College applications are insanely time-consuming, and colleges’ required supplemental essays are the number one reason for this. If your time is running short or you have multiple long and difficult supplemental essays, you may consider applying to a few colleges without supplemental essays. Please note: This post has been updated for the 2021-2022 college admissions cycle.
For every college on the Common App or Coalition platforms, the personal statement and extracurricular sections can be the same, but supplemental essays need to be personalized for each college. (MIT and the University of California system offer their own individual applications.) On average, our students go through 6–7 drafts of each essay they work on. Applying to 10 schools? That’s suddenly 60–70 drafts overall.
As a result, this is the strongest argument for limiting your college list. The more schools you apply to, the less time you have to dedicate to each application.
Fortunately, there are several colleges without supplemental essays and colleges that offer an optional supplement. Therefore, you don’t have to spend almost any incremental time on these applications. In fact, one of my students calls these colleges “hit-submitters” because all you have to do to apply is hit the submit button! Applying to a couple of these schools to bolster your overall application could free up valuable time that you could use to strengthen the supplemental essays for your reach schools.
Don’t apply only because the college lacks a supplemental essay
Keep in mind that each school does require an application fee, so you may still want to limit the number you apply to. Also, keep in mind (and this may sound obvious) that you should only apply to colleges that you can imagine yourself going to. So don’t just apply to colleges without supplemental essays frivolously. Many of the colleges on this list are not creme de la creme schools (with several notable exceptions) but could make great safety or match colleges.
You should still write that “optional” essay
IMPORTANT: When a supplemental essay is optional, we highly encourage you to write one still. This holds true especially for international students because they face steeper competition. (In fact, some colleges have “hidden” supplement essays for international students that pop up when you answer specific questions.) There is some truth to the somewhat humorous commentary that’s commonly heard: “It’s optional for those who don’t want to get accepted.” However, that’s not always true. If the rest of your application (grades, test scores, school profile, extracurriculars (especially with a Spike project!), and personal statement) are strong enough, you may be able to get by without it.
In addition to colleges without supplemental essays, we’ve also included some schools with shorter supplemental essay questions. However, shorter does not necessarily mean easier (sometimes shorter can be even more difficult), on average, these essays are less time-consuming. In addition, some of these schools have the same supplemental essay (short answer) question as other colleges so that you can reuse your previous response.
As promised, here is a sampling of colleges in the categories mentioned above:
Colleges without supplement essays:
- Case Western Reserve University
- University of Miami
- Middlebury College
- Colby College
- Grinnell College
- Hamilton College
- Bard College
- Connecticut College
- Franklin & Marshall College
- Kenyon College
- Skidmore College
- Wesleyan University (supplemental essay required from international students)
- Northeastern University
- University of Iowa (supplemental essays for specific programs of study)
- Spelman College
- Williams College (students can submit an optional academic paper)
- Colgate University
Colleges with optional supplemental essays:
- Bowdoin College
- Sarah Lawrence College
- Washington and Lee University
- Fordham University
- Northwestern University
- The George Washington University
- William and Mary
Top Colleges That Have the Shortest Applications
- Emory University
- Georgia Institute of Technology
- Boston University
- Brandeis University (additional supplemental essay required from international students)
- Smith College
- Swarthmore College
- Vanderbilt University
- Vassar College
- Washington University in St. Louis
- University of Washington
How To Stand Out To A Colleges Without Supplemental Essays
What about if you want to stand out to a specific college but that it’s one of those colleges without supplemental essays? You may potentially write a short of hundred words describing why you want to attend that specific college. You can also read more here about what you can do in your application to stand out to these no-supplement colleges.
Are you struggling to figure out what to write for all these supplemental essays? Talk to us to learn how our program can support you.