Although spring marks the end of one college admission cycle, another is just beginning. College applicants should already be starting to put their applications together, and one part of the college application that takes time is the personal essay. In addition to the personal essay, there are additional essays that may be required by schools. Applicants can easily write between 20 and 30 essays by the college application deadlines which start in November and run through January.
Writing all these essays while involved in both classes and activities the first two quarters of your senior year in high school can be tough…so get started early!
It is best to start with the personal essay. The personal essay is required by 95% of all colleges. Traditionally it is written from one choice among five writing prompts from the Common Application. Now there is a new application form being used by many colleges called the Coalition Application. Although most students will apply in the fall of 2016 with the Common Application because the Coalition Application is so new, it is still good to be aware of both. Here they are.
Common Application Writing Prompts
• Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.
• The lessons we take from failure can be fundamental to later success. Recount an incident or time when you experienced failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience?
• Reflect on a time when you challenged a belief or idea. What prompted you to act? Would you make the same decision again?
• Describe a problem you’ve solved or a problem you’d like to solve. It can be an intellectual challenge, a research query, an ethical dilemma – anything that is of personal importance, no matter the scale. Explain its significance to you and what steps you took or could be taken to identify a solution.
• Discuss an accomplishment or event, formal or informal, that marked your transition from childhood to adulthood within your culture, community, or family.
Coalition Application Writing Prompts
- Tell a story from your life, describing an experience that either demonstrates your character or helped to shape it.
- Describe a time when you made a meaningful contribution to others in which the greater good was your focus. Discuss the challenges and rewards of making your contribution.
- Has there been a time when you’ve had a long-cherished or accepted belief challenged? How did you respond? How did the challenge affect your beliefs?
- What is the hardest part of being a teenager now? What’s the best part? What advice would you give a younger sibling or friend (assuming they would listen to you)?
- Submit an essay on a topic of your choice.
It is best to brainstorm for essay ideas, write out drafts to get your thoughts together, and edit during the summer before your senior year in high school. That gives an applicant September and October to write the 1 to 4 additional essays that can be required by many colleges and selective schools while also preparing your resume and getting both teacher recommendations and tests scores and grades together.
It’s a lot to do. Divide and conquer by starting early.