June 14, 2024

Weirdest Supplemental Essays and How to Survive Them

In a recent post, I discussed the 5 most common supplemental essays and tips for effectively answering them.

But not all supplemental essays are created the same. Sometimes schools get a little cute and creative, so I wanted to highlight a few of my favorites and give some food for thought on how I would approach their strange inquiries. Here are a few I’ve helped students with in the past:

What are three things you don't care about at all? (3-5 sentences. Each answer must be 65 words or less.)

This one is pretty wild. Here’s a quick list of answers I’ve seen in the past:

  • Fashion
  • The richest person in the world
  • Being popular
  • Correlation between personality and blood type
  • Genetically modified foods
  • Cancel culture
  • Being a leader in every situation
  • The flat-earth theory
  • Formula 1
  • UFC fights
  • YouTube shorts

OK, so what are the tips and tricks you need to know to answer this prompt?

Admittedly, I’m still wrapping my head around this question, but here are the pieces of advice I feel pretty confident about:

1. Use humor, especially of the self-deprecating variety

Moral of the story here: the humor should come at your expense, rather than by putting others down.

Bad example: Fashion–I don’t care about your Gucci belt or handbag that costs more than a Third World country’s GDP.

Better example: Fashion–Although I’m improving, I’ve sometimes been accused of dressing in the dark or having the style sense of a vagabond.‍‍

2. If you choose to be contrarian, focus on what makes you weird, rather than point out what makes everyone else wrong

Moral of the story here: no one likes the person who tries too hard to be cool, so making yourself an anomaly should come from a place of idiosyncrasy, not self-righteousness.

Bad example: Being popular–I don’t care what other people think is cool or popular, since I know that my sense of worth comes from my own definition of success.

Better example: Being popular–I have an “old soul” and struggle to keep up with trends. I’m that weirdo who wears thrift store clothes and still uses a flip phone.

3. If you choose to make social commentary, you need to qualify your answer and give it a positive spin

Moral of the story here: The risk of being offensive or off-putting is high, so it’s probably best to accommodate the opposition and show both sides.

Bad example: Cancel culture–People are too sensitive nowadays, and I feel like they’re just looking for reasons to be offended and silence their opponents’ ideas.

Better example: Cancel culture–I draw the line with hate speech and threats, but I champion free speech and try to understand the reasoning behind dissenting or controversial opinions.

Create a superhero for your current city, town, or municipality. What would they fight? Describe their appearance, name, and special powers. (150 words max)

Another weird one, for a medical school.

My tips:

1. Choose a Less Common Problem for Your Superhero to Fight

Take a moment to consider the most likely problems that other pre-meds will choose for their superheroes to fight:

  • Lack of healthcare access
  • Disease
  • Death
  • COVID-19
  • Healthcare disparities
  • Homelessness
  • Poverty

Try to push your creativity further and find something more nuanced like:

  • Language barriers
  • Food insecurity
  • Poor health literacy
  • Obesity or fast-food culture
  • Drug or alcohol addiction
  • Underfunded schools

The more narrow and specific, the better.

You don’t have to be profoundly unique, but if you can ratchet up the originality a little bit, you’ll be able to stick in the readers’ minds and hopefully stand out enough for an interview.  

2. Choose a Superhero and Problem That Feel Exclusive to Your City or Town

Ideally, you don’t want to choose a problem that’s too universal or ubiquitous. You should view this as an opportunity to highlight something that’s unique to your hometown.

Maybe you live in a town that’s prone to drought and wildfires. Maybe you live in a town with an opioid epidemic. Maybe you live in a food desert. Maybe you live in a town with rampant pollution or a wide income gap.

These are just a few possibilities. Try to choose a fight for your superhero that speaks towards a cause you’re passionate about. In a sense, you should view the superhero as a narrative proxy for yourself.

3. Don’t Skimp on the Details of Your Superhero’s Appearance and Powers

Think about Wonder Woman’s Lasso of Truth and her Invisible Plane, or the Batmobile, or the Green Lantern’s Power Ring. All of these items and accessories are as iconic as the superhero themselves.

You could even assign your superhero a real-life job, similar to how DAREDEVIL works as a lawyer by day and fights bad guys at night. This would let you combat multiple problems in your town while also adding an unexpected layer to your essay.

These details will make your essay memorable, and they’re a great way to stand out through your creativity, even if your idea is fairly common.

Don’t be afraid to think outside-the-box, and try your best to have fun (if that’s even possible with supplemental essays?).

Best of luck!

- Ryan

P.S. Hit me up at if you have other weird supplemental essays you’d like me to comment on!

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For over 11 years, Ryan Kelly has guided hundreds of students towards acceptance into top colleges and graduate schools, with an emphasis on standing out while also staying true to themselves. Read more about Ryan here. Or book a free intro meeting with him here.