High SchoolCommon Application

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Stuck on your common app essay? Forget the prompts!
If you’re anything like many of the students I have tutored (or like me), you opened the Common App essay questions and became very overwhelmed very quickly. There are so many options! And how are they both so vague and so specific? You read: 
How to write Stanford's Roommate Letter
Of all the creative college application supplements out there, perhaps the most deceptively simple is this infamous prompt from Stanford University:
How to answer the Georgetown supplement
All universities value applicants who have thought through their reasons for applying. Georgetown takes it to the next level: more than a decade after all other major universities made the switch to the Common App, Georgetown remains the lone holdout. “We’re encouraging students to express themselves to us, rather than to a common process,” says ...
How to tackle the Bowdoin supplement 
Ok, so we all recognize that the phrase “college is the best four years of your life” sounds absolutely ridiculous… it is. In fact, everyone at Bowdoin laughs at this phrase; however, don’t let this discourage you from using Bowdoin's unique supplement prompt to showcase your thoughtfulness and your ability to reflect, synthesize and EMBRACE the ...
How to answer Columbia's lists
Columbia University is one of the world’s most diverse institutions. Their school-specific application questions help create a class of students with different interests and backgrounds. The Columbia admissions officers want to picture how you will interact with your classmates and contribute to campus life. The questions below will help ...
How to answer Yale's supplemental essays
School-specific supplementary essays provide an opportunity for you to share additional insight about yourself that may not have been captured in the main Common App essay. In this post, I will present approaches to Yale University’s supplementary questions. ​​Ideally, these strategies can be applicable for a range of supplementary questions ...
How to answer the University of Virginia's supplemental essays
School-specific supplements are an opportunity to share an intellectual interest, or an element of your life story, that might be missing from your main Common App essay. In this post, I will describe strategies for answering two supplement questions from the University of Virginia. Although my advice is tailored to these two prompts, my hope is ...
How to write the community service essay
Whether in an interview or an essay, all college applicants should be prepared to talk about the ways they have worked to improve their schools and communities. No college wants to admit a passive recipient of community, they would all much prefer to admit an active and engaged citizen who understands that community requires contribution. Use this ...
The “Why College X” Supplement
Perhaps the most straightforward type of supplement question, many schools simply want to know “Why Us?” The word count for this type of response will vary significantly based on the school – from 50 to 500 words.
How to write an essay about leadership
Leadership essays, or essays where you are asked about your work as a leader in your school or community, are not as common as you might imagine. Given all of the emphasis schools and clubs put on leadership roles and titles, essays asking students to dive deeply into this work are actually pretty rare in college applications. That said, it is ...
JOY! Not just a character in Inside Out, but a supplement essay too!
Increasingly, schools are asking students to reflect on things that bring them joy, satisfaction, or happiness. These can be difficult to write as often the college application process is the opposite of joyful... but these joy essays are here to stay!
Who… are…you? How to write the identity supplement.
In Alice in Wonderland, when the Caterpillar persists in asking “Who… Are…. You?,” Alice stumbles and cannot reply. It’s a good thing that Alice isn’t applying to college, because some form of an essay asking about you (and your identity and/or perspective) is an ever-more-popular supplement question. These are hard! It is important to tackle ...
How to write a college supplement about community
You do not exist in a vacuum and colleges know this! The very common “community essay” is an opportunity for you to tell a story about one community that matters to you and what you have gained from its membership. This is your chance to talk about people you care about (and why!) in a much tighter and more focused way than you can in your Common ...
The combo essay: not a lunch order!
Increasingly, schools are crafting a single supplement question that combines two “tried and true” supplements into one big question. Consider the “combo essay” the way for you to talk about the best aspects of why you want to attend College X combined with the ways you get to talk about your academic interests and passions as specific to that ...
How to answer a challenge question for college supplements
The challenge question is a rare written supplement but is actually a very common interview question. Every college applicant should be prepared to discuss a failure (or something that did not go as they had intended) whether that discussion comes in the application itself or in an interview situation. While, on the surface, challenge questions ...
How to tackle the academic interest supplement
Why are you going to college? Hopefully to learn more about something that inspires you! While you might have many and varied reasons for attending college (someone told you that you had to, you are excited to watch a college basketball game live, you cannot wait to move to a new city), at the root of your college application is the presumption ...
10 steps to completing your college essay before school starts
It’s that time of year:  you’re probably working on your college essay. You might even have a first draft.  Great job!  Take a breather and enjoy some of your favorite summer activities.  When you’re ready to confront your document again, take a look at these revision tips that I’ve put together over years of helping students make their essays ...
Where to begin on the personal essay
You’re nearing the end of eleventh grade, and you’re approaching that daunting but thrilling task that you’ve been imagining for years: you’re applying to college! Even before you make a College Board account or begin narrowing down your college choices, you probably already know about that one super critical piece of the puzzle: the personal ...
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