The college admissions process is getting more and more competitive each year. In order to apply to US colleges, students usually submit an application through the Common Application or a stand-alone system that some schools have like the UCs. For the Common Application, students submit a central essay and a supplemental application with additional essays. In this article, we will review the basics for submitting applications and the three most common pitfalls students make when writing essays.
Basics for submitting applications
At Synocate , we have helped thousands of students through the admissions process and found similarities in the questions students have when writing applications. Choosing the college list, developing a plan for writing essays, and finding inspiration in essay writing are the three key areas that students struggle with.
We recommend most students to apply to between 10 - 15 colleges. 77% of high school students applied to 3 or more colleges and this number is exponentially increasing each year. With no downside to applying to more colleges expect the application fee (which can be waived in financial need) and more work, students are choosing to put in more effort for the possibility of gaining acceptance to more target and reach colleges. We wrote this Huffington Post article on how to exactly select the number of schools and the type of schools to apply to.
Each college usually has 3-6 short answer questions specific to that school. We recommend that students start writing essays in senior year for two major reasons: prompts can change each year (although they rarely do) and students themselves mature over time. Some parents approach us in 10th and 11th grade and think that writing essays then is a good idea. In order to prepare in those grades, guide your child to find their specific interest and do activities in that field. That approach will result in the most genuine essays in senior year as their writing and thought processes mature. One useful tool in developing a plan is what we call the Prompt Tracker. Basically, students will create a visual plan of all of their essays and write due dates for each. By doing this, students have a roadmap for exactly when they will write each essay and usually include some notes on their approach.?