What can I do before I write my college application essays to help me write the best ones possible?

It’s a question I wish I heard more often from 10th and 11th graders!

As a college counselor—one who has read and helped write thousands of college application essays—I have a lot of advice on this topic. But to keep it short I am including three very accessible options below: two books and one digital course. Both both can be read at any time and revisited as you begin writing your applications. I recommend the YouSchool course for the end of 11th grade or summer before 12th, which is when you should be writing the majority of your application essays.

On Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction
Why? It’s one of the most valuable resources for writers. You write a lot when applying to college, and beyond cranking out apps, it’s a process that lends itself to learning how to write well. To me, it’s a must-read!

Why? It’s one of the only “college essay” books I can stomach. More importantly, it’s a thoughtful and sometimes funny (depending on the type of humor you enjoy) guide to writing the personal statement. It is also written well and is very easy to read.

Why? Over four weeks, you will be guided through a series of video exercises with questions and prompts to self-reflect about all the foundational elements of your backstory. From it, you will better you understand how the elements of your backstory have set you on your path in life. This is a must if you are going to write an effective personal statement. The process works: YouSchool has taken thousands of people through it and knows that if you do the work, you’ll gain a clear sense of what story you’re living in. You are also provided the structure to engage in deep conversations with people you trust (parents, teachers, friends, college counselors!). You School’s Backstory is a fantastic way to gear up for personal statement writing.

Have another college admissions or education-related questions for Strategy Girl? Don’t be shy—ask!
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