When Do I Start My College Application Essay?

Students ask, when do we start on the college application essay? If you are asking the question, it’s time. It’s time to take a look at essay prompts at commonapp.org It’s time to start looking at applications on the websites of colleges that interest you. And most importantly, it’s time to start to pay attention to how you are different from your friends, which subjects you are passionate about, and the qualities that make you a great student and an appealing person. Scribble in a notebook and collect anecdotes about events you are proud of, and why. Then, when you start to write when you are a junior or a senior, your notes will give you a big push and you’ll be rolling along and writing a great essay before you know it.

Here’s a way to have a low stress and effective schedule for writing your essay.
Sophomore and Junior Years Research colleges you are interested in. If you are able to visit the school, look over its application’s essay questions before the visit. This research will help you think about the essay. Also, review the essay questions at the commonapp.org.

Summer Between Junior and Senior Year Many students want to have their essay complete by the time they start school in September, because they get busy with homework and activities. Here is a schedule for taking your time with your essays over the summer or, if you prefer, any eight-week block that allows you to meet your application deadlines.

Week 1. Print out the essay questions of all the colleges you’re considering applying to, including the common application questions. Read them over and put them in a binder. Get a writing notebook/journal or set up a file on your computer. Decide where this information will live in your house (which shelf or drawer) and make a pact with yourself to always put it back there. Leave the essay questions in a place where you can read them over each day and think about them, while you’re shopping, driving, during dinner. Talk about them with your parents. If the essay questions are multiple choice, circle any that seem like they might be the choice you’d pick to write about. No formal writing yet—just thinking, with some rough ideas jotted down in your notebook if something comes to you.
Week 2. Write lists and do writing practice as described in this chapter to stir up your thoughts and memories.
Week 3. Decide on a topic using good judgment. Talk about it with others.
Week 4. Write your thoughts in idea form. At this point it is too early to even call this a first draft. Set a timer for 10 minutes each day and just write on the topic.
Week 5. Read over everything you wrote last week, and then try to remember what parts you liked best. What is unique, exciting? What ideas do you feel are most energetic? Circle them and delete everything else. Work on organizing them into a draft that tells a true story about you and your strengths.
Week 6. Talk with people about your draft. Read your essay out loud to a teacher, a counselor, a parent, a writing coach. It’s just a draft; you have nothing to lose! Tell your listener the kind of feedback you need to hear. “Just tell me what you’ve learned about me from reading this.” Or “What do you think about this topic? What sounds interesting about what I said?”
Week 7. Edit, edit, edit. Edit every day, even if it is 10 minutes each day.
Week 8. Edit more. Some students ask others to read what they’ve written to help spot typos. If the rest of the application is all together, press SEND at the end of the week. Of course, you don’t have to use an eight-week schedule. If you can sit down and write your 250 word essay in an hour, do it! That will catapult you to week 6. If you want to start in February of your junior year, stretch out the eight-week essay schedule. Some students do this. By the time September of senior year rolls around, their essays are complete and they can devote full time to their school and sports and other activities during that busy and exciting senior fall.
Need more assistance with writing your story or your college application essay? Write debbie@essaycoaching.com. We educate and motivate. You create.

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