How to Write the Tulane University Supplemental Essays: Examples + Guide 2021/2022

You probably caught that “if” at the front of the second sentence, and thought: I don’t have to write this one. And you’d be right—technically. But (you guessed it) we’d recommend writing it anyway, because it’s another great opportunity to highlight for Tulane’s admission officers new aspects of yourself. 

The beauty of this prompt is that it’s wide open in terms of potential topics. Family, culture, sexuality, identity—you’re bound to have an interesting story to tell (or likelier, several). And odds are high that it’ll be unique to you, which is a great way to stand out. You’re also working with a huge range in terms of word count (you have even more space than in your personal statement!), meaning that you have a lot of freedom to discuss lots of different topics or dive deeply into just a few. Don’t feel pressured to use all 800 words if you find it’s more than you have to say. The best essay won’t overdo it just for the sake of writing more words.

Below are some ideas for brainstorming a topic. As you think through your options, ask yourself: Which best allows me to speak to my identity and isn’t something I’ve already shared in my application?

Identity: List out all the ways you identify. Is there something on the list that’s particularly important to you, or maybe one you’ve struggled with? If so, what have you found challenging about it? It could be something like being an ambivert, or coming out as LGBTQ+, or having a “natural mom vibe.” Pro tip: Try to a) choose something that’s uncommon (the closer it is to something only you can write about, the stronger), or b) if it’s more common, offer details that are unique to you.

Background: This could be your family background, your cultural background, your own personal background (hobbies, interests, friendships, educational experiences)—in other words, “background” can be defined however you want it to be. Just think about how it would relate to your identity.

Family: Is there something unique about your family that you haven’t yet shared with Tulane? It may be something that’s central to your identity—maybe it’s a story about immigrating to America, or being the latest in a long line of coders in the family. Or it could be an interesting family story that you connect with on a deep level—how your grandfather’s Mennonite upbringing taught you the power of giving back, or how your great-grandmother escaped from a Nazi concentration camp. Just make sure that you’re still the main character of the story: How does it illuminate an important influence on how you came to be … you?

Culture: This can be defined rather broadly, so think through which aspects resonate with you and your experiences (race & ethnicity, socioeconomic class, learning a new language, etc.). It could be how rolling spanakopita with your Yiayia taught you the value of attention to detail, or how you were the only one in your generation to learn Polish, because you couldn’t stand the thought of that family connection dying out.

Community: This tends to be our favorite option, because many schools ask about communities you’ve been a part of, how you’ve contributed to them, and what you’ve gained from them. So chances are you may be writing this essay for another school, giving you another opportunity for a “super” essay (for more on that great time-saving technique, head here). Here’s a step-by-step guide that offers a short exercise to help you think through all the communities you’re a part of that might make a good topic for this particular essay.

The example essay below was initially written for another college with a similar prompt, but it’s a great example for this prompt as well:


I belong to my mother tongue the way it belongs to its demise, an instinctual but no less tragic linguistic prophecy. Konkani lies along the interlingual axes of Kannada, Marathi, and Tullu, all Indo-Aryan languages with speakers sprawled across the subcontinent. My language blends the bickering of Goan fish markets with the spiraling hymns of Udupi temples.

 In 2018, Konkani was declared an endangered language by UNESCO. My native tongue borrows and is borrowed, but is slipping away from this culture altogether.

There’s a strange pride in staying loyal to Konkani, but I know that these 36 consonants, 5 semi-vowels, and 3 sibilants have more life in them. In the transition to college life, I hope to bring my endangered language with me. At Pomona, I hope to raise awareness about linguistic imperialism, and the many cultures we may lose if the world’s thousands of endangered languages finally perish. I see myself contributing to KSPC Claremont 88.7 FM, interviewing other speakers of endangered languages on Sagecast and promoting traditional Konkani music.

Coiled within every language is the choice to sustain it, and Konkani and I are fighters. I belong to my mother tongue — whether it outlives me or not. (200 words)

— — —

Tips + Analysis:

  1. Use visceral, evocative language. The first line of this essay is stunning. It totally hooks you in. Details about the “bickering of Goan fish markets” and “the spiraling hymns of Udupi temples” keep you reading, lost in the author’s world. The prose is artistic and places you in the times and places that are clearly dear to the author. In an essay about language, this careful attention to how ideas and values are articulated is especially important. When you’re writing, think about how you can engage all five senses and show (rather than just tell) your audience why something is important to or a part of you. This conveys a sense of care and allows your reader to more fully appreciate your perspective.

  2. Try to start strong and end strong. Your first and last line can, oftentimes, be the most important parts of your essay. Although conveying relevant content in the middle is absolutely essential, sometimes, the connection that sticks with your reader comes in the first and last lines. The first line is your chance to make a first impression and, if it’s good, it can hook your reader and make them want to come along for the ride. The last line can be critical because it tends to round out the piece and emphasize specific through lines or themes. Consider using it to summarize the important ideas and give your reader essential takeaways about you as an applicant. So put some thought into the lines that bookend your essay and consider the first and last impression you want to make on your reader.

  3. Connect to Tulane’s resources. This isn’t a “Why us?” essay, so you don’t have to do this, but it can be a nice bonus to connect aspects of your identity back to what Tulane has to offer as an academic, cultural, and social institution. In this essay, the author mentions how they’d use the college radio station to promote traditional music and keep their native language alive. As you’re writing, take a good look at Tulane’s website and think about how you can take action, reflect, or make an impact using the resources the school makes available, and connect those resources to your background/identity.

  4. Be vulnerable. This is one of the most important tips we can offer about writing any college essay. A great response should give your reader critical insights into what motivates or shapes you, and that often requires a level of vulnerability. Does this mean you need to share every part of your life story? Please don’t. But notice in this essay how personal the topic is for the author and how honest he is about his feelings. Know, too, that there are lots of ways to be vulnerable. Not quite sure how to show that softer side, or not sure you want to? We get it. Being vulnerable can be scary. But don’t worry, we have a guide for that too! Head here for 5 tips on how to show vulnerability in your essay (it was written for the personal statement, but the advice works for most any college essay).

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