Every year, the Common Application opens on August 1st. The process is the bane of every rising senior’s existence as they navigate the slew of activities forms, inputting test scores, finding recommendations, while also completing bespoke supplemental applications for nearly every competitive college.
The process is stressful, and rightfully so, therefore, trying to eliminate as many of these sections as early as possible is exceptionally important for ensuring the college application process goes smoothly. Fortunately, there is one critical part of the Common Application that can be completed early to give you a head start on the competition — the application essay.
Prompts for the essay are released early every year, in fact the question options for the upcoming application cycle have already been released. 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.
These essays are relatively short – up to 650 words that aim to describe your past 17-18 years of personal growth. It is highly recommended that you do not write these essays in the fall while you are also chasing your counselor down for a good recommendation, and writing supplemental essays for each school!
I started drafting my own essay over the summer and I would highly recommend it to anyone else seeking advice on how to tackle perhaps one of the hardest parts of the Common Application process. Writing the essay is difficult as it is daunting trying to articulate the values that have guided and defined you in such a concise format. Like I did, you will probably go through multiple redrafts to find the strongest message that you can portray to a college admissions committee.
If you are deciding where to start I would suggest leaning on one of the more versatile prompts that leave a lot of room for exploring in detail a minute aspect of your life. Common Application favorites such as “Some students have a background, identity, interest...” are always a solid choice and is the prompt I used to draft mine. These prompts give you a lot of room for experimentation in your first draft which you can then refine later, even if you later decide to use a different one. This is an organic task and you should be flexible.
As with most things, starting early will pay off, not only will you be less stressed and anxiety ridden through the Fall semester, but having extra time to reflect on your entire life’s narrative will put you in a good position to distinguish yourself in an ever increasingly competitive applicant pool.