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:

  1. A perspective you hold
  2. Your upbringing
  3. Your cultural background
  4. Your religious background
  5. Your family background
  6. Your race/ethnicity
  7. 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.

William and Mary Supplemental Essay Prompts (Continued)

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.