College Counseling Corner

By Sarah Soule

It’s midsummer but before we know it students will be returning to school. What should incoming seniors be doing now to prepare for the fall and the onset of the college application season? It is an ideal time for students to begin considering the approaching process of applying to college with sincere interest.

On Aug. 1, the common application,, went online for students heading to college in the fall of 2018.

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.  Students should also speak to their school counselor with any questions they might have as they fill out the application.

The key is to start early as filling out the application can be a time-consuming process.
An important part of the application is the essay, which is a way for a student to share his or herself with the admission committee during the application review process.

In addition, colleges will consider the applicant’s transcript, letters of recommendation, extracurricular and athletic involvement, employment and leadership opportunities.
Common application essay prompts 2017-18

• 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.

• 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?

• Reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea. What prompted your thinking? What was the outcome?

• 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.

• Discuss an accomplishment, event or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others.

• 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?

• 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 want answered on the common application. Summer is an ideal time to review college websites, tour campuses and read admission literature.

Sarah Soule is currently the Post Secondary Planning Coordinator at Middlebury High School. She lives in Shelburne. 

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