As the new school year looms around the corner, high school seniors should be thinking about how to tackle their college essays (early applications are due November 1!). I’ve spent the summer working with students, talking with educators, and researching the latest trends in college admissions. Based on what I’ve learned, here are three tips to think about as you prep for writing college essays:
Consider COVID carefully
The past year has severely disrupted all of our lives, and high school students were without a doubt one of the most highly impacted groups. Many activities were cancelled, and students missed out on some hallmark high school traditions – and that’s as true for incoming seniors as it was for the class ahead of them. As you craft your college essays, think about ways to position your experience in a positive light. The COVID-19 pandemic has certainly taught you some important life lessons and allowed you to explore your interests in new and different ways. Use your college essays to highlight what you learned and demonstrate your adaptability during difficult times. Be sure that COVID is only a part of your story – and let your values, lessons, and accomplishments shine through.
Pause before putting pen to paper
It can be tempting to just dive into your essays to get them done, but time out! Before you write a word, do these two things:
Think about the best things you’ve accomplished and the most unique aspects about you as a person, and write them down. These will form your key messages – the things you want to reinforce regardless of the specific essay question you’re asked. Don’t skip this critical step – use my free resources to get started!
Now that you know your key messages, use them to decide which essay prompts you want to respond to, based on which ones will give you the best opportunity to tell your story. You have choices, and once you know what you want to proactively share about yourself, the right questions to answer will become much clearer.
Keep running your race
It’s natural for students to draw on their junior year experiences as the basis for their college essays, but you’ll want to maintain your momentum throughout your senior year. In many cases, your acceptance is contingent on successfully completing your high school requirements. Failure to do so could result in a college revoking your acceptance. Colleges may be notified of behavioral or legal issues and often poke around social media to make sure you’re practicing what you preach in your college essays (here are my tips to ensure your social media presence helps your college prospects). Another thing to consider: continued academic and extracurricular engagement is particularly important if you are placed on a waitlist or may consider transferring to a different college in the future.
The college essay writing process can feel daunting, but getting started early and tapping into your resources can alleviate the overwhelm and give you space to write exceptional essays. Need a little extra help? Reach out for a quick chat to get started!