My school year ended 48 hours ago and my consulting cycle immediately began to ramp up. I reached out to my rising seniors and told them that the future is now. All our work in the past year has been in preparation for what we are about to begin. When I told them that they are within 10 months of knowing where they are going to college, I could hear their eyes widen over the phone. I pointed out that in 6 months they will start receiving decisions from ED/EA schools (read here if you want a primer for what these mean.) So, now we begin the task of creating their application. And in my little world, that starts with writing. The most time-consuming, daunting, easy-to-procrastinate piece of the Common Application is the essay. So the first thing I direct my cohort to do is start writing. Once our writing is underway and the essay is taking shape, we turn to the other pieces of the Common App.
If you (or your senior) is struggling to get started, here are a few things I love about the essay that will hopefully encourage you (or them) to get started:
650 Words– I love that the 650 word limit creates an equalizer. Everyone has a 650 word maximum. There is no sub-group that gets extra words; nor is there a group that has to write with a shorter word count. Each applicant gets the same amount of words to tell their story. Period.
Wide Open Topics-I wish I could take credit for this, but I heard this from another consultant and I adopted the idea for my own practice; you can write about anything. Just start writing and then decide what prompt you are answering. Seriously, the seven prompts from the Common App (here) are so broad that you can start writing without deciding which prompt you are addressing.
Relax!-Don’t think of this as an essay. When one thinks of an essay, there is a formality that comes to mind that might intimidate an adolescent. Think of this as a writing piece. College admissions people do not expect you to have cured cancer, solved world conflicts or reinvented the wheel. They realize that while you are well on your way to becoming an adult, you are still a teenager.
Ready! Set! Write!