community?

Keep in mind that William and Mary has already seen the President’s Volunteer Service Award and the impressive number of hours you volunteered at multiple nonprofit organizations. They know that you have been an active member of your high school/local community. The admissions committee now desires to understand precisely how you will contribute to  their  community of undergraduate students. Highlighting the link between your past efforts and future aims is critical here. For example, if you dedicated many hours to volunteering at your local animal shelter throughout high school, it will be more impactful when you now express your commitment to joining William and Mary’s Animal Rights Club.

The strongest William and Mary community essays show evidence of meaningful school-specific research. This research process will actually give you a better idea of how you would sincerely like to become engaged at each prospective school on your list. Admissions officers will appreciate a William and Mary-centric answer far more than a generic (often recycled from app to app) response.

3) How has your family, culture and/or background shaped your lived experience?

Take note of the wide-open nature of this prompt. You are essentially invited to talk about any of the following topics:

  • A perspective you hold
  • Your upbringing
  • Your cultural background
  • Your religious background
  • Your family background
  • Your race/ethnicity
  • Your sexual orientation or gender identity

William and Mary Supplemental Essay Prompts (Continued)

Although this prompt’s open floor plan may feel daunting, a good tactic is to first consider what has already been communicated within on other areas of your application. What important aspect(s) of yourself have not been shared (or sufficiently discussed)? The admissions officer reading your essay is hoping to connect with you through your written words, so—within your essay’s reflection—be open, humble, thoughtful, inquisitive, emotionally honest, mature, and/or insightful about what you learned and how you grew.

You’ll then need to discuss how family, culture, and/or background has influenced your life and perspective, and in what ways.

4) Share more about a personal academic interest or career goal.

Out of everything on this Earth, what makes you tick? What keeps you up at night? What subject makes you read books and online content until your eyes bleed? Immerse the reader in your intellectual journey of choice. Share what made you interested in the topic and how you’ve pursued knowledge. Finally, be sure to address what you’ve learned about yourself and how you hope to continue pursuing this interest in the future (tip: this is a great place to incorporate William and Mary specifics).

Alternatively, if you happen to have clear-cut career goals, such as becoming a physician, attending law school, or addressing coral bleaching, you can take this opportunity to tell the admissions committee more about it. How did this career goal develop, and what have you done to pursue it so far? Moreover, how do you intend to work toward your goal at William and Mary in particular?

5) Tell us about a challenge or adversity you’ve experienced and how that has impacted you as an individual.

Of course, some teens have faced more challenges than others, potentially related to an illness or medical emergency, frequent moving, socioeconomic situation, natural disaster, or learning disability, to name a few. However, you don’t have to have faced a significant challenge to write a compelling essay (and even if you have faced a significant challenge, you don’t have to write about it if you’re not comfortable doing so). Writing about a common topic like getting cut from a sports team, struggling in a particular advanced course, or facing an obstacle within a group project or extracurricular activity is perfectly fine.

Any story told in an emotionally compelling, honest, and connective manner can resonate with an admissions reader. The bottom line here is that there are no trite topics, only trite answers. The important thing to keep in mind is that the challenge/story itself is  less important  than what it reveals about your character and personality.

Given the 300-word limit, your essay needs to be extremely tight and polished. In all likelihood, getting this one precisely right will involve a round or two of revision, ideally with some insight/feedback from a trusted adult or peer in the process.

6) If we visited your town, what would you want to show us?

No matter where you live, local spots of interest abound, so take this opportunity to show admissions something you genuinely love or appreciate about where you’re from. Perhaps it’s your local farm stand, a museum, a restaurant, a public art installation, the beach that you run on in the mornings…regardless of your answer, the most important part of this response will be why. Why do you want to show this particular location to an admissions officer, and what do you hope they learn about you in the process?

How important are the William and Mary supplemental essays?

W&M lists 12 factors as being “very important” to the admissions committee: rigor of secondary school record, class rank, GPA, standardized test scores, essays, recommendations, extracurricular activities, talent/ability, character/personal qualities, state residency, volunteer work, and work experience.

So, we know that the  Common App essay  and the optional supplemental essays are among the top dozen factors in what is a genuinely holistic admissions process. It is fair to say that the essays will be read carefully. Further, they can be a separating factor between two comparable “on the cusp” applicants.

Want Personalized Essay Assistance?

In conclusion, if you are interested in working with one of College Transitions’ experienced and knowledgeable essay coaches as you craft your main Common App essay and William & Mary supplemental essays, we encourage you to get a quote  today.

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Kelsea Conlin

Kelsea holds a BA in English with a concentration in Creative Writing from Tufts University, a graduate certificate in College Counseling from UCLA, and an MA in Teaching Writing from Johns Hopkins University. Her short fiction is forthcoming in Chautauqua .

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College Essays


The College of William and Mary in Virginia is the second oldest university in the country, and it's consistently ranked in the top colleges in the nation. Their acceptance rate reflects that: every year, only 36% of students who apply are admitted.

That means that if you're interested in applying to William and Mary, you'll want your application to shine. Simply having good grades and test scores isn't enough on its own—in fact, 75% of accepted William and Mary students were in the top 10% of their high school class .

This is where the optional William and Mary essay comes in. This is your chance to make your application stand out ! So what is this optional essay, and how optional is it ? This article will tell you everything you need to know about the William and Mary supplement essay, including:

  • Explaining the William and Mary supplemental essay prompt
  • Walking you through how to answer the prompt
  • Going over what admissions counselors are looking for in an excellent supplemental essay

We have a lot to cover, so let's get started!

What Is the William and Mary Supplemental Essay?

The William and Mary supplemental essay is an optional essay that you can choose to submit as part of your overall admissions packet . The goal of the essay is to help admissions counselors get to know you a little better...and to showcase your writing skills one last time. Since this essay is optional, you don't have to write it in order to submit your application. (We'll talk about whether you should write it a little later, though!)

So where can you find the optional essay? Within the online application itself, there is a separate drop down box labelled "Optional W&M Essay." If you expand this box, you'll see the prompt. If you choose to submit the supplemental essay, you'll have to turn it in as part of your overall application packet. In other words, you can't go back later and submit the supplemental essay—once you turn in your application,

The text box itself allows for 650 characters, but you'll notice the prompt states that they're looking for 500 words or less . They're allowing you a little leeway so you won't get cut off in the middle of a sentence, but you should follow the instructions and try to limit yourself to under 500 words.


6 Steps to Writing the Perfect William and Mary Supplemental Essay

Now that you've been introduced to the William and Mary essay, it's time to talk about how to write one that makes admissions counselors sit up and take notice.

Here are six simple steps that will help you develop your essay into the exact thing the admission committee might be looking for.

Step 1: Read the Prompt

To help you get a handle on what the prompt is asking for, let's take a closer look at it:

"Beyond your impressive academic credentials and extracurricular accomplishments, what else makes you unique and colorful? We know nobody fits neatly into 500 words or less, but you can provide us with some suggestion of the type of person you are. Anything goes! Inspire us, impress us, or just make us laugh. Think of this optional opportunity as show and tell by proxy and with an attitude."

At its core, this prompt is all about you. Admissions counselors want to learn about what makes you unique and different from everyone else around you. In other words, admissions counselors are going to use this essay to get to know you better!

More importantly, this prompt specifically asks you to "show and tell," which is a sneaky way of saying that admissions counselors want you to tell them a story. Instead of providing a laundry list of your best qualities, pick one thing that makes you unique and then write a story around it. We recommend that you choose a specific event from your life that showcases your unique personality, then use that as a springboard for the rest of your essay.

Keep in mind that you're still writing an essay for a college application— just because the prompt asks you to inspire, impress, or amuse the admissions committee doesn't mean you shouldn't take the assignment seriously . More importantly, your job is to show admissions counselors that you're a great fit for William and Mary.

Step 2: Choose Your Unique Attribute

You've probably realized that 500 words is not a lot of room to write an essay. It turns out that 500 words is about one typed, single-spaced page of text. So even though there are hundreds of things about you that make you unique, if you tried to write about them all, you'd run out of room!

In order to write a great essay, you'll have to choose one or two attributes that make you unique. That way, you'll be able to tell a story that captures your readers' attention while still showcasing the special person that you are!

But how do you pick the unique quality you want to write about? We recommend that you start your writing process by brainstorming about twenty or thirty things that make you unique. Once you have that list, choose the one that you feel is both A) individual enough that you wouldn't expect someone else to choose it, and B) important enough to you that you could easily convey a lot of passion about it.

If you're having trouble picking a quality to write about, try talking to your parents, teachers, and best friends. Show them your list and ask them which traits stand out. They may even suggest some attributes of their own! Sometimes an outside perspective can help you narrow down your choices.


Keeping your focus narrow helps you write a more compelling essay.

Step 3: Narrow Your Focus and Choose a Story

Once you've chosen your most unique qualities, you'll need to figure out how to talk about them. Like we said earlier, we recommend that you use a story to help readers understand you better. A good story is specific and allows you to include unique and interesting details. If your story is too long or too broad, you'll need to summarize the events or aspects, which will make them unexciting and bland.

Here's what we mean: let's say Bryan has decided that his most unique attribute is that he's the first male soprano in his school's history. He decides he wants to tell the story of how he tried out for choir and discovered he could sing high notes. If Bryan tried to tell the story from the first moment he learned he could sing soprano, then he'd need thousands of words to write his essay! By narrowing his focus down to the actual audition, he can share more details...which will help the admissions committee get to know him even bette r.

Once you've narrowed your focus to one specific moment, it's time to craft your story. Good stories help readers feel like they're watching a movie. As you write, include sensory details , including sounds, sights, smells, etc. so that your essay is as vivid to the reader as the memory is to you!

Step 4: Remember Your Audience

Even though the William and Mary supplement essay is an informal prompt meant mostly to help the admission committee determine what type of person you are, keep in mind that it is still a college application. That means there are certain values about yourself that you want to emphasize. You want the people reading this essay to think of you as an intellectually curious, genuine, and thoughtful potential student.

While you may have an entertaining story that involves illicit or illegal behavior, this isn't the place to share it. Additionally, make sure you're not using off-color, racially charged, or potentially offensive language. At the end of the day, you want to show admissions counselors that you're a good fit for William and Mary's values !

Also, remember that your audience is reading over 14,000 of these essays between January and March every year, and many of them have been doing it for several years. Don't lie in your William and Mary application essay! We guarantee that admissions counselors will be able to tell. Trust us: with a little effort, you'll be able to tell a story that is both truthful and compelling.


You're unique! Letting that shine through in your essay is a good way to catch the admission committee's attention.

Step 5: Explain Why You're a Good Fit for William and Mary

While this definitely isn't a "why this school" essay , you still want to tie your William and Mary application essay into the rest of your application.

To do this, use the last two sentences of your essay to explain how your unique qualities will help you fit into the William and Mary campus . Even better, you can tell admissions counselors how you plan to use your unique personality to help support William and Mary's mission!

Take Bryan's topic that we talked about before. He knows what it's like to feel different, and he's learned how to be comfortable in his own skin. That means he can't wait to join William and Mary's choir , where he hopes to both share his talent and support others as they share theirs, too. Ending the essay like this shows admissions counselors that Bryan is ready to become a central part of William and Mary's vibrant campus community.

Step 6: Revise, Revise, and Revise

After you've chosen your topic and have written your essay, y ou need to reread it . If you have enough time, wait a few days before starting the revision process so that you can bring a fresh perspective to your essay. You'll likely find that there are places where you can add more detail, clarity, or explanation

Once you've finished your revisions, choose one or two people whose opinions you trust to read the essay and offer their criticism . Don't choose someone who loves everything you do and already thinks you're brilliant—that's not going to help you make your essay better. Choose someone who you think will offer you honest feedback on how you might improve your essay. If you have a good relationship with your English teacher or high school counselor, you should definitely ask them to read your essay and offer feedback!

If this sounds like a lot of work...well, it is. Creating a great essay takes time and effort. That means you'll need to plan ahead . We recommend starting your essay more than a month in advance so you have plenty of time to write and revise.


What Are William and Mary Looking for When They Read These Essays?

What do William and Mary essays that worked include? Usually, you just have to guess at what the admissions committee wants. Not this time! Brad Harlan, the Assistant Dean of Admission at William and Mary, wrote a helpful blog post about what William and Mary's admissions counselors look for in a good optional essay. Harlan explains:

"How does this individual articulate themselves? What is this individual genuinely passionate about? What motivates this individual. These, and countless other questions, can be answered by your essays. They provide us with meaningful insight into your personality, and give you a chance to "speak" directly to the admission committee. We see essays that cover a wide array of topics and which employ many different tones and styles. Some are funny, some are serious, some are quirky, and all of them provide for engaging and enjoyable reads as we review our many impressive applicants…

"No matter what approach you take, just be sure that your essay covers something that excites you, and that it adds a new dimension to your application. If you write genuinely, enthusiastically and carefully, no matter what the subject, then I can pretty much guarantee that we will very much enjoy reading your work."

Note that the word "genuine" is used twice in two paragraphs. That tells you that admissions counselors are looking for you to express yourself honestly and sincerely. They're not looking for a formal answer that you think they want to hear; instead, admissions counselors want to read an essay that lets them see why you would be a good choice to add to their student body .

Another William and Mary Admissions blog post gives more tips for tackling the optional essay. Wendy Livingston, the Senior Assistant Dean of Admission, writes:

There is something about you that isn't commonplace. Find that thing and write about it. If it's something big like growing up in a foreign country, write about it. If it's something small like you always wear socks with stripes for a particular reason, write about it. If it's something in between like your life-long hobby of collecting McDonalds Happy Meal toys, write about it. The key is to find a topic that few others can write about. There are most definitely fairly generic college essay topics: death of a relative, parents' divorce, traveling abroad, a service/mission trip, a sports injury, your epic love of Harry Potter books (that one has come on strong in recent years). It's not that these experiences/interests aren't salient or important; they are. But they are also fairly commonplace for 17-year olds and the ways in which you write about them will be incredibly similar.

In other words, make sure you're writing about something that is truly unique !

If you're one of ten siblings, practice oil painting in your free time, or spend your weekends playing guitar in your family's 90s cover band...write about it! While it's certainly not bad to like popular things or share common experiences, those don't always give readers true insight into your character.

Instead, choose a topic or quality that might take the admissions committee a bit by surprise (in a good way). That will help you show readers how your unique personality makes you a great addition to William and Mary's student body.


Should You Submit the William and Mary Supplement Essay?

After reading through the steps you'll need to take to create a killer supplement essay, you're probably wondering whether you really need to write it. Couldn't you skip it and save yourself a bunch of time and effort?

If you're serious about getting into William and Mary, then you absolutely need to write the William and Mary supplement essay. Put yourself in the admission committee's place. Imagine a scenario in which you have room for one more student and you're choosing between two candidates. They each have similar GPAs and test scores. However, one of them has a remarkable optional essay and the other didn't even fill in the box. Which student you choose to admit? Probably the one who went the extra mile!

Here's a different scenario. Imagine a candidate who has a pretty average GPA and an unexciting SAT score, but that candidate has a breathtaking optional essay that allows the admissions committee to see that the mediocre grades and SAT scores aren't a fair reflection of the candidate's potential. If you were in the admissions committee's place, wouldn't you be tempted to give the candidate a chance to show what they can do as a student?

As you can see, the essay may be labeled "optional," but it's actually a key piece of your application packet if you really want to get in. The William and Mary application essay is an opportunity to differentiate yourself from thousands of other applicants and make yourself more attractive to the admissions committee.

Granted, if you wrote a very poor essay it may harm your chances a little, but have no fear—after reading this article, you will have the tools you need to write an excellent William and Mary essay!


Analyzing an essay that helped a real student get admitted to William and Mary can help you figure out how to make your supplemental essay even more compelling. ( Ken Lund /Flickr)

Analysis of a Real William and Mary Supplement Essay Sample

Reading other people's successful William and Mary essays can help you write your own. He's an actual William and Mary supplement essay posted to an online forum :

"I've read this prompt seventy-six times. The number is actually much higher, but I only started counting recently. My backspace key is almost worn out from my attempts to conquer this essay. I've tried everything from Poe quotes to inspirational sport tales, but none of them seem to fit. Why is that? I think it's because for the first time, I am not writing to fit some sort of outline. From 7th grade through 9th grade I had the same English teacher. While comical, she did not teach me how to write very well. To her, good writing involved two things: MLA format and the hated five paragraph essay. As a middle schooler, the five paragraph essay seemed like God's gift to sub-par English students. Was I naive or what? Fast forward to 11th grade, and my AP History teacher is having a breakdown from reading so many of these manufactured abominations. She put me on the right track. Unfortunately, now instead of five paragraph papers, I write class response essays, that must contain three examples and a thesis statement. You see the pattern?

Paper after paper, and none of them written under the pretense that I can run wild with it. I no longer associate free expression with writing. They all fit some format and come with a set of rules that would make the creators of Monopoly jealous. Which is why, this essay means more than just acceptance to college. It took me enough attempts to realize it, but for the first time, the rule book has been thrown. I can write about whatever I want in whatever way I want. I don't have to turn this in for a grade. Long words no longer carry points or increased chances at success. I could talk about soccer, Stop Hunger Now or even my acting stint (in the role of Tupac). There are no longer cords that are holding me back from showing who I am. This must be what revolutionaries feel like. As I said before, I've tried quotes and anecdotes. However, all of them were intentionally generic. For once, I want to use one that is not restrained and, to be completely honest, really cool. It's from the book Fight Club:

"One minute was enough," Tyler said. "A person had to work hard for it, but a minute of perfection was worth the effort. A moment was the most you could ever expect from perfection."

After almost fourteen years of writing, I have yet to write one thing that I would consider close to perfect. This paper is different. Whether it's perfect or not, this essay is my moment, and all I needed was for the rule book to be thrown out to reach it."

Let's break this down and see why this supplemental essay helped the writer get into William and Mary.

What Makes This a Strong Example Essay?

The student who wrote this was accepted into William and Mary , so we can consider this a successful essay. The choice of topic is a bit unusual: the student writes about their experience writing the William and Mary supplemental essay.

The topic is fairly narrow, but it doesn't exactly recount an episode from the author's life. Rather, the author places the audience in the experience of writing the essay in real time. They give vivid descriptions, like wearing out their backspace key, which makes readers feel like they're writing the essay, too.

The strength of this essay is its voice , meaning the way the choice of words and the pace of the events helps to develop the character who is speaking. It helps readers experience the writer's frustrations and triumphs, and it also tells readers a lot about the person writing the essay. We learn this writer is a creative person who wants to push boundaries. They're also dedicated—it takes a lot of time to read the prompt over sixty times! Finally, it's clear this person is persistent. Setbacks and frustrations aren't enough to keep them from reaching their goals.

This essay uses a very unique approach to address the prompt, and it succeeds in helping the admissions committee get to know the writer better. Mission accomplished...and student admitted!


3 Key Tips for Writing the William and Mary Supplemental Essay

Now that you know what admissions committees expect from your William and Mary essay, here are our top tips to help you succeed.

Tip 1: Write Passionately

It's easier to write passionately when you're writing about a topic that you care about. Luckily, this William and Mary supplement essay prompt asks you to do just that! Find the topic that most excites you , and use language that conveys your passion to your audience. Allow your excitement about your topic to come out, and readers will be blown away!

Tip 2: Be Yourself

The point of the William and Mary essay is to show the admissions committee that you're a strong, well-rounded candidate. That can be intimidating to lots of students. But don't worry: you're unique and special just because you're you . Don't try to exaggerate to make yourself seem like the type of person the admissions committee is looking for. Remember: the admissions committee is trained to sniff out falsified essay. Just be genuine and authentic, and you'll set yourself up for success.

Tip 3: Have Fun!

The William and Mary essay is unique because it's open ended. You have free reign to express yourself however you see fit! Take the opportunity to stretch yourself and to grow as a writer. (Just make sure you're not being vulgar or offensive!)

Ultimately, the admissions committee wants to see your potential and your personality . If you use this prompt as a way of allowing your creativity to flow, the selection committee will see your willingness to challenge yourself. If you're having fun, then there's a good chance that will come across in your essay. And guess what? Fun essays stand out from the crowd, too!


What's Next?

Like we mentioned earlier, William and Mary is a selective college . Make sure you get all the details about the school, its admissions criteria, and application information before you start writing your supplemental essay.

Most students who are admitted into William and Mary graduate in the top 10% of their high school class. Make sure you understand the class ranking system so that you can set yourself up for success. Heck, you may even decide you want to be your class valedictorian or salutatorian !

Finally, you'll need to knock your test scores out of the park if you want a shot at getting into William and Mary. Learn what it takes to get a 1600 on your SAT or a 36 on your ACT so you can study smarter and harder.

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Ashley Sufflé Robinson has a Ph.D. in 19th Century English Literature. As a content writer for PrepScholar, Ashley is passionate about giving college-bound students the in-depth information they need to get into the school of their dreams.

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How to Respond to the 2023/2024 College of William and Mary Supplemental Essay Prompts

william and mary essay questions

The College of William and Mary is a public research university located in Williamsburg, Virginia. Founded in 1693, it is the second oldest institution of higher learning in the US. The graduation rate is 92% , so attending means you’re on a fast-track to success! Use this guide to figure out how to make your William and Mary supplemental essays stand out!

About the College of William and Mary

While responding to the College of William and Mary supplemental essay prompts is optional, your application would benefit from telling the admissions office who you are as an applicant. William and Mary is known as a “ public Ivy ” and is especially competitive for out-of-state students with a 31% acceptance rate . So, let’s get started on your essay! 

Before you start your essay

If you do choose to complete a supplemental essay, the College of William and Mary allows for you to respond to up to two of the following prompts. They are hoping to get to know you and your story through your supplemental essay, so don’t hold back.Two essays should give you ample opportunity to paint a picture of who you are and why you’re a good fit for their school.

Make your excitement about your topic palpable for your audience. Before you start writing, think about what gets you out of bed in the morning! William and Mary is eagerly awaiting your answer to their unique prompt! 

“Beyond your impressive academic credentials and extracurricular accomplishments, what else makes you unique and colorful?” 

In this prompt, William and Mary is asking for their applicants to put their character on full display. Remember, when you were young, “show and tell” was your opportunity to present something cool about yourself to your peers. Approach writing this essay in the same way!

The admissions office isn’t looking for you to tell them what they want to hear; they’re looking for someone who will redefine what it means to apply to William and Mary. Try to incorporate your personality and spunk into the essay as much as possible as well as your passion for what you decide to write about. 

Questions to consider:

  • Why are you so interested in a particular activity?
  • What makes you an ideal William and Mary applicant?
  • How did you become the person you are today?

Also see: How to write an essay about yourself

“Are there any particular communities that are important to you, and how do you see yourself being a part of our community?” 

William and Mary knows that it takes a village, so they want to give you an opportunity to tell them about yours. We’re all part of one, whether that be a team, your family or an ethnic group. 

We all seek a place of belonging and that connection can mean a lot. While you’re explaining the impact of your particular community, find a way to incorporate what it would mean for you to be a part of the William and Mary community. 

  • What is an important community that you’re part of?
  • How has this community shaped your identity? 
  • What role do you play within this community?
“How has your family, culture and/or background shaped your lived experience?” 

You’re constantly surrounded by your culture and family, which means they play a big part in who you are and how you think. They can even be your driving force for going to college and getting a degree. Therefore, William and Mary is using this prompt to find out what the building blocks to your personality are. 

  • What are some experiences that you share with your family or cultural group? What are some that you don’t?
  • Are you a first generation college student?
  • What is your personal lived experience? How is it unique?
“Share more about a personal academic interest or career goal.” 

For this prompt, you should talk about your dreams for your future or your ambitions. Paint a picture of what you’ll study or what your ideal career will look like. Tell a story that won’t be forgotten. 

Be sure to include William and Mary into your essay by telling the admissions committee the impact going to their school will have on that particular interest or goal. Are there notable alumni in your desired career field? Does William and Mary offer a stellar curriculum for your major?

By doing this, it’ll be clear that you did your research and you’re invested in attending this school. Colleges like hearing that they’re your number one choice!

  • What role will this interest play in your future?
  • When you achieve this goal, what will happen?
  • How did you discover this interest?
“Tell us about a challenge or adversity you’ve experienced and how that has impacted you as an individual.” 

Challenges have a way of making us stronger, even in ways we might not expect. Unique obstacles that you’ve overcome demonstrate your tenacity and determination, which are qualities colleges look for. 

Translating this personal issue to a real world situation that you might face in the future can even show that you learn things from each problem you have and apply it moving forward. Talk about how those skills could be used on William and Mary’s campus and possibly improve it. 

  • How do you deal with hardships?
  • Who or what taught you how to solve problems?
  • What did you learn from this challenge?
“If we visited your town, what would you want to show us?” 

Each state has its own special thing, and who would know better than the locals? That’s exactly why William and Mary poses this question. They want to know where you come from because they might just know where you’re going, if you’re accepted, of course.

How you derive meaning from where you come from is up to you, but be sure to go beyond just describing your hometown. Mention the things that left their mark on you and why they’re significant.

  • What’s special about where you live?
  • What similarities and/or differences are there between your state and William and Mary’s campus? 
  • Are you especially proud of your hometown? Why or why not?

Next steps after applying to William and Mary

Congratulations on starting your application to college! We hope this guide has helped you through the William and Mary supplemental essays. Before you go, there are a couple more things you can do to prepare for this next step in your academic journey.

Get a taste of what college is like with a campus tour . William and Mary offer both in-person and virtual tours of the university and are eager to welcome you. These tours give you a chance to immerse yourself in campus culture and take a peek at places you might go to as a student. They also give you a chance to connect with other applicants.

Last but not least, keep doing what you’re doing! You’ve made it this far, and it’s important to keep up the good work. Don’t let senioritis overcome you, and be sure to maintain focus on your grades and continue to shine in your extracurricular activities. You’re almost at the finish line!

Additional resources 

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  • Should I apply early decision or early action?
  • What are my other options besides college?
  • How to respond to this year’s Common App essay prompts

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Mastering the William and Mary Supplemental Essays 2023-2024

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When crafting your supplemental essays for the College of William and Mary, remember that they offer a valuable opportunity to provide a richer picture of who you are, beyond your grades and SAT scores. For the 2023-2024 admissions cycle, William and Mary have provided a couple of unique prompts that require thought, self-reflection, and a dash of creativity.

The first prompt asks you to explore a topic, idea, or concept that makes you lose track of time. How do you learn more about this thing that engages you so deeply? In essence, it wants to delve into your intellectual curiosity. As an institution known for its strong commitment to student-faculty interaction, William and Mary wants to see applicants who are passionate and curious.

When tackling this prompt, start by identifying a subject that you genuinely love. Discuss how you've explored this interest - it could be through books, projects, internships, or even heated discussions during dinner. Most importantly, demonstrate how this passion shapes your perspective and future ambitions.

Prompt 1: Explore a topic, idea, or concept that makes you lose track of time. How do you learn more about this thing that engages you so deeply? (500 words)

Ever since I first read "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea" by Jules Verne, the mysteries of the ocean depths have captivated me. Time disappears when I delve into the latest marine biology research, watch documentaries on underwater exploration, or explore tide pools during family trips to the coast.

My fascination extends beyond casual interest. I've sought out every opportunity to learn more. I've spent countless hours at the local aquarium volunteering and learning about marine life from experts. I enrolled in advanced biology classes in school, transforming my room into a study center strewn with textbooks, articles, and documentaries about ocean life.

This passion has shaped my worldview, making me an advocate for ocean conservation and climate change awareness. It has also charted my future path. I dream of studying Marine Biology in college, and my ultimate goal is to contribute to the scientific understanding of our oceans, perhaps discovering unknown species or innovating ways to protect our marine ecosystems.

The second prompt requires you to illustrate a community to which you belong. This prompt aims to understand your social context and your place within it. Here, William and Mary are looking for your ability to contribute positively to their diverse campus community.

While approaching this prompt, remember that "community" does not only refer to a geographic location or cultural group. It could also mean a group of people united by a shared interest or goal, like a sports team, a book club, or a volunteer group. Discuss your role within this community and the impact you've had on it.

Prompt 2: Describe a community to which you belong. How did you come to belong to this community? (500 words)

I belong to a unique community: a high school debate team called "Debaters for Change." Our mission extends beyond winning tournaments; we aim to raise awareness on social issues through informed discourse.

Joining was intimidating at first. I had no prior experience, and the team was filled with seasoned debaters. However, with their encouragement and mentorship, I slowly found my voice. I learned to craft logical arguments, challenge opposing views respectfully, and most importantly, listen.

Through the team, I've not only developed my public speaking and critical thinking skills but also found a group of passionate, driven individuals who share a commitment to make a difference. Our heated discussions often extend beyond practice, turning lunch hours into impromptu debates about everything from climate policy to educational reforms.

Being a part of this community has shaped me as an individual. It taught me the power of informed discourse and has ignited a desire to be part of solution-making processes on a larger scale. I hope to continue this journey in college, contributing to the vibrant intellectual community at William and Mary.

Additionally, there is an optional prompt which encourages you to discuss a time when you’ve built bridges between cultures. As an international university with students from diverse backgrounds, William and Mary values individuals who can foster an inclusive environment. If you choose this essay, highlight experiences that demonstrate your empathy, understanding, and ability to connect people from diverse backgrounds.

Optional Prompt: Describe a time when you’ve built bridges between cultures. (500 words)

During a summer exchange program in Spain, I lived with a host family whose customs, language, and daily life were very different from my own. Initially, the cultural differences were overwhelming, and communication was challenging due to my limited Spanish. However, I saw this as an opportunity to bridge the cultural gap.

I taught my host family how to prepare some classic American dishes, while they showed me how to make traditional Spanish cuisine. We exchanged stories about our home countries, breaking stereotypes and gaining a deeper understanding of each other's cultures.

When the annual 'Fiesta de la Ciudad' occurred, my host family encouraged me to participate. I donned a traditional Spanish dress and danced the flamenco with locals, feeling a deep sense of connection and acceptance.

This experience taught me the power of empathy and mutual respect in building bridges between cultures. It was a small-scale example of what I hope to do throughout my life, fostering understanding and acceptance among diverse groups of people. As a student at William and Mary, I hope to continue these cross-cultural interactions, enriching the campus with my experiences and learning from others.

Finally, remember to keep your writing concise and personal. Authenticity beats grandiosity every time. Ensure that your essays capture your unique voice and highlight experiences that have shaped you.

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william and mary essay questions

How to Write the College of William & Mary Essay 2020-2021

william and mary essay questions

The College of William & Mary, located in the eastern-most part of Virginia, is the second oldest institution of higher education in the country, after Harvard. As such, the school has educated some of the earliest and most influential names in American history, including Thomas Jefferson, John Marshall, Henry Clay, and George Washington. It has since been designated a Public Ivy, one of only eight U.S. institutions to receive this title. 

Last year, the College of William & Mary saw over 14,500 applicants, ultimately admitting just 38%.

If you’re set on taking part in a chapter of William & Mary’s long history, the first step is going to be perfecting your essays. We’re here to help you break down the prompts and make your responses be the best they can. Want to know your chances at Willaiam & Mary? Calculate your chances for free right now.

For All Applicants

Optional: Beyond your impressive academic credentials and extracurricular accomplishments, what else makes you unique and colorful? We know nobody fits neatly into 500 words or less, but you can provide us with some suggestion of the type of person you are. Anything goes! Inspire us, impress us, or just make us laugh. Think of this optional opportunity as show and tell by proxy and with an attitude (650 words).

* The prompt mentions a 500-word maximum, but the box on the Common App for this essay allows up to 650 words* 

Let’s shorten this wordy prompt to just the bones: “What makes you unique? Inspire us, impress us, or make us laugh.” The great thing about this prompt is: anything goes. There are hardly any restrictions. The tough thing about this prompt is…anything goes. It can be hard to focus in on an appropriate response. 

While this essay is optional, we highly recommend completing any “optional” essays, as this further demonstrates your interest in the school. Another thing to remember is to choose a topic that hasn’t been covered in other parts of your application. If you already wrote about your love of magic tricks in another essay, try to cover something else in this one!

Before you even start writing, brainstorm as many ideas as possible. Think of the qualities, or experiences, that make you different from everyone else and write these down. It can be a unique story, hobby, project, passion, or whatever else you can think of, with the caveat being that you want to tie it into a bigger picture about yourself. Let’s dive into some example essay subjects to give you a sense of how to do this:

  • After learning origami, you decided to fold 1000 paper cranes in a year. One thing you can do here is actually talk about how your life changed over the course of this undertaking, which is a great opportunity to introduce a personal story. Maybe you started the process in your childhood town and halfway through, your family moved to a new town—you can talk about this experience and how it impacted you, using the cranes as the anchor to your story. The bigger picture here is possessing the tenacity to reach 1000 cranes, but in the process, the reader will learn about you and your life.
  • Perhaps you turned a wall of your bedroom into a chalkboard and have everyone who visits your house write or draw something on the wall, never erasing any of it. Talk about your motivations for wanting everyone to leave their mark there. The bigger picture here might be your passion for art. Or it might be your interest in preserving and sharing people’s voices. This example could go a lot of different ways, depending on the motivation of the writer.

Obviously, these examples aren’t going to apply to you. This is simply meant to give you an idea of potential topics. Something as simple as a chalkboard can be turned into an essay if you feel it speaks to who you are as a person. The goal is to let the reader learn more about what makes you who you are, using a specific story or example as a vessel to do so. 

Most importantly, have fun with this prompt. Get creative, get quirky, and don’t limit yourself.

william and mary essay questions

For applicants to St. Andrews Joint Degree Program

As an applicant to the Joint Degree Programme, you are required to submit an essay outlining your interest in the particular academic area to which you are applying — Classical Studies, Economics, English, Film Studies, History or International Relations; and what particularly interests you about the JDP in your chosen major. Be as specific as you can. Demonstrating that you are familiar with the JDP website—its policies and curriculum—will be helpful to your application, as will examples of your ability to take on a particularly challenging, as well as rewarding, educational experience that demands adaptability, flexibility, and an appreciation for other cultures and institutional practices (1500 – 2000 words).

This prompt is asking a few different things. First, it wants to know why you’re interested in the particular subject you’re applying to. Second, why the Joint Degree Program? And third, what experiences have you undertaken that prove you want to learn more about other cultures and institutions?

You can begin the essay by talking about your interest in, and experience with, the major you are applying to. If it’s film studies, for example, open with the story of when you first fell in love with film. Maybe watching Birdman, uniquely filmed in a never-ending shot, made you want to learn more about camera angles and the science of cinematography. This is a good way to lead into how you have pursued this interest (i.e. your experience in film studies). Prove that you have lasting passion for the academic area, rather than choosing it on a whim. 

Next, you need to demonstrate that the Joint Degree Program is the best way for you to study this topic. That’s going to require specificity, and in order to get there, you need to extensively research the program at both W & M, as well as St. Andrews. As you research, take notes on what makes both institutions unique in this area of study. 

Continuing with the example of film studies, here’s an example of some things to note at both schools:

At William & Mary:

  • WMTV is a student-run television show at W & M
  • Students can submit their films or volunteer at the W & M Global Film Festival

At St. Andrews:

  • Film studies boardroom has unique virtual reality facilities
  • Byre conference room has 3D projection
  • St. Andrews’ library has one of the best cinema collections in the world, with over 9300 AV materials

You’ll want to note specific characteristics at each school, but you have to make it clear that simply attending one of the institution’s programs is not sufficient to help you reach your goals. For help with this, be sure to check out the corresponding page on the subject’s Joint Degree Program. 

As an example, the film studies JDP has students work on an independent research project. Perhaps you are fascinated by the influence of national identity on mainstream media and hope to research this by using W & M and St. Andrews as contrasting case studies. Whatever your story may be, make it clear why the JDP program is a fit for your interests and goals and show that you have done research on the program.

Finally, the third part of the prompt asks you to validate your interest in learning about other cultures and institutions. Perhaps, in the case of film studies, you created a short film in which you interviewed first-generation immigrants in order to study global perspectives and the impact it has on living and working in America. Show your interest in acquiring a global perspective. 

If you haven’t had the opportunity to explore this interest concretely, discuss a way in which you hope to study it in the future. Conclude your essay by tying this back to your aspirations for the future and to how the JDP will help you achieve them.

Want help with your college essays to improve your admissions chances? Sign up for your free CollegeVine account and get access to our essay guides and courses. You can also get your essay peer-reviewed and improve your own writing skills by reviewing other students’ essays.

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william and mary essay questions


The Admissions Strategist

How to write the best william & mary supplemental essay 2020-2021: a complete guide.

William and Mary has an acceptance rate of 36% — higher for in-state applicants and lower for out-of-state applicants. It is the second oldest college in the United States, dating back to 1693.

A public school, located in Williamsburg, Virginia, William and Mary is a relatively small university with just over 6000 undergraduate students. It sells itself to prospective students by proclaiming, “We’re smart. We’re fun. We’re diverse.”

W&M is one of the eight “Public Ivies.” Both Forbe s and US News and World Report place it among the top ten public schools in the country. With 81% of the Class of 2021 ranking in the top 10% of their high school peers, it is important to make yourself stand out when applying.

Like many colleges and universities across the country, W&M uses the Common App and, starting in the fall of 2018, will begin accepting the Coalition App.

But, like many selective schools, it also offers students the opportunity to make their application stand out by writing a supplemental essay.

Always write the W&M supplemental essay .

So, here’s our guide to help you write the best William and Mary supplemental essay.

William and Mary Supplemental Essay: How to Write It!

Click above for a video on how to write the William and Mary supplemental essay.

William and Mary’s supplemental prompt is:

Beyond your impressive academic credentials and extracurricular accomplishments, what else makes you unique and colorful? We know nobody fits neatly into 500 words or less, but you can provide us with some suggestion of the type of person you are. Anything goes! Inspire us, impress us, or just make us laugh. Think of this optional opportunity as show and tell by proxy and with an attitude.

There are no other restrictions on what the “essay” can be.

For example, it can be a standard essay, poem, haiku, crossword puzzle, secret code, or decorated social media profile. Make sure that you do not focus too much on being creative in your presentation and forget to focus on what makes you unique and original.

If your “essay” is creative but the admissions committee learns nothing about you in the process, it will come across as all show and no substance.

Here is some advice from the William and Mary admissions office:

  • The essay is limited to 500 words so stay focused on what you are trying to communicate.
  • Try to avoid topics that are commonplace for 17- and 18-year-old high school students like sports injuries, service trips, divorce of parents, or a death in the family.
  • Avoid overkill . Unique is good but outlandish is not better unless you are providing genuine insight into your personality or achievements.
  • Review your application and try to find aspects of your life or personality that are not illustrated elsewhere in the application. Do you have a hobby or talent or quality that is not listed anywhere else on the application but is an important part of your life or self-image?
  • Make sure you proofread your essay . William and Mary uses this essay as an opportunity to assess your writing abilities, so make sure that you pay attention to grammar, punctuation, spelling, and usage.
  • Don’t pander to the admissions committee by writing what you think that they want to hear . It is best to keep sordid details to yourself, but if your essay is too intent on demonstrating how you are the “ideal” (in your mind) William and Mary student, you are not really helping the admissions committee get to know you as much as you are showing them that you have made some effort to get to know them. They already know about their school. They want to know about you.

Choosing the Best Topic

You have probably been told a hundred times to “think outside the box,” and this prompt certainly encourages you to do that. But what does that mean?

Try to come up with something that nobody else could or would write about. Hone in on anecdotes or personal qualities or experiences that nobody else you know seems to share.

Brainstorm by asking yourself questions and evaluating your experiences. Think about your values, personal themes, challenges, and hobbies.

For example:

  • Do you have a fear of mashed potatoes? Speculate as to why you do and discuss how this phobia has impacted your life.
  • You could write about the time you made pizza and put the cheese on the crust before the sauce and didn’t realize your mistake until after you had baked it.

Other essay examples include:

  • Have you done unique service work? William and Mary emphasizes community service .
  • If you have done some service work that demonstrates your commitment to service but it is not something that other students have done, this might be a good avenue to pursue.
  • Was there a time when you stood up for someone who was being bullied or treated poorly by others and ended up getting picked on as a result?
  • Why did you do it? How did it affect you?

Another similar choice might be focusing on an experience that involved risk. For example:

  • You auditioned for the high school musical although you had no previous acting, singing, or dancing experience.
  • Whether or not you made it, there is probably something entertaining and potentially uplifting about your story.
  • What lessons did you learn from taking this risk?
  • You volunteered for a school project that nobody else wanted to do. What was it?
  • Why did you do it when nobody else would?

You can discuss your interests and passions that were not mentioned on the Common App. Examples include:

  • Do you enjoy inventing and designing physical products? Why?
  • What have you invented?
  • What do you want to invent and bring to the world?

If you have already mentioned the Engineering Club on your application, go further:

  • How else do you act on your engineering passions? Do you build things?
  • Think of what drives your interest in engineering. What else does this motivation push you toward?
  • Remember, this interest does not have to be academic.

Is there something you do at home that you did not include on your college application? For example:

  • Do you enjoy gardening or botany? Why?
  • What sensations do you gain from growing things?
  • Is there a memory with botany that stands out?
  • What do your parents think of your botany?
  • What plants do you love growing? Why?

Discuss a side hustle that demonstrates your curiosity and drive. For example:

  • Do you enjoy coding or making websites on the side?
  • Have you designed any websites?
  • Are there plug-ins that spark your curiosity?
  • What about learning coding languages appeals to you?
  • Why do you code?
  • How do you learn from online tutorials?

Discuss activities that give you joy or invoke a certain feeling of pride within you. For example:

  • Do you love martial arts?
  • What about competition or art inspires you?
  • When do you feel silence?
  • Is there a thread of philosophy that you follow or strive to learn more about?

Stories that are fun or funny are usually good choices. People instinctively warm to those who are self-deprecating. For example:

  • Perhaps you’re not good with cars. Maybe you once had your car towed out of your driveway to the repair shop, only to find out that it was out of gas.
  • Stories like this give you the opportunity to demonstrate your sense of humor, talk about lessons you have learned from your mistakes, and stand out from other applicants.
  • Can you think of other incidents in which you made a decision that you felt was a good one, only to have it blow up in your face?
  • What did you learn from this experience?

William and Mary’s admissions motto highlights its commitment to diversity. Most people instinctively think of racial, ethnic, or religious diversity.

Some think in terms of gender or sexual orientation.

But diversity can come in a variety of forms. Can you think of any ways in which you have stood out from others?

  • This might be the result of decisions that you have made or skills you have acquired.
  • Perhaps you are the only one of your peers who has specialized in fencing or rowing or playing the oboe.
  • Maybe you have stood out for characteristics that you have no control over but have shaped or affected the way that you have interacted with others.
  • Has your family adopted children from overseas?
  • Have you been affected by being atypically large or small or have some other distinguishing characteristic which has led to you being noticed?

Get personalized advice!

Major tips for the w&m supplemental essay.

  • Don’t be afraid to be funny. Don’t necessarily try to be funny, but let your writing speak for itself.
  • Don’t take yourself too seriously. Of course, you are trying to impress the admissions committee, but you are also trying to make yourself stand out and most of the 15,000 other applicants will have impressive credentials as well. If you want to get noticed, don’t be a robot. Be a person.
  • Be personal. The admissions committee wants to know about you. Don’t be afraid to express your thoughts about you and your experiences.
  • You might be nervous about this because maybe you have not expressed these thoughts to many people, including friends and family.
  • You might feel unsure about them, but the thoughts that you have about yourself that you don’t often express to others are probably the ones that make you most interesting. For this essay, appearing out of the ordinary is beneficial.

William and Mary Supplemental Essay Examples

W&M Supplemental Essay example 1:

The rite of passage for any adolescent boy is to find a girlfriend. In my freshman year, as my friends were slowly falling in love and eating lunch with their significant others, I realized that I HAD to act fast. I devised a plan to find a girlfriend of my own. My only problem was that I was a nerd, Pokémon aficionado, and politics buff who had never spoken to a girl outside of asking for the next day’s homework assignment. Rather than buying flowers or chocolates like any rational person would do, I decided to do something so impressive that the girl I had a crush on would fall in love with me. As the girl I liked happened to be Chinese, I decided that mastering the world’s most difficult language, Mandarin, would be the ticket to her heart. Although my motives were misdirected, this prompted me on a journey that not only exposed me to a new culture, but also challenged and inspired me to take future chances. Schedule change in hand, I marched into 4th period Chinese ready to master the language. I was unaware that 95% of the class already spoke Chinese at home so this was merely a review class for the ‘easy A’. I was surprised to learn that people of Chinese descent often have one name in their native tongue and an alternate Americanized name that is easily pronounced. During the first session, our teacher asked all of us for our Chinese names to be used throughout the school year. Because I couldn’t understand what was going on, I asked the classmate behind me to suggest a Chinese name. I should have known that this was a disaster waiting to happen. I bellowed out my new name when called on, and to my embarrassment, the whole class howled in laughter. Confused, I turned around to see the person who gave me my name giggling uncontrollably. Unintentionally, I named myself “Sum Ting Wong” which would stick with me for the rest of the year. It was only after I said my name out loud that I finally understood the joke. At that moment, I realized I had lost my chance of impressing my crush.     My Chinese name turned out to be a metaphor for my classroom struggles. Each time I would learn a new character, I would forget it by the next week. I unintentionally learned dozens of new Chinese curse words because depending on how you pronounce it, each word can have five different meanings. My class project videos on YouTube went viral throughout the school for their impeccable acting and obviously unsuccessful attempts at mastering the world’s most difficult language.  As it turns out, instead of conquering the language in a few months like I had expected, I was, and still am, awful at all things related to the Chinese language. Initially I would beat myself up for every mistake, dreading my name being called. However, as I learned to laugh at myself each time “Sum Ting Wong” was cold-called in class, I began to not fear being ridiculed. As high school progressed, I went from being the only Indian student in my Mandarin class to becoming the first guy to take gender studies and the only person who didn’t know how to sing in Choir. Socially, I went from only interacting with virtual Pokémon to twerking onstage in front of a thousand delegates as I campaigned for the California Boys State Supreme Court.  I learned to embrace the “odd man out” persona and my idiosyncrasies rather than shy away from them. While I started my quest of learning Chinese in the hopes of getting a girlfriend (spoiler alert: I didn’t), I gained something so much more powerful. I learned to believe in myself and not let the stereotypes of my mind hold me back from trying new things.   

W&M Supplemental Essay example 2:

I was just trying to buy a Sprite and pay my hundred rupees. The cashier was starting to look as hassled as I felt, speaking urgently in a language I couldn’t understand. We were both frustrated and the cashier stormed off to another counter and grabbed a plastic plate from under it. At this point, I’m thinking “Why would I need a plate for my Sprite?” Normally at shops, the employees know enough English and I can understand the gist of the Tamil words with my own Telugu background. This time, however, we were both extremely confused. Eventually, after a lot of non-verbal communication and pointing, I realized she was supposed to offer me a free plate with my Sprite because of a deal written on the packaging.  Most people are surprised to learn that moving to India when I was thirteen was a huge adjustment for me even though I’m Indian. Yet, considering I was moving to a country I never lived in, a state whose language I didn’t speak, and a culture I wasn’t fully a part of, it was a definite challenge. From the language barrier to the culture change, and even the conservative manners and customs, I had to adapt to a new way of living. All of that and living in a country that is different culturally and socially from the United States has given me a new perspective of viewing my place in the world.  Back in elementary and middle school, I remember hiding the fact that I ate curry. As if it was something to be embarrassed of, something that would make me less American. I remember trying to distance myself from my Indian heritage and fit in so I could be, in a way, more white. It didn’t change much when I first moved to India. I was still working to seem American because I never really embraced my native culture. The heritage was always there in festivals, poojas, parties, and the language I spoke at home, but tellingly when someone asked me, “Hey, where are you from?” I’d always respond, “I’m from the USA but I live in India.” Because of this struggle, the most meaningful aspect of my experience of living in India has been accepting and embracing my cultural background. While I have always celebrated religious occasions, holidays, festivals, and other aspects of being Indian, living in India taught me to be proud of who I am as a global citizen. I am a multicultural student who has spent their time living abroad and entrenching themselves in their native culture. I am just as much Indian as I am American, and I’m proud to be able to bring a diverse background and perspective to the table at William & Mary.

Conclusion: Writing the William and Mary Supplement

Relax and have fun. Your best ideas and your best work will come when you are enjoying yourself, not when you are going through the motions to get something done.

Be enthusiastic. While you want the admissions officers to like you, it is your own personality and experiences that form your individuality. Don’t be afraid to be authentic.

Proofread, proofread, share with someone else to proofread, and proofread again.

Take risks while you are choosing your topic and writing your essay, but make sure you have done the necessary work to ensure that your essay is written well.

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If you are applying to William & Mary, we ask that you submit your   Common Application  by either November 1 (Early Decision I) or January 5 (Early Decision II and Regular Decision). The deadline is officially midnight in your time zone. This deadline applies to the student’s actual application. Supplemental materials including transcripts, test scores and recommendations may still be submitted after that January 5 deadline. Upon receipt of an application, freshmen applicants will receive an email from us providing them with credentials to access our Application Status Portal .

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Eeeek…It’s the Essay

Admit It! Writing application essays stresses you out.  You would describe them as anything but fun.  Time-consuming; sure.  Frustrating; most definitely.  Nightmare-causing; gosh we hope not but we admit it is a possibility.  Not sure if this makes you feel better or worse but we actually do read your essays.  Does that make you feel better or worse?  And we enjoy doing so.  So no pressure now…right?

So why do we require an essay (and we only require one so that’s no soooo bad)?  There are two primary reasons; the first of which is to get to know you better – more three-dimensionally so to speak.   Think of your essay as a personal statement; that will help ensure that you are the primary subject of your essay.  You may be able to write a wonderfully eloquent essay about your grandfather.  And at the end of reading it, I may want to admit your grandfather.  But I haven’t learned anything new about you; you are the applicant.  What makes you tick?  What makes you unique?  Who are you as a person?  Why would I want to share a classroom or a residence hall with you?

Great, that’s probably not as helpful as you hoped right?  It’s hard to write about yourself; we get it.  But the essays are a great way for us to learn about you from your own perspective.  The essay is the one part of the application where you are using your own words and your own voice to communicate directly with the admission committee. Write about you; you’re what you know.  And you are in fact unique.  There is something about you that isn’t commonplace.  Find that thing and write about it.  If it’s something big like growing up in a foreign country, write about it.  If it’s something small like you always wear socks with stripes for a particular reason, write about it.  If it’s something in between like your life-long hobby of collecting McDonalds Happy Meal toys, write about it.  The key is to find a topic that few others can write about.  There are most definitely fairly generic college essay topics: death of a relative, parents’ divorce, traveling abroad, a service/mission trip, a sports injury, your epic love of Harry Potter books (that one has come on strong in recent years).  It’s not that these experiences/interests aren’t salient or important; they are.  But they are also fairly commonplace for 17-year olds and the ways in which you write about them will be incredibly similar.  This makes an essay generic.  When an essay starts with describing an athletic injury, I can tell you the content of the remaining 1.5 pages without reading it; that demonstrates how many times (and I’d wager in the thousands) that I’ve read that exact same essay during my career.  So as you ponder a topic, think about whether or not any of your friends could write a similar essay.  If a few of them can, multiply that by 100 – at least – and that’s how many essays on that topic we’ll receive.  In other words, pick another topic.

The second reason we require an essay is that it’s a writing sample.  You probably noticed in the standardized test blog from a few weeks ago that we do not focus on the writing standardized test component.  We feel an essay topic that you’ve picked, that you’ve had ample time to write, is the best measure of your writing ability.  Your essay should be polished and proofread, I use the analogy something you’re willing to turn in for a grade.  Do not run spellcheck at 11:59 p.m. when the application is due at midnight and consider your essay proofed.  A few years ago an applicant meant to talk about t-shirts but he left out the letter “r” [insert reader’s pregnant pause here and then a chuckle when he/she gets what happened].  That significantly changes the tone of an essay.  So make sure your essay is not only proofread (and yes you can ask a friend, parent or teacher to proofread your essay), but make sure it uses complex and varied sentence structure, paragraph breaks, strong diction; in other words show us that you are ready to write for college professors.

Let me tell you, an essay can really make an impact on your application.  Yes it’s one part of many just like all the other application components but it’s the part that comes from you.  It’s your heart; it’s your mind; it’s your soul.  Great essays (whether great in topic or great in style or both) can help me remember your application three months after reading it.  As I present it to the committee, I’ll say, yeah this is the person who wrote this essay.  And we’ll actually stop committee to read the essay.  We’ll grow to like you (and that never hurts if you’re looking for a thick envelope in the mail).  Likewise, a bad essay can also be very memorable; but not in a good way.  Something that’s poorly written or makes a questionable value judgment might also stop committee and act as a tip factor in the other direction.

So how do we put essays in context?  We know that most 17-year-olds (in fact most people) are not poet laureates.  We do not expect Pulitzer-Prize winning essays.  That would be unreasonable.  Although when we get them we are super excited and generally run around the office showing it to all of our colleagues (I’m speaking to you author of Skin ).  We also know that finding a unique topic is hard, and so even those more generic essays are read and considered because we know that whatever you wrote about is clearly meaningful enough for you to write about it.  We also consider any learning disabilities and language abilities (i.e. if English is not your first language) when reviewing an essay’s style and grammar.

As a side note, don’t write what you think we want to hear.  We have no preconceived ideas about what we want to hear.  Plus it’s painfully obvious when you’ve picked a topic based on what you think we want to hear (I’m talking to the hundreds if not thousands of applicants who write about how great W&M is…I know that; you don’t have to sell me on W&M and that essay generally tells me nothing about you).

Next week, this blog will provide opening lines from good essays and the not-so-good essays and help you distinguish one from the other.  So this is a part deux blog again.  But we know that our applicants are incredibly interested in what we have to say on this subject matter and if helps even one student decide not to write about traveling to Paris but to instead write about their family road trip to the Corn Palace than I have done my job and I’ll be a happier reader for it (and you’ll be a more competitive applicant for it as well).

Wendy Livingston ’03, M.Ed. ‘09 Senior Assistant Dean of Admission

PS: For more blogs on essays, visit our application process web page and click on the second of the two boxes on the right (the Essays Made Easy widget).

About Author:

Fascinated by the college admission process? Intrigued by how it can seem complicated, mysterious and confusing? Read past blog posts for musings, recollections and insights into William & Mary the institution and William & Mary’s admission process. Some posts are silly. Some are serious. Some are sentimental. All of them are designed to help you navigate your way through the college search and application process. Learn more about Undergraduate Admission.

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College of William & Mary 2019-20 Supplemental Essay Prompt Guide

Regular Decision: 

College of William & Mary 2019-20 Application Essay Question Explanations

The Requirements: 1 essay of 500 words or less

Supplemental Essay Type(s): Topic of your choice

Why hello, you lucky devils. William & Mary only has one supplemental essay! And it’s optional! Actually, the second part is kind of a lie. William & Mary may refer to this essay as an “optional opportunity,” but take a closer look. The prompt is all about the things that make you stand out — and there is no way a bare minimum application is going to stand out to admissions. So, buckle up. You’ve got one more 500-worder to go.

Beyond your impressive academic credentials and extracurricular accomplishments, what else makes you unique and colorful? We know nobody fits neatly into 500 words or less, but you can provide us with some suggestion of the type of person you are. Anything goes! Inspire us, impress us, or just make us laugh. Think of this optional opportunity as show and tell by proxy and with an attitude.

In short, this prompt is asking you to do what we would have told you to do anyway: reveal something that doesn’t appear anywhere else on your application. Although it may seem totally open-ended, this prompt includes a few keywords that should help guide your thinking. The College of William & Mary doesn’t want to know just any random fact about you. They have specifically asked about what makes you different, and they have invited you to have fun. So, get personal! What are your favorite funny stories about your life? You can talk about chess games with your grandma, lake trips with your friends, or the time you thought you could time travel. Pick a fun story or anecdote that says something concrete about your spirit, strengths, resilience, or character.

If something hasn’t already sprung to mind, you should set aside about an hour for a solid brainstorm sesh. Use whichever technique feels most natural to you and see where it leads. You’d be surprised by the gems you can uncover when you take some of the pressure off and give your mind a little space to play.

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Charleston vs. William & Mary odds, spread: 2024 college basketball picks, Feb. 19 best bets from proven model

Sportsline's model just revealed its ncaa basketball picks for the william & mary tribe vs. charleston cougars on monday.


The Charleston Cougars (19-7) will try to stay alone in first place in the Coastal Athletic Conference standings when they host the William & Mary Tribe (8-18) on Monday night. Charleston is one game ahead of UNCW and Drexel atop the standings, and it is riding a four-game winning streak. William & Mary has lost five straight games and nine of its last 10 games, including a 61-52 setback against Towson last Thursday. Charleston squeaked out an 84-83 victory on the road in the first meeting between these teams this season. 

Tipoff is set for 8 p.m. ET on Monday at TD Arena on CBS Sports Network. Charleston is favored by 17.5 points in the latest Charleston vs. William & Mary odds, while the over/under is 150.5 points, per SportsLine consensus. Before entering any William & Mary vs. Charleston picks, you'll want to see the NCAA Basketball predictions from the model at SportsLine.

The model simulates every Division I college basketball game 10,000 times. It enters Week 16 of the 2023-24 season on a 136-89 roll on all top-rated college basketball picks dating back to last season, returning nearly $2,500 for $100 players. It is also off to a sizzling 25-13 start on top-rated spread picks this season. Anyone following has seen huge returns.

The model has set its sights on William & Mary-Charleston . You can head to SportsLine to see its picks. Here are several college basketball betting lines for the game:

  • Charleston vs. William & Mary spread: Charleston -17.5
  • Charleston vs. William & Mary over/under: 150.5 points
  • Charleston vs. William & Mary money line: Charleston -2101, William & Mary +1050
  • Charleston vs. William & Mary picks: See picks here

Why Charleston can cover

Charleston was the best team in the conference last season, and nothing has changed this season. The Cougars are sitting alone in first place atop the standings, having won six of their last seven games. They beat North Carolina A&T and Drexel by double digits at home before getting past Northeastern on the road last Thursday as small underdogs. 

Reyne Smith scored 21 points to lead Charleston in the win over the Huskies, shooting 6 of 10 from 3-point range. The junior guard is one of three players on team averaging double figures, joining junior forwards Ben Burnham and Ante Brzovic . Charleston has won 14 of its last 16 home games and has won six straight home games against William & Mary.

Why William & Mary can cover

William & Mary might be riding a five-game losing streak, but it has remained competitive throughout conference play. In fact, the Tribe have covered the spread in five of their last seven games, and one of the ATS losses came by a half-point last Thursday against Towson. They trailed by just one point at halftime before failing to keep pace down the stretch of a 61-52 final. 

The Tribe have already given Charleston one scare this season, easily covering the 13-point spread in an 84-83 thriller on Feb. 3. Sophomore guard Chase Lowe had 21 points and 11 rebounds, while junior guard Gabe Dorsey added 16 points. Dorsey and sophomore guard Trey Moss are the team's leading scorers, averaging 13.6 points per game. See which team to pick here.

How to make Charleston vs. William & Mary picks

The model has simulated William & Mary vs. Charleston 10,000 times and the results are in. The model is leaning Under, and it's also generated a point-spread pick that is hitting in well over 50% of simulations. You can only see the pick at SportsLine.

So who wins Charleston vs. William & Mary, and which side of the spread hits well over 50% of the time?  Visit SportsLine now to find out which side of the spread you need to jump on, all from the model that is on a 136-89 roll on its top-ranked college basketball picks , and find out.

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    Option A: Beyond your impressive academic credentials and extracurricular accomplishments, what else makes you unique and colorful? Option B: Are there any particular communities that are important to you, and how do you see yourself being a part of our community?

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    Prompt #1: "Unique and colorful" essay Prompt #2: "Community" essay Prompt #3: "Family, culture or background" essay Prompt #4: "Why major? / Career" essay Prompt #5: "Challenge or adversity" essay Prompt #6: "Visit your town" essay

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    Kelsea Conlin Kelsea holds a BA in English with a concentration in Creative Writing from Tufts University, a graduate certificate in College Counseling from UCLA, and an MA in Teaching Writing from Johns Hopkins University. Her short fiction is forthcoming in Chautauqua. We examine William & Mary's current essay prompts in this blog.

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    Prompt 1: Explore a topic, idea, or concept that makes you lose track of time. How do you learn more about this thing that engages you so deeply? (500 words) Ever since I first read "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea" by Jules Verne, the mysteries of the ocean depths have captivated me.

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    Let's shorten this wordy prompt to just the bones: "What makes you unique? Inspire us, impress us, or make us laugh." The great thing about this prompt is: anything goes. There are hardly any restrictions. The tough thing about this prompt is…anything goes. It can be hard to focus in on an appropriate response.

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    It's what we do. Reach out here. The College of William and Mary is a medium-sized, public research university in historic Williamsburg, Virginia. It was founded in 1693… by the King and Queen of England. Yes, it's older than America and is the second-oldest college in the US. W&M has around a 33% acceptance rate.

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    William and Mary Acceptance Question. So I'm an out-of-state applicant to WM (my dream school) but I'm kind of worried about how hard it might be to get accepted. My ACT scores weren't so great (like 29) so I don't have that fighting for me (I went test-optional ofc). But my weighted GPA is 4.7 and I have had an extremely active extracurricular ...

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