Co-founder Sara Bittner provides insight into starting the The College Essay process early and working on it the summer before senior year.
One of the most unique aspects of the US college and university admission process is the personal statement, or as American high schoolers would put it: The College Essay. The point of the personal statement is to introduce yourself as a person to the admissions department. They don’t expect flawless prose or an earth-shattering experience. They do expect to have a pretty good idea of who you are as a person and what matters to you.
Many US colleges and universities use the Common Application to streamline the application process for prospective students. Year to year, the seven essay prompts might change slightly, but largely stay the same every year. As a result, students can start writing their personal statements long before they even know for certain where they want to apply. So the question remains, when should you start?
At LAUNCH, we recommend students write their essay the summer before their senior year. International students won’t always get in-class time to write their college essays, so it’s important to set aside a sizable chunk of time they can devote to the essay writing process: choosing a prompt, brainstorming a topic, first draft, revision, revision, revision! Admissions officers want to see how an experience changed you or taught you about yourself, and to be able to communicate that effectively, you will need time and space to reflect on it. We know it can be challenging to find extra time during the school year, which is why we advise writing in the summer.
Many institutions also require supplemental essays. These essays are often shorter, and vary from college to college. Once you have narrowed your college search and know where you want to apply, then you need to be able to devote your time to writing the additional supplements. This will happen in the fall of your final year of high school. With all the demands of high school, extra-curriculars, and social life, it is important to get in front of your deadlines, and crossing such a large task off the to-do list is a serious stress reliever.