For me, and, I believe, for many, the most terrifying and overwhelming aspect of beginning the college application process is acknowledging the number of essays you’ll have to write. Even for someone who likes to write, it’s tough to be excited about writing so many essays with specific word (or even character) counts about topics you’re not necessarily interested in. It can be hard to start writing when you think about all of the work that has to be done to complete each essay for submitting with your application. Not to mention picking a topic that will convey why you’re the ideal applicant to the admissions officers within whatever limits you’re given.
I don’t have a formula for what topics to write or how to write them, because that is a deeply personal experience for each and every person. I can, however, offer some advice on approaching the whole process of writing college application essays that will hopefully maximize productivity and minimize stress.
The most important step in writing your essays is starting early! Many colleges will release their essay prompts over the summer, and the Common App essay prompts are always available, so the summer before you apply is a perfect time to get started brainstorming before the stress of senior year picks up. Setting aside a little time each day to write about a topic, exploring it to see if it could turn into a full essay, will give you plenty of time to think about how to best represent yourself in writing to the admissions officers who will be reading these essays. Writing something, anything, even before you’ve committed to a topic will be critical for preparing to write the best essay you can. It’s hard to tell what will best convey your personality to the admissions officers. Sometimes the seemingly perfect idea will fizzle out halfway through, leaving you searching for a new topic. This is normal, and starting your essay writing early will give you plenty of opportunities for drafting until you find a topic you can write a compelling, honest essay about.
Essay writing can seem scary, but by starting early and giving yourself room to make mistakes, you will avoid the stress of trying to pull something together last minute, and will end up with a more effective and genuine essay.
The college essay is one of the trickiest parts of college applications, but is a valuable opportunity to share your voice with colleges. To avoid the problems of procrastination Kyle discusses, the best option is a structured program that gives you a set timeline to make progress on your essays, starting this July! Harvard students like Kyle are ready and excited to work with you one-on-one to help you brainstorm and finetune your Common App essay through HSA Tutoring’s College Essay Prep Program.