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Writing a Great College Essay

Introducing the 2015-2016 Common Application Essay PromptsNow that the school year is winding down to its final days, rising high school seniors should be shifting their focus to college essays. Sure, senior year is still almost three months away but, if a student wants to get ahead of the craziness that ensues, their goal should be to start their essay now so that it’s done before the end of the summer.

First, let me introduce you to the prompts. Then I’ll tell you why I don’t think they’re anything you should be stressing over:

1. Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.

2. The lessons we take from obstacles we encounter can be fundamental to later success. Recount a time when you faced a challenge, setback, or failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience?

3. Reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea. What prompted your thinking? What was the outcome?

4. Describe a problem you’ve solved or a problem you’d like to solve. It can be an intellectual challenge, a research query, an ethical dilemma – anything that is of personal importance, no matter the scale. Explain its significance to you and what steps you took or could be taken to identify a solution.

5. Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others.

6. Describe a topic, idea, or concept you find so engaging that it makes you lose all track of time. Why does it captivate you? What or who do you turn to when you want to learn more?

7. Share an essay on any topic of your choice. It can be one you’ve already written, one that responds to a different prompt, or one of your own design.

With the exception of the last prompt, you will see that each one asks for a specific moment, situation, place, event or story that reveals something important about yourself. Please note the emphasis on the word, “important.”

I didn’t say incredible.

I didn’t say amazing.

And I definitely didn’t say Earth-shattering.

Because let’s be honest – at 16 and 17 years old, very few people have had incredible, amazing and Earth-shattering experiences in their lives. So take the pressure off yourself to write something that has never been written before. Instead, focus on a story you can tell that helps an admission counselor learn something new about you. And while you may not be able to come up with something for each essay prompt, I’m sure you can come up with a story that relates to at least one of them.

In fact, I think you should first focus on all the possible things you could say that show your values, interests and any personal attributes that truly make you who you are. If you can talk about any life lessons you’ve learned or explain any growth you’ve experienced after working through a challenge or obstacle, that would be a great idea too. Don’t worry about whether the ideas are stinkers or the seeds of a truly great essay right now. Just brainstorm and get some ideas on paper. Talk to your parents, friends and relatives. Let them help you brainstorm – chances are, they may think of something interesting about you that you, yourself, didn’t think of immediately.

Writing is a process that involves steps and time. If you take the time to go through the steps, the finished product will be so much better for it!

If you would like some assistance with your college search, contact me today for a free consultation.

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