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College Essays

App Deadline Looming? It's Not Too Late to Write Great Essays!

Picture of Arun Ponnusamy
By Arun Ponnusamy on November, 25 2020 | 4 minute read

We know a few seniors out there are maaaybe just getting around to writing essays for looming application deadlines. And to be fair, it's probably more than a few seniors because friends in admissions offices often tell us that up to 80% of the applications they receive are submitted in the 72 hours before the deadline. Many students aren't going to do their absolute best work over a holiday weekend while stuffed on turkey or tofurky, but writing great essays is by no means an impossible thing this late—as we'll explain further down below.

We know a few seniors out there are maaaybe just getting around to writing essays for looming application deadlines. And to be fair, it's probably more than a few seniors because friends in admissions offices often tell us that up to 80% of the applications they receive are submitted in the 72 hours before the deadline. Many students aren't going to do their absolute best work over a holiday weekend while stuffed on turkey or tofurky, but writing great essays is by no means an impossible thing this late—as we'll explain further down below.

The application to the massive University of California and all its attendant campuses is due 11/30. Many private institutions have 12/1 Early Action or Early Decision deadlines, and a few (here's looking at you, USC!) have a 12/1 app deadline for merit scholarship eligibility. If you're unsure of the colleges' deadlines on your list, be sure to check them ASAP.

To help meet those deadlines, we've rounded up some easily digestible advice for those of you still looking for some last-minute advice surrounding essays. Also, a heads-up, if it sounds like we're a little bossy in that advice, you're right! College remains one of the most powerful tools for social mobility in America, and we want every single senior out there to take your shot!

  1. Don't panic. As noted above, you're not alone, so find comfort in knowing many thousands of other seniors were in that same spot last year, and things worked out plenty fine for them in the end.
  2. But don't procrastinate either! Build a game plan for the coming days and stick to it. (You'll find some excellent advice on this from my colleagues Ian and Megan here.) Yes, it should include time for rest and lots of leftover stuffing but set aside clear blocks of time to prioritize and work on this. Don't look backward and beat yourself up about not starting earlier. Focus on what you can control RIGHT NOW, and that means the writing ahead of you.
  3. Figure out who's on your team. Is there a family member or other adult in your life you can lean on here? Maybe even a trusted classmate. Getting feedback or a fresh perspective is incredibly helpful in the writing process, as is that extra set of eyes reviewing final drafts.
  4. Collegewise is on your team! If it's the UC app that's got your anxious, check out 10 Tips to Ace Your UC Application by our resident UC expert Nicole Pilar. Furthermore, if you haven't yet done a deep dive into our free Runway resources, do that quickly. Within the Senior Course, you'll find everything from how to fill out an activity section effectively to how to think about those UC PIQs. And too many other goodies to list here!
  5. Colleges are on your team, too. For example, check out the UC's advice on their Personal Insight Questions here. You'll not only find a video, but worksheets in both English and Spanish to help you quickly and efficiently brainstorm your ideas. The College Board has a wealth of resources, too. You'll find those here.

And now that we've pointed you to a few go-to resources, a few final pieces of advice to help you move forward smartly and effectively in the coming days.

  1. Get all your prompts in one place like a Google Doc—and read them carefully to understand what exactly they're looking for. Many lead with complex (and sometimes highfalutin) language where the prompt's essence is often fully captured in the final sentence that is ending with a question mark. Bold those words that are the core of the prompt. It can be easy to get lost in the fancy words, but there are usually core action words that center the prompt – contribute, grow, learn. That helps quickly distill what you're truly answering.
  2. Look for opportunities to reuse or recycle essays with some editing and tweaking. Often, you'll find overlap, and this way, you'll be able to make the most out of several writing pieces you're incredibly proud of.
  3. Admissions officers love stories—that's why they do what they do. ALL teenagers have great stories. And they're great not because you raised $100K or discovered the cure to cancer. They're great because you're letting the adults reading these applications know that you have dreams and goals and talents you will bring to their campus communities.
  4. They know if you're academically qualified by the time they get to the essays. The value of essays in most applications is whether you come across as likable, what kind of impact you'll make on the community, and the impact the school will have on you. This is why honesty and authenticity go SO far in this process. Colleges aren't looking for fully and perfectly formed adults—as the good people in Georgia Tech admissions remind us so thoughtfully. Who you are and who you hope to become—potential—matters a lot!

And finally, as we all look to celebrate small moments of gratitude this upcoming weekend, it may surprise you to know who is thankful for you being the high school senior applying to college. It's the admissions officers who are most grateful! Their colleges become far less interesting without students in their classrooms, without violinists in the orchestra, or cornerbacks on the football team, or poets contributing to the lit mag. These colleges are who they are because of students just like you. Use this magical power to fuel your confidence as you charge ahead in the coming week. You're going to do this, and you're going to do great!

 


About Us: With more than twenty years of experience, Collegewise counselors and tutors are at the forefront of the ever-evolving admissions landscape. Our work has always centered on you: the student. And just like we’ve always done, we look for ways for you to be your best self - whether it’s in the classroom, in your applications or in the right-fit college environment. Our range of tools include counselingtest prepacademic tutoring, and essay management, all with the support of our proprietary platform, leading to a 4x higher than average admissions rates.


 

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