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 typically falls between 30% and 40%, W&M is a very selective school, and is even more challenging to gain an admission into for out-of-state students. With that in mind, it’s important to put maximum effort into every aspect of your application, including the William & Mary essay prompt.

 (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 essay. Below is William and Mary’s optional essay prompt for the 2021-22 admissions cycle along with our advice for composing a strong essay.

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. While applicants applying to a dozen or more schools may be exhausted after already plowing through countless other supplemental prompts, this is simply not the place to cut corners.

William & Mary Supplemental Essay – Question 1 (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.

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. This institution only offers non-evaluative interviews with current W&M seniors, so there are limited ways to connect with an admissions officer. This essay will be one of your very best opportunities.

As such, here are some ideas of how you can most productively utilize this 500 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.
  • Take them up on their offer to “make them laugh.” 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?
  • What moves your spirit? Discuss any art, movies, music, and books that you find deeply moving and personally important.

How important are the essays at William & Mary?

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 essay 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 and can be a separating factor between two comparable “on the cusp” applicants.

Want Personalized Essay Assistance?

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 essays, we encourage you to get a quote today.