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How to finish your college essay without going crazy!

Finally, we have come to the last installment on college essays! Five installments altogether! We have covered 11 topics total: 5 Common apps, 2 UCs, and 4 most common topics. If you slice and dice them wisely, you will have most of the supplements covered. Once in a while, you might be asked to answer“Where’s Waldo?”(University of Chicago) or choose to be raised by robots, dinosaurs, or aliens (Brandeis University), but overall, you are telling your personal story to a school. Whatever topic you are writing, remember you are helping them to get to know you. Just like how you might carefully select which friend’s pictures to“like”on facebook because it reflects on who you are, your writing also reflects on whether you are a good fit to the school.

I am going to use a college list that I collected from a few parents to demonstrate a writing schedule. This imaginary student is applying to UCs, Williams, Swarthmore, USC, University of Washington, University of San Francisco, Yale, Brown, Claremont McKenna College, Johns Hopkin, and CSUs. I wouldn’t necessary say this is a good list because it feels like it’s all over the place, but it serves the purpose for what we are doing here. We have ten-ish schools with some Ives, some liberal arts, the UCs, and some safety schools. I have created a progress sheet (Click to open) so that you can have a bird’s eye view of when you need to do what.

For the purpose of this progress sheet, I am jumping right into essay topics. If you were creating a real comprehensive college list, you would need more information such as, GPA, SAT, Common app or not, recommendation, weather, school size, major…etc.

First you need to find out all your deadlines. For our imaginary student, his deadline starts at 11/30 and ends at 1/15. The most crowed date is 1/1 with five schools sharing that date. I STRONGLY recommend you to submit your application a week early. There will be so many people uploading/submitting their applications at the last minute, so don’t wait until the last minute.

The next step is to color-code them all. On this list, red means the essays you can NOT reuse. They are unique to their respective schools. Purple is the “Why us” essay. You mostly likely can’t reuse most of the essay, but you might be able to reuse the “you” part across all “Why us” essays. After that, the rest of the color is pretty self-explanatory. You have your Extracurricular Activity, Your World (personal statement), Why this Major, and Personal Quality. I cheated, so nothing too weird is here. Carnegie Melon ask you IN ONE SENTENCE, write about a book you like and its impact. Wellesley asks you, in two well-developed paragraphs, to pick two reasons out of the 100 provides on their website and explain why they attract, inspire, or energize you.

If I ask you to write 17 essays that might just decide the next four years of your life, it might sound daunting, but with proper advance planning and pacing, you can do it and keep your sanity, too.

college progress



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