College applications are insanely time-consuming, and colleges’ required supplemental essays are the number one reason for this. While the personal statement and extracurricular sections can be the same at every school (aside from those with their own applications, like MIT and the UC system), supplemental essays need to be personalized for each college. 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.
This is the strongest argument for limiting your college list, since the more schools you apply to, the less time you have to dedicate to each application.
Fortunately, there are several colleges that either don’t require a supplement or give the choice of an optional supplement. Therefore you don’t have to spend almost any incremental time on these applications. 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 work on the supplemental essays for your reaches in more depth.
Keep in mind that each school does require an application fee, so you may still want to limit the number you apply to, but, for the most part, these schools don’t have to count toward the 6–8 school limit we usually recommend for our students. 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 hit-submitters 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.
IMPORTANT: When a supplemental essay is optional, we highly encourage you to still write one, especially if you are an international student. 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 (with Spike!), and personal statement) are strong enough, you may be able to get by without it.
We’ve also included some schools with shorter supplemental essay questions. Though 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 you can reuse your previous response.
Here is a sampling of colleges in the above mentioned categories:
- Case Western Reserve University
- University of Miami
- Middlebury College
- Colby College
- Grinnell College
- Hamilton College
- Duke University
- Tulane University
- Williams College
- Bowdoin College
- Emory University
- Rice University
- Colgate University
You can click here to download a larger list of these “hit-submitter” colleges along with their key admissions data, i.e. their rankings, acceptance rates, and submission deadlines in our resource library. You can also read more here about what you can do in your application to stand out to these no supplement colleges, since you won’t have a specific essay for each of them.