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GUEST POST: How Do I Start My Common App Essay?


You do not have to balance an apple on your head to get into college. But you do have to write some essays.

This Guest Post is courtesy of Ethan Sawyer, The College Essay Guy.  His website is here.

Your Common App personal statement is one of the most important things you’ll ever write.  The process may seem daunting at first, but with the right guidance the process can be pretty awesome.  Here are some things I get asked all the time, the answers to which will hopefully make your process just a little more awesome:

Q:  Which prompt should I answer?
A:  You can find a list of the prompts and extra info here.  In a nutshell, prompts two, three, or five are great choices if you have gone through a life-changing experience that you absolutely want to talk about.  Option four is not that great of a prompt in my opinion, as it doesn’t ask the responder to call for a story on a challenge or conflict (which I believe to be the heart and soul of a great story).  Option one is by far my favorite prompt because:  1) it’s open-ended, allowing you to go “deep” (into your gut) as well as wide (allowing for variety) and 2) it’s close to the UC1 prompt, which is my favorite prompt, and which makes it easy to repurpose.  For a quick brainstorm exercise I love, you can go here.  Once you have your content, you’ll probably wonder…

Q:  How should I structure my essay?
A:  It all depends on what you want to talk about.  For students who have gone through significant challenges in their lives, I recommend the narrative structure.  For those who haven’t, try the montage structure.

Q:  Will this essay get me into my dream school?
A:  Not on its own.  Schools look at GPA, course rigor, and test scores more than anything.  But if it’s between you and another student with equal scores, your essay could make the difference.

Q:  When should I start?
A:  There’s no time like the present.  [Evelyn’s note:  NOW, NOW, NOW!!!]

Q:  How do I learn to stop procrastinating?
A:  Stop obsessing and just get started.

For more, check out

Note from Evelyn:  see my video blog post from yesterday about essay prompt constraints and thinking outside the box!

Thanks for your essay guidance, Ethan!!


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