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Writing the rest of your essays

This is

a set of steps to take now that you’ve submitted your first round of essays.

Look through everything on this page! There are probably activities you don’t need, but at least know they’re there.

Do this because

because you’ve applied to college and are ready to finish the rest of your essays!

You’ve written a set of your best essays—your main essay and probably at least a couple of supplemental essays. This is now your standard for how good the rest of your essays will be.

Keep these three things in mind:

  1. You don’t have to show me everything
  2. I’m here for you until the very end
  3. Trust yourself (I do)

If you’re applying to the University of Washington, University of California (any campus), or MIT, check out the tips for those schools.

Now, do this

1

Meet these deadlines for feedback.

Not kidding here. These are real deadlines for me to look at your supplemental essays.

Text me to let me know they’re in clearly labeled documents ready for review. 

November 15 deadlines
Text me by Wednesday, November 10 at 5 pm PT (8 pm ET)
Better yet, text me by Sunday night, November 7

November 30/December 1 deadlines
Text me by Sunday, November 21 at 5 pm PT (8 pm ET)
Better yet, text me by Wednesday night, November 17

January 1 and later deadlines
Text me by Sunday, December 12 at 5 pm PT (8 pm ET)
If you have schools you’ll apply to only if you don’t get into early schools, you can send drafts of these essays.

 I’m sending these dates to your parents—take them seriously!

2

Write finished, polished, ready-to-apply essays.

You now have the skills and tools to write fantastic supplemental essays. If you’re confident about an essay, you don’t need to show me! But please, have someone proofread all of them.

Each essay you send to me should:

  • be well-written, easy-to-read, and polished
  • answer the prompt (and doesn’t answer questions the school didn’t ask)
  • communicate your intentions for that essay

If we’ve talked about your writing patterns (ideas, structure, grammar, language, punctuation, etc.). Pay attention to those!

If you send me your not-best-work, I’ll stop reading and send it back to you! 😀

For content you're mostly adapting/reusing

If you’re making adjustments to supplemental essays you’ve already shown me, I don’t necessarily need to see them. If you have questions or are unsure about something let me know, but otherwise you’ve got this handled.

For brand new essays essays

Get as far through the process as you can.

  • If it’s straightforward and you’re comfortable with it, I don’t need to see it
  • If it’s a type of essay I’ve seen before (like, why this school), you should share the final essay you say is ready to submit
  • If it’s something completely new, you can send a very solid draft with your intentions (it can be ~1.5x the word limit, ready for final editing/polishing).

3

Make it easy for Barak to review.

Hey…I’m your audience! Please make my life easy! Remember, there are about 25 others sending me essays.  

How to set up documents for me to review:
  1. Create a single document with every essay you want me to look at
    If you’re applying to UC schools or MIT, create a separate document with those essays

  2. Name the document For Barak to review and the date in the title
  3. Use headers for each school (Header 1) and essay type/name (Header 2)
  4. Bold the prompt and word limit for each essay
  5. If it’s a new, unique essay and the intentions aren’t obvious, include your intentions at the top
  6. If it’s a duplicate (for example, the same 250-word community essay) mark that so I don’t have to re-read it

There should be nothing in the document that isn’t one of these things. 

Your document should look something like this:

4

Make a plan and schedule with Barak if needed.

You may not need to do this
If you only have a few essays and are clear what they are, you can skip this step

If you don’t have your final school list, do it now
Make those final choices. Talk with your parents, college counselor, or anyone else helping you with your list and just do it. If you’re not sure what to do, let Barak know.

Do you have unsorted prompts?
If you still have a lot of essays and they aren’t sorted into columns yet, use Trello to do that. The short video will show you how to clean up what you don’t need and make it easier to work with. 

Applying to University of California?
You’ll write four essays for UC (choosing from eight prompt) They don’t care which prompts you choose. Match your existing essays to the prompts to give as broad of a picture of yourself as you can. You may be able to split your Common App essay into two prompts. 

Let me know if you want to talk about these.

Be sure to read the more detailed guidance in step 5!!!

Applying to MIT?
MIT does not have a 650-word essay; it has seven shorter essays, ranging from 100–250 words. Match your existing essays to the prompts to give as broad of a picture of yourself as you can. You may be able to split your Common App essay into two prompts.

 

Let me know if you want to talk about these.

Feel comfortable with what you need to do?
Great. If you want, send me a text and I’ll take a look.

Want to go over your strategy?
Also great. Send me a text and we’ll schedule a half-hour meeting. 

5

Read a few more suggestions.

You have all the tools you need to write great supplemental essays. Here are some things to keep in mind:

Read the prompt carefully and be clear on your intentions

Know what the school is asking. You can highlight keywords or, depending on how it’s written, may be able to turn it into an outline for your essay. 

Creating clear intentions should be old hat for you by now. If this is a new essay, or a significantly rewritten version of something you’ve already written, put your intentions at the top of the document.

Ways to be clear about your prompt

Don’t make the mistake of answering the wrong question! Pay close attention to the prompts and make sure you answer all aspects of the prompt. As you write your essay, think of the structure of the prompt as a simple outline for how you can give Tina Fey the information she’s looking for. Don’t answer questions they don’t ask!

Color-code key words

Our families and communities often define us and our individual worlds. Community might refer to your cultural group, extended family, religious group, neighborhood or school, sports team or club, co-workers, etc. Describe the world you come from and how you, as a product of it, might add to the diversity of the UW.

 

Create and outline

Original prompt

Students in Arts and Sciences embrace the opportunity to delve into multifaceted academic interests, embodying in 21st century terms Ezra Cornell’s “any person…any study” founding vision. Tell us about the areas of study you are excited to explore, and specifically why you wish to pursue them in our College. (650 words)

Broken down as an outline

Students in Arts and Sciences embrace the opportunity to delve into multifaceted academic interests, embodying in 21st century terms Ezra Cornell’s “any person…any study” founding vision.

  1. Tell us about the areas of study you are excited to explore, and
  2. specifically why you wish to pursue them in our College. (650 words)

Applying to Washington or California?

University of Washington

UW has two required essays and two optional essays.

Main essay

Tell a story from your life, describing an experience that either demonstrates your character or helped to shape it. (650 words)

This is easy — it’s the same as your Common Application essay. Don’t change a thing.

The Coalition Application may not allow italics. If you used them in your essay, check to make sure they’re in there. Otherwise, use quotation marks.

Short response

Our families and communities often define us and our individual worlds. Community might refer to your cultural group, extended family, religious group, neighborhood or school, sports team or club, co-workers, etc. Describe the world you come from and how you, as a product of it, might add to the diversity of the UW.

There’s a great chance you wrote a similar essay for one of your Common App supplements. The word limit or phrasing of the prompt may be different; make any changes you need to.

If you haven’t written one, here’s the foundation you’ll need to get started:

  • Audience: Tina Fey, who now really likes you and is looking for reasons to accept you
  • Intention: show a side of yourself that’s rooted in or was developed as part of a community; share your place or role in the community; share how these will show up when you join the UW community.
  • Role: a self-aware young adult who has thought about yourself in relationship to one of your communities

 

Optional additional information essays

There is one additional information essay that you probably won’t use unless you have experienced some type of challenge or have something you think is critical that UW knows about you. If you have any questions about this, let me know.

The Coalition Application has a different question for anything Covid-related.

 

University of California

UC is not looking for a Common App type essay

For UC, you’ll write four Personal Insight essays, chosen from the eight prompts. Each essay is 350 words

These are not short stories – they’re more straightforward, giving the admissions office information as they read through them at a crazy fast pace. Don’t use hooks, imagery, or dialog (mostly).

 

The foundation for these essays shifts significantly:

Audience: Tina Fey, who is frazzled and tired and reading folders and at insane speed. She just wants information about you.
Intention: Write an easy-to-read, straightforward, authentic informational essay.
Role: A self-aware young adult

Re-use material as much as possible but be sure to adapt it to answer the prompts and to be more of a straightforward read. You can make subtle changes to focus more on sharing information.

 

Two versions of the Darius essay

Original: Engaging, authentic short story that shows who you are

I lost it when Darius peed in the girls’ cabin. It was the end, the twisted climax of a week I will always associate with pure, unbridled pain.

Darius had been building to this all week. This eleven year old had become my sole responsibility for the week he was at YMCA Camp Orkila, and he was systematically breaking me down. My directors had told me to focus my efforts on him for the week he was here, because as a first year counselor I could use the experience of dealing with a child like Darius. Yet in the seven years I’d been a camper here, I’d never encountered anything like him. Here was a child naturally skilled at wreaking havoc; harassing people and wildlife was an art form for Darius.

 

California-ized: Easy-to-read, straightforward, authentic informational essay

In the summer before Sophomore year, I became a counselor at YMCA Camp Orkila, where I had been a camper for seven years.

The first week of camp, my directors told me to work one-on-one with a challenging eleven-year-old boy, Darius, for the week he was here. They thought that as a first year counselor I could use the experience of dealing with a child like that. Yet in the years I’d been a camper here, I’d never encountered anything like him. Darius naturally wreaked havoc, harassing people and wildlife.