Summer is here! And rising high-school seniors now is your time to shine. You’ve finally reached the top of the hierarchical high school food chain. I’m sure you’re floating on a sense of mastered self-confidence and appreciation for the academic respite, but don’t get too complacent on these sweltering summer days. Now is the perfect time to consider brainstorming—and even drafting—a few versions of your college application essay(s).

Now, now, I know what you’re thinking. But it’s summer; can’t I just RELAX? And the good news is, yes you can relax. The brainstorming stages for the college application essay can often be kind of fun. Luckily, this writing assignment requires minimal outside research as the subject is… you! So what easy steps forward can you take now to set yourself up for success during college application season this fall?

Firstly, I’d suggest you begin to familiarize yourself with the types of questions being asked of you in order to maximize productivity during your brainstorming sessions. The Common Application—a tool used by nearly 700 colleges around the world—announced earlier this year that personal statement essay prompts for 2016-2017 will be recycled from the year before. This is where you should begin.

After that I’d suggest you identify your colleges of interest, and do a little poking around on their websites or online profiles. Some colleges offer information that sheds light onto exactly what they’ll be looking for in a college application essay and/or from which critical lens the essay will be read.

The college application essay offers an opportunity for you to showcase not only your personality, but also your writing abilities. Ultimately, your essay should provide a clear, succinct and persuasive personal statement that illuminates the person behind your academic transcript. That being said, now’s a great time to begin thinking about the special characteristics possessed or interests maintained that favorably set you apart from others. Additionally, start observing the world around you; what excites you? What ignites you?

Spend 15 minutes each day identifying strengths and connecting these strengths to concrete and vivid examples. It will be easier to substantiate your claims later on if you are able to pull from evidence you’ve already identified in your initial brainstorming process. In a similar vein, it will also be easy to discard claims you find you can’t firmly support with examples. Jot down these daily thoughts in a notebook and revisit them frequently.

Now parents, here’s where you come in: speaking with family members, friends, and teachers to gain sense of best qualities can often help to spark your student’s critical thinking process. Have any family meals planned? Or how about any summer road trips? Use these times to prompt your student to begin reflecting on personal attributes. Often you can provide supporting details your student has forgotten about that can help strengthen essay claims.

Overall, the best thing you as a student can do now to set yourself up for a stress-free college application essay writing process is to reflect early, and reflect often. Use the remainder of these summer weeks to really stew over a few personal details. Relax, reflect, and remember to write everything down.

For more information take a look at the 2016-2017 Common App Prompts.

About the author:

Aniela Wendt is a recent college graduate currently working as a Certified Professional Governess in Manhattan, where she focuses on the creative, cognitive, and physical development of young children.

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