This section keeps track of the essays you need to write to apply to college. You will write one main essay to apply to college, and you will send this essay to most of your colleges. Additionally you will send your resume to all colleges. The Common Application, which many colleges use, also requires that you write 150 words on your most meaningful extra curricular activity; you will upload that to the Common App. Many schools ask that you tell them why you chose to apply to their school, so it is a good idea to have this piece ready as well. Many schools also ask for their own small (or not so small) supplemental question, so you will keep track of all essays you need to write here. Recycle wherever you can, but always proofread to change the names!
Start writing these essays during the second semester of Junior year, lightly. Hit it hard in the summer before senior year and try to have as many of them as possible finalized before Senior year starts. Plan to edit each piece 5-10 times. Get outside editing help; no one can be their own editor!
Guidelines for Main Essay
- 1 page single spaced; aim for 500-650 words. You will need a 500 word and probably a longer version of the same essay.
- Any topic from your life: favorite memory, a conquest, risk you took, a passion, memorable learning experience
- Tell a personal story from your life; this is not a 5 paragraph essay
Still, have one point to the story=a central thesis
Write about just one thing-not your life story
- Opening sentence/paragraph needs to "hook" reader; high interest
- Slightly formal; don't use profanity
- Not pretentious or forced; natural-DO NOT restate your resume. This is not about bragging at all.
- Avoid politics, travel, resume/greatness, community service, sports, Mexico missions trip, religion.
- *Let your personality shine through*--they need to hear your voice and spirit. ENTERTAIN.
- No complaining; no whining; no blaming
- You can discuss a negative topic but you must do so in a positive, strong way
- This is not a journal entry, not a confession
- Show commitment/passion to/for something: hobby, family, sport
- This is a draft and you will revise it many times; don't worry about making it perfect.
It is also OK to say, "Let's just start over."
- Tell a story about something to show your point; don't tell what your point is
- You want the essay to be memorable-ENTERTAIN!
Don't try to be unique or radical: don't feel pressured to write something AMAZING.
- All you're doing is telling a story from your life; have fun and don't worry.
- It's ok to use humor and it is GOOD to poke fun at yourself a little bit. Show yourself in a silly light, not as the smartest person ever or the savior of humanity... In NO way can you sound conceited.
Ideas for Main College Essay
- First part-time job mishaps
- How I learned to relax and laugh at myself
- Favorite hotdog in Chicago
- A random tv show changed my life
- Teaching myself to cook-secretly
- How NPR made me who I am
- Overcoming a disability
- My brother's music and struggles shaped me
- How my summer cabin made me who I am
- Walking in Tokyo
- My role model-a biography I read changed my life
- Five airports on my own-a calamitous event
- How I fought to be able to read
- Jumping off that cliff
- Starting my business
- I get a tattoo in France
Guidelines for Small Activity Paragraph
- These essays are usually about 200 words
- For the Common Application, the limit is 1000 characters (not words!) with spaces
- Start with a hook, like an action shot of you actually doing the activity
- If your sport is really your main passion, go ahead and write about it if you want to
- It is very difficult to make sports essays sound unique
- If your sport is not your main passion, then choose a brainy or cultural or volunteer event
- Don't focus on what you did (we all know what someone on the track team does)
- Do focus on that you learned and how you grew and changed
- Talk about what the activity meant to you and how it changed you
- Conclude with maybe saying something about how this will affect your future