This is basically a “Community Essay.” You can find our comprehensive guide on how to write that kind of supplement here. Or, here’s the shortened version:

Step 1: Create a “communities” chart by listing all the communities you’re a part of. Keep in mind that communities can be defined by…

  1.   Place: groups of people who live/work/play near one another

  2. Action: groups of people who create change in the world by building, doing, or solving something together (Examples: Black Lives Matter, Girls Who Code, March for Our Lives)

  3. Interest: groups of people coming together based on shared interest, experience, or expertise

  4. Circumstance: groups of people brought together either by chance or external events/situations. 

Step 2: Use the BEABIES exercise to generate your essay content. Once you’ve chosen a community, map out your content using the BEABIES Exercise. That exercise asks:

What did you actually do? (Tip: use active verbs like “organized” and “managed” to clarify your responsibilities).

  1. What kinds of problems did you solve (personally, locally, or globally)?

  2. What specific impact did you have?

  3. What did you learn (skills, qualities, values)? 

  4. How did you apply the lessons you learned?

Step 3: Pick a structure. The Narrative Structure works well for students who have faced a challenge in or with this community.Otherwise, the Montage Structure works well.

Consider answering these three questions in your essay if you choose the Narrative Structure: 

  1. What challenge did you face?

  2. What did you do about it? 

  3. What did you learn?

Here’s an example. Note that this example is 300 words, so yours will need to be a bit shorter. 

Columbia Supplemental Essay Example:

Since 5th grade, I have been my parents’ right hand at Hon Lin Restaurant in our hometown of Hermosillo, Mexico. Sometimes, they needed me to be the cashier, other times, a dishwasher or chef’s assistant in the kitchen, and eventually I was expected to interact with customers as the youngest waiter on staff.

As I developed more in this role, I began teaching waiters how to properly attend groups of unsatisfied customers and the fundamentals of customer service. Consequently, I acquired organizational habits and dialogued more fluently to resolve problems. I developed better strategies to speed up home-delivery and in restaurant service. Through this, I achieved not only a better rapport with my colleagues but also a more honest and enjoyable relation with my dad’s employees. It implanted a strong work ethic in me that reminds me of the hardworking farmers of my past generations.

I believe that to achieve efficiency and productivity in the working environment between employees and the manager, it requires the firmness and attention of a boss and the empathy and vision of a leader. These were the very qualities I developed as my dad’s assistant.

Working through the many facets of a small business has taught me the key role of small groups in a system, and I applied this beyond the walls of the restaurant. In school, you will see me managing and organizing one-on-one mediations with peer counselors, and at the same time, earning myself a leading position in my school’s British English Olympics team. 

As a result of my years laboring for my family restaurant,  you might think that I would like to become an entrepreneur. But in actuality, I picture myself as an engineer, as I believe both require the adaptability, perseverance, dedication, and strategy to succeed in this field.

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