written by
Laura Frustaci

William and Mary Supplemental Essays Guide: 2021-2022

Essay Guides essay guide Admissions Tips 9 min read
William and Mary supplemental essays image: a photo of William and Mary's campus

Not sure how to approach the William and Mary supplement essay? With tips from an Ivy League graduate, CollegeAdvisor.com’s guide to the William and Mary essay will show you exactly how to write an engaging William and Mary essay. Students who submit strong William and Mary supplemental essays will have greater chances of admission. Want help crafting your William and Mary supplemental essays? Create your free account or schedule a free consultation by calling (844) 343-6272.

William and Mary Supplemental Essays Guide Quick Facts:

  • The William and Mary acceptance rate is 42%—U.S. News ranks William and Mary as a competitive school.
  • We recommend that you answer the William and Mary essay both comprehensively and thoughtfully.

Does William and Mary have supplemental essays?

Yes. In addition to the Common App Personal Statement, all students can submit one William and Mary supplement essay. Though this William and Mary essay is technically optional, we highly recommend that you respond to it, especially considering the relatively low William and Mary acceptance rate. A strong William and Mary essay will give you the best chance in the William and Mary admissions process.

Because there is just one William and Mary supplement essay, you may think it will be simple to complete. However, the William and Mary supplement essay is quite long—500 words. This means you will want to start drafting early so you have time to edit your William and Mary application essay. Remember, a strong William and Mary application essay can make a major difference in the William and Mary admissions process.

Need tips on writing your Common App essay? Check out our blog article.

What is the acceptance rate for William and Mary?

The William and Mary acceptance rate is 42%, making it a competitive school.

To stand out in William and Mary admissions, you'll want to make your application as strong as possible. This includes completing the William and Mary supplement essay.

Looking for more information on the admissions process at William and Mary? Associate Dean Tish Canady, discusses how William and Mary evaluates each student application and how best to tell your story to the admissions officers.

What is William and Mary known for?

William and Mary is known for many things. If you read the History & Traditions section of the William and Mary website, you will learn that William and Mary is the second-oldest institution of higher learning in America. If you read their Cool Facts page, you will learn that William and Mary was the first institution of higher education to have a law school, which opened in 1779. This makes them the first college in the country to become a university (though they prefer to retain their traditional “college” title).

On the home page of their website, William and Mary boasts: “Building on more than 300 years of innovation and excellence, William & Mary transcends the boundaries between research and teaching, teaching and learning, learning and living. As a "Public Ivy" — one of only eight in the nation — we offer a world-class education at an exceptional value.”

William and Mary is proud to say their students are “not only some of the smartest in the world, but passionate about serving others and serious about having fun.” And their professors are “teachers, scholars and research mentors, the cornerstone of a thriving intellectual community that produces experienced, engaged, successful graduates.”

If you peruse the website even further, you can find cool information like W&M in pictures or W&M in 30 videos. With so much information available, you should do some research before completing your William and Mary application essay. Make it clear to William and Mary admissions officers that you read up on the school before you began your William and Mary essay.

What are the admissions requirements for William and Mary?

Your William and Mary application should include the following: a submitted application through The Common Application, the Secondary School Report form including a high school transcript and counselor letter of recommendation, the Midyear School Report form (which should be submitted to the admission office with an updated transcript as soon as first semester grades are available), and a $75 application fee payment (or a fee waiver request).

William and Mary's admissions officers will also accept optional application material submissions. The list of optional materials includes a Teacher Evaluation form including a teacher letter of recommendation, standardized test scores (see W&M's standardized testing requirements), an on-campus interview, and the Creative and Performing Arts Submissions.

There are additional requirements for in-state, international, and transfer applicants. For more information on William and Mary admissions, click here.

Should I write the William and Mary essay?

The William and Mary application essay is optional, which means you can decide whether to write it or not. However, given the low William and Mary acceptance rate, you should complete the William and Mary supplement essay. Candidates who write William and Mary supplemental essays will often be more likely to gain admission.

You will want to ensure all of your application components are equally strong; this includes the Common App Personal Statement, the Common App itself, and the optional William and Mary supplement essay. The William and Mary admissions team will use all of this information in their evaluation process.

William and Mary Supplemental Essays 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. (500-word maximum)

How do I write the William and Mary essay?

This William and Mary supplement essay is quite a flexible one. You have the freedom to explore essentially anything you want when responding to this William and Mary application essay. Really, the only guidance you have is that this essay should not revolve solely around academic or extracurricular achievements. This William and Mary application essay is near the length of the Common App personal essay. Be prepared to spend a while writing and editing it.

Pay attention to the language this William and Mary application essay question uses. Words like “unique” “colorful” and “with an attitude” indicate the tone that admissions officers want to see in your William and Mary supplement essay. They are asking for you to inspire them, impress them, or make them laugh.

This William and Mary essay revolves more around your identity than your accomplishments. While you can talk about what you've done, you should mostly use this essay to show the William and Mary admissions team who you are. While this can seem like a lot of pressure, think of this William and Mary application essay prompt as your chance to get creative. Strong William and Mary supplemental essays can come in a variety of forms. Have fun with it!

Don’t repeat yourself

If you do choose to elaborate on some aspect of your application such as an award you received or an extracurricular club you founded, make sure not to repeat information that William and Mary's admissions officers already have. Instead, take a new approach to describe your chosen honor or activity. Provide a meaningful anecdote that demonstrates your personality—not just your success and accomplishments.

The best William and Mary supplemental essays will reveal unique details about an applicant's identity or attributes. You want this essay to show William and Mary admissions officers who you are at your core. What is something fun about yourself? A quirk that you have, or a unique hobby? The funniest thing that’s ever happened to you, or the coolest thing you have ever done? Any of these could make a good topic for this William and Mary supplement essay.

For example, you could write about what it was like to be the youngest member of your town’s knitting society, or your short-lived career as an amateur magician, or how every year you reread all seven of the Harry Potter books because of the comforting nostalgia they give you. You could, for example, insert a poem or song you have written and analyze it. You could write limericks reflecting on each of your four years of high school! All of these ideas could make for strong William and Mary supplemental essays. No matter what you write about, make sure it reflects your personality in an engaging way. The best William and Mary supplemental essays will help the admissions team understand an applicant in a whole new light.

Remember your audience

A word of caution: though this William and Mary application essay allows for (and even encourages) artistic freedom, you should avoid any content that is inappropriate for a college essay. Don’t get so distracted writing a fun essay that you accidentally reveal something about yourself that does not show you in the best light. Of course, you are welcome to write about a mistake you made, as long as you demonstrate that you grew from the experience! Just use your best judgment when writing a response to this William and Mary essay. You might also consider running your topic by someone you trust in order to get their feedback.

Overall, do not feel too much pressure with this prompt. Strong William and Mary supplemental essays can come from anywhere and connect to a variety of topics. After reading this William and Mary essay, the William and Mary admissions team should feel like they had a conversation with you. Not necessarily a purely academic conversation, either. This essay is a chance to show off part of your personality that you have not demonstrated elsewhere in your application. The best William and Mary supplemental essays will be unique and personal. So, have fun!

William and Mary Essay Draft Tips:

  • Do you use your essay to teach the reader something new and unique about you?
  • Does your draft supplement and complement the other information about you present in your application?
  • Does your response get creative? Is it enjoyable to read?
  • Do you use active storytelling to create a compelling essay?

William and Mary Supplemental Essays: Final Thoughts

Completing the William and Mary supplement essay can seem daunting in light of the William and Mary acceptance rate. However, don’t let that discourage you from applying. The William and Mary supplemental essays are a great opportunity to demonstrate who you are to the William and Mary admissions team. With the lower William and Mary acceptance rate, this essay can boost your William and Mary application if you have a lower than average GPA or SAT score.

Use this guide as a step-by-step aid when approaching the William and Mary supplemental essay, and start earlier than you think you should. Looking at the William and Mary acceptance rate, completing optional William and Mary supplemental essays can make a huge difference for applicants. Some applicants might ignore this part of the William and Mary admissions process, which means writing it will strengthen your application and help contend with the lower William and Mary acceptance rate. Don’t be afraid to ask for revisions from someone. All students can benefit from outside readers checking their William and Mary supplemental essays for grammatical errors, tone, and clarity. Good luck!


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This 2021-2022 essay guide on WM was written by Laura Frustaci, Harvard ‘21. Want help crafting your William and Mary supplemental essays? Create your free account or schedule a free consultation by calling (844) 343-6272.

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