The Common Application does not go live until August 1, but students should begin working on their admissions essays now. If students are applying to colleges or universities accepting the Common Application the essays will remain the same as last year.
Those questions include:
- Evaluate a significant experience, achievement, risk you have taken, or ethical dilemma you have faced and its impact on you.
- Discuss some issue of personal, local, national, or international concern and its importance to you.
- Indicate a person who has had a significant influence on you, and describe that influence.
- Describe a character in fiction, a historical figure, or a creative work (as in art, music, science, etc.) that has had an influence on you, and explain that influence.
- A range of academic interests, personal perspectives, and life experiences adds much to the educational mix. Given your personal background, describe an experience that illustrates what you would bring to the diversity in a college community or an encounter that demonstrated the importance of diversity to you.
- Topic of your choice.
Students only need to answer one of these prompts – and the essay should be approximately 500 words, or one page single-spaced. Admissions officers will not count words! If it is 520 or 463 words, terrific. Only those essays typed into an application text box have a strict word or character limit; uploaded essays will not have any restrictions. With that said, admissions officers might not be likely to turn to the second page if the writing is not compelling – so it’s best to keep the word count to near 500 words.
To get started, students should brainstorm topics – no topic is too big or too small, and any topic (if written well) can make for an excellent essay. Students should remember that admissions officers want to know more about them – they want to know the people they are bringing to their campus community for four years.
It’s important that students answer the question asked. Students should be honest, forthcoming and use vocabulary that they would normally use – so that it sounds like their voice, as though they were speaking to the admissions officer. The application essay can show any (or all) of the following: creativity, thoughtfulness, character, analytical thinking or insight.
Starting now is smart – as teens will be busy students when senior year begins, not to mention the most competitive universities will typically have one or two additional essays.
Open up a new Word document, start putting ideas on paper and click Save! Summer is here and the college admissions season has officially begun.
Stephen is the COO of AcceptU, a college admissions counseling group that connects applicants with former admissions officers. He has 10+ years of admissions experience at Cornell University and Princeton University.
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