Sarah Soule, Contributor

Sarah Soule

It’s only mid-summer, but before we know it students will be returning to school. What should rising seniors be doing now to prepare for the fall and the onset of the college application season?

On Aug. 1, the Common Application, commonapp.org, will go live with pertinent information for fall 2018 entry to college. It was possible for students to begin the Common App early with general information such as name, home address, high school address and dates of attendance, counselor, parent/guardian information, activities and academic course listing. But after Aug. 1 students can officially start applying using the Common App.

The Common Application has an online virtual counselor and a useful help desk that is chock full of FAQs. Their website is filled with information for both students and parents who are entering into the process. Students should also speak to their school counselor with any questions they might have as they fill out the application. They key is to start early, as it can be a time-consuming process filling out the Common Application.

An important aspect of applying, using the Common Application, is the essay. The essay is a way for students to share something about themselves with the admission committee during the application review process. In addition, colleges will consider the applicant’s transcript, letters of recommendation, extra curricular and athletic involvement, employment and leadership opportunities.

The Common Application essay prompts 2017-18:

  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.

Students only have to answer one of the above questions and must do so in less than 650 words. I encourage students to review these questions and to draft a response and create a working essay that they can review over the course of the coming weeks. The same essay is sent to all colleges a student applies to on the Common Application. Please note that some colleges do require supplemental essays that are specific to them and address questions that they are want answered on the Common Application.

Summer is an ideal time to review college websites, tour campuses and read admission literature. Students can begin to narrow down their list of choices of where they will ultimately apply after carefully evaluating the institutions that they are considering. Take time to enjoy the summer, but also gear up for the important approaching process of applying to college.

Native Charlotter Sarah Soule has 35 years of experience working in the field of college admissions. She served as a senior member of the admission staff at Champlain for 20 years and is currently the post-secondary planning coordinator at Middlebury HS where she guides students to college. She has been quoted in the nationally published Princeton Review’s The Portable Guidance Counselor and The College Finder. She advises students individually as an educational consultant on the process of applying to college. She resides in Shelburne.