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Try to weave your summer job or volunteer work into your essay. It will demonstrate your personal responsibility!

Juniors in high school should start to practice writing essays for college applications.

It might seem a little premature to start worrying about your application essay, but since most colleges will feature online applications by the beginning of August, now’s the time to hone your essay-writing skills.

In previous months, we’ve discussed how summer activities and personal responsibility are great topics for college essays. Now’s it’s time to put this knowledge into action.

What is the college essay and who has to write them?

Selective colleges who receive a truckload of applications from students with similar grades and test scores use essays or personal statements to thin the proverbial herd. This means it’s probably smart to find out if any of your prospective colleges require essays.

To find out if your colleges require an essay, fill out a quick admissions info request form for the schools in question.

Most times you’ll end up having to write something for your application, even if it’s 300 words on why you want to attend Ohio State. Remember, no matter what you have to write, tell YOUR story, using YOUR voice, about something that has meaning to YOU.

For an in depth look at how to craft an amazing essay, check out 10 tips to writing a college application essay.

College essay sample questions

To give you an idea of what kinds of things colleges are looking for, check out these essay prompts:

  • “If you could redo your initial training in your high school or college years, what would you do differently and why?” (Bates College)
  • “Dog and Cat. Coffee and Tea. Great Gatsby and Catcher in the Rye. Everyone knows there are two types of people in the world. What are they?” (University of Chicago)
  • “Why do you want to attend this school?” and “What will you be doing ten years from now?” are examples of general essay topics.

Common Application essay questions

The Common Application asks for two short essays. These essays are sent to each member school that you’re applying for, but these schools might ask for additional writing samples to supplement your application.

1) Please briefly elaborate on one of your extracurricular activities or work experiences in the space below.

2) Please write an essay of 250 – 500 words on a topic of your choice or on one of the options listed below, and attach it to your application before submission.

  • Evaluate a significant experience, achievement, risk you have taken, or ethical dilemma you have faced and its impact on you.
  • Discuss some issue of personal, local, national, or international concern and its importance to you.
  • Indicate a person who has had a significant influence on you, and describe that influence.
  • Describe a character in fiction, a historical figure, or a creative work (as in art, music, science, etc.) that has had an influence on you, and explain that influence.
  • A range of academic interests, personal perspectives, and life experiences adds much to the educational mix. Given your personal background, describe an experience that illustrates what you would bring to the diversity in a college community or an encounter that demonstrated the importance of diversity to you.
  • Topic of your choice.

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Related Tools and Checklists

High School Junior Timeline and Checklist
High School Senior Timeline and Checklist

People Who Read This Article Also Read:

College Essays: Tips and Sample Questions
What Do I Need to Complete My Application?
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See All College Applications and the Admissions Process Articles


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