Meg Glass & Associates, LLC

College Application and Essay Tips

It’s Application Time Students


Yes, now is the time to get those applications up and started.  If you have not started on your main personal statement, it is best to outline something now.  I have been working away with my clients for the past 6 weeks on essays.  Yes, you can find supplements to the Common Application on most of the actual schools’ sites.  Many do not have a dedicated Writing Supplement option on your college list dashboard.  But there are many schools that do have some writing requirements; you can find these in the Question section on each of the colleges in your dashboard list.  Sort of sneaky!

There are often many specific questions in the question section of each college peculiar to the school.  Some have legacy questions or additional scholarship options, but many have short answer questions or full blown essays.  The “why us” essay is very popular among many colleges, and you will most likely find such a prompt in this question section.

How should you approach your essays?  I am not a huge fan of writing one and trying to morph it to fit other schools at all.  I take all these essay prompts very seriously.  I ask my students to do the research and be thoughtful about a school.  If you have visited a school, you can write about what you found most interesting during your visit.  If you are planning a trip, it is best to wait until you actually see the school and attend the information session before writing this essay.

Some schools have more than an essay for you to answer.  A current popular feature added to the question section, which schools such as USC, Wake Forest, and Elon, have today are called short answer questions.  These are, indeed, very short.  You typically find a character limit with these questions.  Questions such as:  What is your favorite movie; what flavor of ice-cream is your favorite; write a tweet about yourself, etc.  When you are given a character limit, know that this limit is characters WITH spaces!  On the Common Application, some of the short essays also have word or character limits, but the limits are not stated.  Instead, you find out when you go to paste what you wrote into the box. PLEASE do not write the essay in the box, use a word processing program, such as 365, Word, or Google Docs.  Do not paste anything into the box that you have not proofed for spelling and grammar.  Also please read the essay aloud several times.  Have someone else read it aloud as well.  This is how you catch more mistakes.  Also, it is best to do this proofing more than once a few days apart.  Sometimes you cannot see your mistakes after reading and re-reading it several times at a sitting.

Tone of your essays should be conversational, but NOT informal.  DO NOT WRITE THESE ESSAYS AS IF THEY ARE ENGLISH PAPERS!  Do not write these essays as if you are writing a piece of fiction either.  You do not need to add adjectives excessively or be florid your descriptions.  Err towards brevity.  It is often far more evocative and effective to be pithy.  Short and to the point with some specific and descriptive examples is usually best.  You have length limits.  Also, please understand the people reading your essays are college educated people who read hundreds of these annually.  You know that your readers are literate.  Some have been instructed to write as if your reader doesn’t know anything, but this is not the case for these essays.

Review is essential.  Please never submit anything that you have not had another set of eyes read. But word of caution, when it comes to reviews, more is not necessarily better.  If you give your work to five different people, you will get five different edits and often those have nothing to do with grammar, but are often changes to tone, substance, and view.  You do not have to change your tone and content because someone else likes a different set of words.  This is your essay; this is your story.  You should take grammar edits under advisement though, which is the entire reason you are getting another set of eyes to read it.  It is helpful to read the changes aloud as well.  Sometimes a change is suggested, but when you insert it, and then you read it, it alters the meaning of what you want to say.

NOW is the time for you to start.  Be prepared for several essays.  If you are applying to twelve to fifteen schools, which is quite typical, you many have as many as eight to eleven essays to write.  So be prepared to start NOW.  It makes life so much easier if you can get all that you want written done before October 15.  You may only apply to one Early Decision school on November 1st, but it is always good to have all of your potential schools applications done.  We all want you to have the ED yes, but if not, you do not want to be scrambling in December to get all done.  I have lived through this panic mode with many each winter.  My students, for whom we have gotten everything done in October, are usually upset if denied ED, but thankful all that is left to do is simply submit all the other schools.  You will, of course, have to send scores, AP scores, transcripts, etc. too.  But you will at least not have write a lot of essays as you are ending your first semester of senior year.  Of course, as always, if you want help from us, contact us, we are happy to review essays or offer help with good topics for you, etc.