Writing Supplement Option B - Frequently Asked Questions

Option B  Submit a graded paper from your junior or senior year that best represents your writing skills and analytical abilities. We are particularly interested in your ability to construct a tightly reasoned, persuasive argument that calls upon literary, sociological or historical evidence. You should NOT submit a laboratory report, journal entry, creative writing sample or in-class essay. Also, if you have submitted an analytical essay in response to the "essay topic of your choice" prompt in the Common Application writing section, you should not select Option B. Instead, you should respond to one of the four quotation prompts in Option A.


I attend a school that does not issue traditional grades. How can I satisfy the "graded paper" requirement?

The term "graded paper" refers to a paper that you submitted in one of your junior or senior year classes for a grade or other academic evaluation, so it accommodates papers written by student in high schools with traditional grades or non-grade evaluation systems.


The paper I want to submit has comments from my teacher written on it.  Is that okay or do I have to prepare a clean copy without comments?

We actually prefer that you submit a paper that has both a grade and comments from your teacher, so there is no need to prepare a "clean" copy for submission.


Is there a limit to the page length of the paper I can submit?

There is no hard-and-fast rule for official page limit. Typically, we anticipate a paper of 4-5 pages will provide adequate length to demonstrate your analytical abilities. Somewhat longer papers can also be submitted, but in most cases should not exceed 8-10 pages.


May I submit a paper written in a language other than English?

No, all submitted papers must be in English.


Is it okay if my Option B essay analyzes a text as a whole (or even compares two texts) or should it analyze a singular passage? 

It is perfectly fine if your Option B essay analyzes a text as a whole or even compares two texts. What we are looking for in the Option B essay is a demonstration of your analytical skills, including your ability to craft a meaningful question and hypothesis about the text(s), to develop an argument, and to identify and evaluate the strength of appropriate evidence in support of your conclusion.


The Amherst website says "if you have submitted an analytical essay in response to the 'essay topic of your choice' prompt in the Common Application writing section, you should not select Option B. Instead, you should respond to one of the four quotation prompts in Option A." I selected the "essay topic of your choice" prompt in the Common App, but I submitted a personal essay, not an analytical essay. Can I still choose Option B for the Amherst Writing Supplement?

If you submitted a personal essay in response to the Common App "essay of your choice" prompt, it's perfectly fine for you to select Option B for the submission of an analytical essay! (What we wish to avoid is receiving two analytical essays from an applicant and no personal essay.)


Does the Admission Office have any preference between Option A and Option B?

We do not have any preference between Option A and Option B; which of those alternatives to select is up to the preference of the applicant. Some students feet that they have had adequate opportunity to present themselves in other parts of the application (the personal essay of the Common or Coalition Applications, the short answer on most meaningful extracurricular activity, the short answer on identity, the additional information section, etc.) and would like to use Option B to present another aspect of their thinking and writing that they are especially proud of. Other students may read the Option A prompts and find one that especially intrigues them or resonates personally and that they are really excited about answering. So the "best choice" between Option A and Option B is up to the applicant!