Application essays offer the best opportunity to humanize yourself to the admissions officers, so take advantage of them. They already know your statistics and they’ve seen your list of extracurricular activities, so the essay is not a chance to brag about something you’ve done or accomplished; it is a chance to give colleges a glimpse of who you really are — not as a student, but as a person.
Rule of thumb: If anyone else has done it or thought it, don’t write it. You may have helped build schools in third world countries, helped a younger sibling cope with the death of a grandparent, or overcome a debilitating sports injury, but how many similar essays do you think the admissions officers have read? Write about something that is entirely, completely, and uniquely you.
As for the application…are you aware that the Common App often mis-categorizes required supplemental essay prompts — and if so, do you know where to look to find the correct one? Did you list your extracurricular activities in the most strategic order? Did you ask the best teachers to write your letters of recommendation? Did you submit every supplement? There are countless lines to fill in and questions to answer, which are nearly impossible to keep straight if you don’t know what you’re looking for. You also want to be sure that you have a solid understanding of Early Decision’s pros and cons, as well as when Early Action is a better (or worse) option than Regular Decision.
We will help you with every step, from coming up with the perfect essay topics to catching that last punctuation error on your list of extracurriculars. Our job is to ensure that your application not only stands out from the rest in the pile, but also that there are no oversights that could negatively impact your chances — nor any missed opportunities to positively impact them.
- I have no idea what to write my essays about. There’s nothing unique about me.
There is something unique about everyone! Our College Counselors will help you unlock your powerful story and help you showcase your talents and special qualities to admissions officers. You don’t have to cure cancer to catch a college’s attention…you need to know who you are, who you want to be, and show a commitment to becoming the best version of yourself.
- I’m a good writer. Why do I need help with my application essays?
Ask any professional writer out there if he or she has published a work without an additional pair of eyes — or ten! A good writer knows that a great piece of writing comes from honing and editing initial drafts with a fresh perspective, which is nearly impossible to achieve on your own when you’re writing autobiographically.
Additionally, just because you’re a good writer doesn’t mean that you necessarily know what college admissions officers are looking for. A personal statement should be an unusual combination of short story and academic essay — a hybrid most students have little experience with. We are also familiar with what topics are overdone and cliched, as well as which ones should never be written in the first place.
Our College Counselors are trained to make students’ essays the most polished, honest, unique, and interesting essays that each student is capable of. We work to identify exactly what the student is trying to say and then ensure that the essay conveys that message. An outstanding essay is concise, specific, thoughtful, compelling, and unique — and that’s not even considering grammar and structure! Writers of all backgrounds will receive expert guidance and feedback, and find their essays improved without sacrificing their voice or intent.
- I’m a senior and it’s Thanksgiving. Is it too late to start?
No. Our college counselors are trained to work with students at any stage of the application process, including on a deadline. However, the later you start, the less extensive aid we’ll be able to provide, so it’s to everyone’s benefit to get started earlier if possible.
- How many schools should I apply to?
The answer to this question is a little different for each student, but we generally recommend using the 1-2-1 approach — in other words, applying to roughly 1 safety, 2 targets, and 1 reach for every 4 schools you apply to.
We can help you identify which schools fit into these categories, given your specific experiences and academic credentials, and we can help make sure that you are applying to enough schools that you will have a variety of choices, but not so many that you will have to sacrifice the quality of your work on the applications that you should be prioritizing. In our experience, 8-12 schools in total is ideal, as it gives you quite a few options but still allows you to put a lot of effort into each application. There are, of course, students who apply to far more or far fewer schools than that — it’s entirely up to you to determine how much time and energy you’re willing to put into the process.
- My high school already has a college counselor, an essay bootcamp, and/or other college informational activities. Won’t I get most of my questions answered at school?
Your school counselor and school activities are a great place to start, but you have to share your counselor’s time, or share the floor at college information nights, with dozens (if not hundreds) of other students. We have much more time to focus on YOU! We can be as involved as you’d like — reading every essay, reviewing every application, confirming colleges’ receipt of every official document you’ve sent, etc.
- Should I write an essay about how the pandemic affected me? Why/why not?
As a general rule, only write about the pandemic if your experiences were more extreme than those of your peers -- for instance; if a parent lost a job because of COVID-19, which required you to move or switch schools, that is a disruption worth noting. However, if you would simply talk about learning to appreciate the little things, missing your activities and face-to-face interactions, or what you did to keep busy, it’s best to avoid this topic.