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What every high school senior needs to know when writing their college essays

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As COVID-19 continues to spread throughout the United States, educators have had to adapt as quickly and swiftly as possible. Schools have moved instruction online, extracurriculars have been paused, and standardized tests have been postponed and canceled. Many students are using their time at home and their coming summer vacation to get ahead of the game, and for rising seniors, this means starting on their college essays!

The college essay is a unique and challenging genre. Personal statements submitted via the Common App provide the best opportunity to show yourself as more than a collection of activities and data. However, it is no small feat to effectively convey the best of what you have to offer, in just 650 words, while at the same time using this essay with the rest of your application to create an effective narrative.

The Common App essay deserves careful thought and planning, especially considering that a great essay for one student may be totally ineffective for another. That being said, here are a few pointers to get you started on writing an outstanding Common App essay:

  • Plan ahead. We recommend that students start working on their college essays around June before the start of senior year. Great essays take time and effort to produce.
  • Brainstorm. It’s OK to not be positive of your college essay topic at the beginning. Brainstorm multiple ideas and talk them over with peers, family members, mentors and professors. Reflect on the feedback to choose your perfect topic. 
  • The main goal of your essay should be to SHOW the admissions team about yourself, not TELL them. A good Common App essay gives authentic insight into who you are and how you think. It is not a resume in essay form.
  • Tell a story. Essays with a narrative flow tend to read stronger. Set up tension or conflict in the opening paragraph of the essay that is eventually resolved, in one way or another, by the end. 
  • Avoid overdone topics like sports competitions, music, or anything along the line of “I once failed, but after hard work, I finally succeeded.” Strong candidates show their maturity and humility. A storyline like “I faced this challenge and learned a lot” is much more compelling. Avoid cliches as much as possible! Believe us, college admissions officers have read them before. 
  • Above all, a good essay shows deep insight into yourself and the world around you. This is the most difficult, but also the most important quality of an outstanding essay.

For students that need additional help with their college essays, students and parents are encouraged to reach out to Crimson Education to further discuss the application/essay process and create a plan of action. For those interested, you may schedule a time with a Crimson Advisor here! In the meantime, students and parents alike are encouraged to utilize our guide on How to Crush Your College Applications! For a list of upcoming webinars that will offer insight on the everchanging education climate, visit our Events & Webinars calendar

In partnership with Mile High Mamas.


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