As the countdown to the opening of the Common Application and other undergraduate college admission applications continues, rising high school seniors like you may still be wondering what can be done beforehand in order to ensure that your college application is completed and turned in on time. For starters, making sure that you have fulfilled all of the school’s application requirements (excluding the actual application) is important as these things can eventually come back to haunt you in the later future. Be sure to check the school’s official website for more information about freshman application requirements, including high school course prerequisites and standardized testing (SAT/ACT/SAT Subject Tests).
The previously mentioned application materials are important to the college application process, but you will also most likely face the task of writing a college essay (or more) in order to officially complete your application. At first, writing a college essay seems easy. After all, you’ve probably written at least one essay in your high school career, so writing another essay is nothing new. However, as you begin writing your college admissions essay, you might find yourself having writer’s block. Writer’s block isn’t always a bad thing, but when your time is constrained, the pressure is on and writing your college admissions essay may not be as easy as you thought before. The college application process doesn’t need to be overly painful, so by taking the following precautions throughout the college application process, writing your college admissions essay(s) will be a breeze. (And less stressful!)
Even before you begin brainstorming, one of the first things you should do is to compile and organize lists of all of the essay prompts for each school. Staying organized is important in the writing process, because you don’t want to accidentally write about the wrong college and have to restart your essay! In most cases, essay prompts can be found on each school’s website. For the Common Application, you can actually access the essay prompts before August 1 by searching them up on the website’s support page (which you can find here).
If you have the essay prompt(s) already, then now is the time to start brainstorming! You may think that it’s too early to begin writing anything, but remember that you will probably have less time once August arrives. After all, you’re a high school senior now! Many things are happening all at once and there are definitely things to be done. While the summer is still fresh, it might be best to begin thinking about why you want to attend each school. Most college essay prompts not only ask about your personal development, but also about why you’re applying to that particular school. Thus, rather than waiting until August to begin thinking about these types of things, start brainstorming ideas now so that you’ll have a better idea of why college is important to you.
The college admissions committee isn’t asking you to write an award-winning essay, but they at least expect you to give the essay(s) some time and effort. After you have some ideas down on paper, start writing! It’s never too early to start writing your college admissions essay(s) and having them completed earlier is always better. Who knows — by next week you might have an even better idea, and even then you’ll still have time to write a clear and concise college essay. As you’re writing your college admissions essay, try to keep the following in mind:
Flow – Does the chronology of my essay make sense? Are there any awkward transitions?
Content – Does my essay answer the question/prompt? What can I learn about myself by reading this essay?
Style – Does my overall style of writing remain consistent throughout the essay? Are there any areas of ambiguity?
Clarity – Does my essay make sense? Are there any places where I need to be more clear and concise?
Grammar – Are there any grammatical errors in my essay?
The drafting process may or may not be long, depending on how much time you want to put into your essay(s). However, keep in mind that spending hours upon hours of writing does not necessarily mean you will have a great essay at the end. Pace yourself; give yourself some time to think about the prompt and write ideas down. Rather than rushing yourself at the last minute, the most efficient way to get through the drafting process is to give yourself enough time to think and process all of your ideas.
After you finish writing your final draft, you might think, I’m done, this is it. Well sorry, you’re not done yet! Even though you’ve given yourself time to think and write, don’t forget that there are other resources beyond just yourself who can help you. For instance, letting some of your close friends read the essay is a great way to get feedback in finding ways to improve your essay. The same goes for family members as well. HOWEVER, be aware that friends, family members, and pretty much anyone who likes you may not be best people to give criticism. Since they are people who like you, it’s possible that you’ll get a response similar to this: Oh, what a great essay! It’s perfect! If this happens, try reaching out to people who are more likely to give you objective feedback (e.g. English teachers).
Receiving advice from other people can be helpful in the college admissions essay writing process (especially with grammatical errors), but remember that this is your essay. In the end, no one can tell you what to say or not to say. This is your essay and even though people may say otherwise, you take control of what you convey to the admissions committee.
Completing Your Essay
Click. You’ve finally finished writing your college admissions essay! It wasn’t easy and sometimes it was frustrating having to explain yourself to other people reading it, but now you’ve finished the essay and can move on to greater things (or other essays). Remember that although the essay portion of the college application process is important, don’t forget that schools take other factors into consideration as well. Just because you didn’t write the “perfect essay” doesn’t mean that you’re an automatic reject. Give each essay all that you can and always remember that the college admissions process does not define who you are as a person. Everything you’ve accomplished, everything you’ve learned, everything you’ve gotten through — nothing can change that — so be proud of how well you’ve done.