If you are a junior, as your school year draws to a close, you are likely thinking about how over the summer and definitely during the fall, you’ll be working on your college applications and the essays involved in submitting them. Some of you will use the summer to get a head start on the writing you have to do for your main essay and supplemental and short answer essays.
It’s a good idea to look up the Common Application on line at your earliest convenience. This way you will find out if the schools you are thinking of applying to are part of the Common Application, and you will see how the questions are stated. Next, you should look up the schools online and see if they ask additional questions that require essay answers. It wouldn’t hurt to make a spreadsheet that charts out the names of the schools you are interested in, whether they accept the Common Application, whether they have additional questions on their applications, and what the deadlines, questions, and word limits are.
The more data you collect about the schools early in the process, the smoother the application process, and the more clear-headed you will be when you sit down to write. Also, by comparing the questions, you will start to see the ways in which many are really the same question at heart. Although you should approach each application as a distinct opportunity to draw a full portrait of yourself, you can begin to group the questions by their similarities and think about how you can use the topics you feel strongly about in answering them.
By Sheila Bender, Accepted.com editor and author of How to Write Great College Application Essays and Stay Sane, an ebook; Perfect Phrases for College Application Essays, recently published by McGraw-Hill; and several other books.