My latest interview on college admissions for Varsity Tutors.
VT: How far ahead of time should a student begin working on his or her college application?
Carol: Families are starting the college search process earlier and earlier. I recommend that as a family you “start” the college conversation during the end of the sophomore year to gear up your teen for the junior year search. I use January of the junior year as the starting point. I find that telling families “slow and steady wins the race” helps them think through this process. We basically have one year to help you and your teen put his or her best foot forward, the finish line being December or January of their senior year.
VT: What are the best ways to go about selecting a terrific essay topic?
Carol: Look at a bunch of college essays from the year before to familiarize yourself with what the schools will be looking for. That way you won’t be surprised when you actually start your applications. As a rule of thumb, I recommend to students that they think about their best English paper. Pull it out, read again and remember why it was your best paper. Then, keep that in mind when writing the essays for the colleges you have selected. A lot of times, I find students becoming very conservative with their essays. Writing about what they “think” colleges want to see. I start with students by having them brainstorm; having them think outside the box when it comes to some of these questions, then create an outline, which will build into an essay. Don’t think a perfect finished product will happen in one session. You need to go back to these essays and reread, and rediscover. I guarantee the way your essay looks at the beginning of this process is not the way it will look in the end.
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