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How to Write Every Essay in the Occidental Supplement – and Still Have Time for Your Other Applications!

There are a lot of prompts in the Occidental application, but don’t be intimidated. This guide will help you answer the questions in a meaningful way while using your time efficiently. Let’s take a look!


Why Occidental?

Why are you applying to Occidental? What are your intellectual curiosities and why do you think Occidental is the right place for you to pursue them? (200 words maximum length)


Oxy’s central mission emphasizes the value of community amidst diversity. What do you value in a community and how do you see your perspectives and life experiences enhancing it? (200 words maximum length)

What Makes You Different?

Quirks, idiosyncrasies, peculiarities. They help differentiate us. What is one of yours, and how is it a reflection of your character? (133 words maximum length)

Short Answers

What is your favorite word (in English or another language) and why? (25 words max)

What is the first song you would play for your roommates on move-in day? (150 characters)

If you had your own food truck or restaurant, what would it be called? (150 characters)


That’s a lot to write! How can you deliver effective Occidental supplement essays and still meet all of your application deadlines? The key is prewriting.

Prewriting techniques will help you select strong topics and develop your content before you start to write. Let’s take a look at a few prewriting techniques!



If you’re trying to come up with a topic and you feel stuck, brainstorming will help. There are no bad ideas in brainstorming! Write down anything that comes to mind. You can narrow down your topic later.

Let’s look at an example student’s brainstorming lists for the Community essay.

  • What I value in a community:
    • People come from diverse cultural backgrounds
    • People are excited to learn and intellectually curious
  • My perspectives and experiences:
    • I’m Chinese-American and bilingual
    • I’m a feminist gamer – I can think critically about a community’s attitude towards gender
    • I run a “We Need Diverse Books” book club – this broadens my worldview



As you brainstorm, research can help you fill in any gaps in your content. If a prompt asks a specific question about Occidental, it’s a good idea to do research on the school’s website. This will help you provide detailed examples to support your statements about the school.


Narrow your topic

The Occidental supplement essays are short, so if you’ve come up with a lot of ideas in the brainstorming process, you’ll need to narrow down your list.

Let’s revisit the example student above. For her 200-word Community essay, she came up with two values and three perspectives, but there’s not enough room to write about all of them. She should pick just one value and one perspective, to fulfill the prompt.



These essays are pretty short, but a quick outline can still help you stay organized. Try writing 3-6 bullet points to help you keep track of the main points you want to cover.

Note: you don’t need an outline for the 50-150 character Short Answer Questions.

Let’s look at the example student’s final outline for the 200-word Community essay.

  • What I value in a community:
    • People are intellectually curious and willing to step out of their comfort zone
  • My unique perspective:
    • I run a book club focused on reading diverse books – this broadens my worldview
    • My contribution to the Occidental community: encouraging people to read outside of their comfort zone


Once you have your outlines, you’ll be ready to write your Occidental supplement essays!


Note: this supplement has just one tiny but crucial change from 2018-19 to 2019-20.

“What word do you feel is currently underutilized in the modern English lexicon and why? (50 characters)” has been replaced with “What is your favorite word (in English or another language) and why? (25 words max).” This is a great update, because not only does it give you more options, it gives you more room to play with!


Get started with our free brainstorming tools!



Prompt’s Essay Specialists reviewed 13,000 admissions essays in 2018, helping thousands of students submit their applications with confidence.

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