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From Blank Page to Acceptance Letter: A College Application Essay Timeline

College Application Essay - Acceptance Letter

Hey, high school seniors - it may be sizzling-hot outside, leaving you dreaming of the summer pool days, but it is time to get your head in the game and start making a plan for your college applications. You're about to embark on a thrilling journey toward your dream college, and amidst the excitement, there's that one daunting task standing tall in your way - the college application essay. It is important for you to prioritize and organize yourself so you don't get overwhelmed!

Don't fret because we've got your back! Keep reading for tips on getting your ducks in a row and keeping yourself on track with your applications.

Step 1: The Common App Essay - Your Foundation

The Common App is your friend in the college application process! It is a one-stop shop for entering your information once and sending it to member schools rather than having to complete separate applications for each school to which you are applying. As a part of completing the Common App, every senior will write one essay from a list of Common App prompts. The prompts for the Class of 2024 are:

  1. Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.

  2. The lessons we take from obstacles we encounter can be fundamental to later success. Recount a time when you faced a challenge, setback, or failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience?

  3. Reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea. What prompted your thinking? What was the outcome?

  4. Reflect on something that someone has done for you that has made you happy or thankful in a surprising way. How has this gratitude affected or motivated you?

  5. Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others.

  6. Describe a topic, idea, or concept you find so engaging that it makes you lose all track of time. Why does it captivate you? What or who do you turn to when you want to learn more?

  7. Share an essay on any topic of your choice. It can be one you've already written, one that responds to a different prompt, or one of your own design.

Many schools have supplemental essays to complete as well, but the best place to start your essay process is to complete the Common App essay for one of the above prompts. This is the cornerstone of your application and the one essay you'll submit to most (if not all) of your schools; give it the attention it deserves. Craft a narrative that showcases the real you, your passions, and your journey. Once you have completed this essay, you may have a group of schools that only require the Common App essay, and you will be able to hit the submit button on several schools on your list and celebrate your accomplishment!

Step 2: Early Decision and Early Action Schools - Strike While the Iron is Hot

After you complete the Common App essay, it is time to tackle your supplemental essays. Individual schools provide prompts they ask students to complete so that they can gather additional information that they are looking for to help them with their admissions decisions. Supplemental prompts could be as simple as 1-2 sentences on a topic, a 250-word short response, or a request for a full essay on a topic.

Your next step is to identify your list of schools that you will be applying to Early Decision (ED) or Early Action (EA) and make those your next priority. ED and EA deadlines begin to pop up starting mid-October and typically run through mid-November. Take a look at the schools on your list, prioritize them based on their due dates, and get to work.

Remember, ED and EA applications show your eagerness, and that's a plus in the admissions committee's book. Don't forget - you can only apply to one school ED, and if you get in, you are committing to attend that school regardless of financial or merit aid, so make sure you consider that in your decision making.

Step 3: Regular Decision - Don't Procrastinate, Dominate

The rest of your college choices with Regular Decision deadlines around January 1st should not be underestimated. As tempting as it might be to put them off, resist the urge! Keep the momentum going from your early applications and dive into these essays once all of your ED and/or EA applications are in. Knock them out while your creative juices are flowing. Just because these schools have a January deadline doesn't mean you must wait until then to turn in your applications! Think of how nice it will be to complete your applications by Thanksgiving or Christmas vacation!

Bonus Tip: Stay Organized

A spreadsheet or checklist with all your target schools, their deadlines, and specific essay requirements can be extremely helpful. This will be your guiding star throughout the application process. Check out our College Application Tracker (printable and digital forms available) along with all of our other application resources HERE.

Crafting remarkable college essays is a journey filled with self-discovery and creativity. Stay focused, organized, and passionate, and you'll conquer this marathon. Remember, every word you write brings you one step closer to your dream college.

So, what are you waiting for? Start typing and shape your future!


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