Summer Break: When should I Start my College Essays?

The academic year is drawing to a close, and three beautiful months of summer break are about to begin. Aside from catching up on some much needed rest, TV shows, and hanging out with friends and family, rising seniors have a particularly important task. Preparing for college applications.

Every year, the Common Application opens August 1st, followed by a slew of supplemental preparation materials, official test scores, and recommendation letters. College applications deadlines tend to coincide with the busiest times of the fall semester, with early applications due around November 1st. All this goes to say, start early. 

All this goes to say, start early.

Writing your Common Application essay is the best way to get a head start on your application. You don’t have to know which schools you are applying to before writing the essay, since all schools under the system (which includes the vast majority of private universities) will require the same statement. The 2018-19 application essay prompts have already been released, so it is worth your time to choose a topic to start writing for. These essays are relatively short – 600 words that describe your past 17-18 years of growth. You really don’t want to be writing these essays in the fall while you are also chasing your counselor down for a good recommendation and writing supplemental essays for each school!

You really don’t want to be writing these essays in the fall.

I personally started my Common Application essay around early July. I sent the first draft of my essay to my elder sister who had already graduated from college. She described reading my essay as “walking through a field of weeds,” and that the purpose of the essay was not clear. Thankfully, I received this feedback early because it took seven rounds of careful revisions to reach my final product. The essay, which was a response to prompt 1 “Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent…” turned out to be rather versatile and I reused the same essay for my National Merit Finalist essay as well as several other scholarship applications. I am now a rising Junior at Harvard College, and I can safely say that even after taking the infamous Harvard Expository Writing seminar, my Common Application supplement may still be one of my best pieces of writing.

This blog post was written by Dara Li, ’20

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