For Rising Seniors – Summer Time and Summer Tasks

The College Essay – Telling Your Story

The end of junior year is stressful and you may not be seeking suggestions that add new tasks. I think these can be fun and fulfilling. I challenge you to start wherever you are now and make this a great summer that leads into a greater senior year. If you don’t have summer plans, it is a good time to think about what you want to achieve. Do you need to earn money? Would an internship be important? Could you add to your volunteer or leadership experience? Students often learn more about what they want in the future from experiences in the present. And, visit colleges if you can – time will get tight next year. See some colleges so that you get a feeling about what might be a match for you – programs, size, setting, school culture, etc.

As you are learning more about yourself through your summer activities – who you are, your goals, your dreams – you may well build the basis for a great college essay. Some students will write one for their Common Application schools. Others will have schools that are looking at the Coalition Application. And, there are schools that have their own essay(s) and/or supplements to one of the other essays. I have included the Common Application and Coalition prompts for your class. I hope they provide food for thought.

In the next months I will share ideas about selecting schools and creating a strong application. For now, I would love to have you start thinking about what is special about you, what is your personal story, what might make you attractive to colleges and future employees. The college essay is one place that you can set yourself apart from others who are applying to the colleges on your list. There is no formula for what makes a great essay. The question is about you – how are you special, what is your passion, what do you hope for in the future. Read through these prompts and have some discussion with your family about what they most love and admire about you.

Give it a try. As you read the prompts, think about what you have to say and what is meaningful to you. Then talk about it with those who know you. It is fine to wait for the actual writing until you know where you are applying and what essays those schools require. Reflect on your attributes, interests, and goals. I hope that this activity helps you see how very special you are.

Common Application Essays 2018 - CA -

1.     Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.

2.     The lessons we take from obstacles we encounter can be fundamental to later success. Recount a time when you faced a challenge, setback, or failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience? 

3.     Reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea. What prompted your thinking? What was the outcome?

4.     Describe a problem you’ve solved or a problem you’d like to solve. It can be an intellectual challenge, a research query, an ethical dilemma – anything that is of personal importance, no matter the scale. Explain its significance to you and what steps you took or could be taken to identify a solution.

5.     Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others.

6.     Describe a topic, idea, or concept you find so engaging that it makes you lose all track of time. Why does it captivate you? What or who do you turn to when you want to learn more? 

7.     Share an essay on any topic of your choice. It can be one you’ve already written, one that responds to a different prompt, or one of your own design.

Coalition Application Essays 2018 – CAAS -

  1. Tell a story from your life, describing an experience that either demonstrates your character or helped to shape it.
  2. Describe a time when you made a meaningful contribution to others in which the greater good was your focus. Discuss the challenges and rewards of making your contribution.
  3. Has there been a time when you’ve had a long-cherished or accepted belief challenged? How did you respond? How did the challenge affect your beliefs?
  4. What is the hardest part of being a teenager now? What’s the best part? What advice would you give a younger sibling or friend (assuming they would listen to you)?
  5. Submit an essay on a topic of your choice.


Mary Gratch,

Marjorie Lancaster,