It’s July! If you are a rising high school senior, summer is the perfect time to jumpstart college essays. Remember, the fall gets busy with sports, marching band and play practice; don’t forget about the last round of SATs and/or ACTs and hours of homework with AP and honors classes. Early action and early decision deadlines are commonly set for early November. You don’t want to run short on time. Strong, thoughtful essays can’t be written the night before application deadlines! Here is how to get started with your college essay.

Read the prompts The Common Application does not go live until August 1, but the 2015-2016 prompts are already posted. Many state university and supplemental essay prompts are available too.

Brainstorm Begin brainstorming and jot down essay ideas. Sometimes the best essay topic ideas are formulated when students are relaxed or involved in their daily routine. If you think of an idea when you’re away from your computer or desk, input it into your smart phone!

Free Write Once you get a few possible ideas, pick one and free write. Don’t worry about grammar or format now. Set aside a day or two for this. Hint: the more ideas you can jot down on the topic the better.

Review Your Free Write Read over your free write. Is it a viable idea? Can you see the beginnings of an authentic story only you can tell? Does it fit one of the prompts? If not, don’t worry! Try another idea from your brainstorming bank.

Tell Your Story Once you feel comfortable with your topic begin drafting your story. Open your essay with a hook: something that makes the reader lean in and say, “tell me more.” Try to incorporate one or two anecdotes. And don’t forget who the central character is…you!

Write and Rewrite Writing a strong essay is a process. Writing a meaningful, well-crafted essay takes time, with many drafts over several weeks. Make sure that you answer all parts of the prompt, and it is within the word count.

Final review Read and reread your essay for grammar and spelling. Have someone who knows you well read your essay; ask him/her, “Does this sound like me?” Make sure someone else proofreads it too!

It is summer and high school students deserve to sit back, have fun and relax a bit, but set aside some quality time to begin working on those college essays. You will be glad you did when the demands of school kick in again. Good luck!

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Lean in with Your College Essay
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