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Summer is the time to start your primary college essay

Writing your personal statement for your college applications may be the most challenging essay you’ve ever drafted. The theme you develop in your essay, and the stories you tell illustrating that theme, should let admissions officers know your most positive personal qualities. Admissions officers know a lot about what you have done from the other parts of your application, but they want to hear in your voice, and through your story, the character traits you will bring to their campus community. That’s not an easy thing to do.

In this time of COVID-19, when some students may not have the opportunity to take the SAT or ACT, admissions officers will place more emphasis on other parts of the application, making the essay even more important.  Even before COVID-19, essays were a critical part of your application and can make a difference for admissions officers as they make their decisions.

At Capstone, we strongly encourage students to begin their essays early in the summer, an approach that our college-bound intern Ellie also recommends:

“When I went through this last year, I found that it takes time to find a good personal statement topic. It took me months to figure out what I wanted to write about, so I was glad that I started that process early in the summer. Even though I scrapped a lot of the early drafts that I wrote over the summer, I was able to repurpose the material for supplemental essays. In the end, I wish I would have spent more time writing essays before school started because the fall of senior year is so busy.”

We think Ellie is right!

Reasons for starting early

You will need more time than you realize, time to change topics, as Ellie did, or for writing multiple drafts. You will also need time to seek feedback. It can be very helpful for the people who know you best to review your work. And it is simply a good idea to step away from it for a while and come back with fresh eyes. It is normal to work on the essay for several weeks.

You will have the time to write, especially this summer, since many summer activities were unfortunately cancelled because of the pandemic. Think of this time as a gift because it will give you space to sit with your topic ideas for a while and develop your drafts without rushing.

You will have time for the big questions, like who was I in high school and who do I hope to become? What are my most positive personal characteristics and my greatest strengths?  What have been my most significant pursuits? What do I love to do and what about those things motivates me? What do my pursuits say about me?

All of your writing will be valuable, so don’t worry too much about whether your work ends up in the final draft of your personal statement. As Ellie mentioned above, you will likely be able to use some of your extra writing in a supplemental essay—which is a college-specific essay. The extra writing you’ve done might also be perfect for a University of California personal insight question. So don’t stress; just write those drafts and explore your theme ideas.

Fall of senior year is busy, which brings the stress of homework, tests, projects, and the possible resumption of all your normal extra-curricular activities. You will be swept up into that right when you are trying to juggle all of the moving parts of your college applications. You might be making new decisions on your college list or deciding to submit early decision or early action applications. You will be filling out the Common App, maybe writing several supplemental essays, and possibly needing to take the ACT or SAT, all while attempting to have some sort of social life during your senior year!

We can help! Shelley and I, along with our essay specialist Kate Rackham, have developed a fantastic program which will ensure you get this essay process going right now and help you get that strong final draft finished this summer!

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