It’s safe to say that the summer of 2020 didn’t go as planned. Perhaps you had an internship that was cancelled or switched to online. Maybe you had planned to attend a residential education program on a college campus or work in a science lab. Maybe you were planning on attending sports camps or showcases. You most likely had some plans to go on college visits and tours and maybe somewhere in there, get in some summer fun.

Yes, many best laid plans have been thwarted but there is a silver lining:

You can use this time to get ahead on your college essays and supplements!

The Essay 

As we head into this next cycle of collegiate admissions one thing is sure, college essays are going to be more important than ever!  Many colleges are waving testing requirements, ostensibly looking at spring-of-junior-year transcripts and GPA with a grain of salt and not tracking demonstrated interest. Having eliminated or decreased the importance of many traditional metrics, colleges will be taking an even closer look at essays than they usually do–which is good news for you! The college essay is something you CAN control.

Starting your essay now will give you plenty of time to reflect and edit ahead of the deadlines. Since colleges will likely be placing very significant weight on first semester grades, getting your essays going now will allow you to fully focus on your academic classes come the fall.

Whether you want to brainstorm or edit, test out a draft or just get a second opinion from experts, Carnegie Prep can help. We will work with you to craft a stellar essay that highlights your unique voice and personality, an essay you will be proud of for years to come.

Pro tip: Make it a goal to get your main Common Application essay and supplements for at least three of your top choice schools done before school starts. This will allow you to head into the school year with less pressure.


The Supplements

Though the Common Application does not officially go online until August 1st, many colleges and universities have already released this year’s supplements. Check the websites of schools like Brown, Wash U, UChicago to find out this year’s questions and get cracking.  You can also establish your account and fill out the forms on the Common Application now.

But how am I supposed to do the school specific supplement essays if I haven’t visited and toured the schools?

This is a significant question and the limitations on college visits are affecting students and families around the country and across the globe. But before you despair, there are actually several things you can do to get to know more about your top choice schools.

  1. Do the virtual tour and admissions webinar and TAKE NOTES about aspects of the school that you really like (these will be helpful later!)
  2. Look up the departments of subjects you are interested in and scan the course lists, look into professor’s bios, and identify aspects of the programs that get you excited.
  3. Contact older students, siblings of peers, family friends etc. that have gone to that school. Even if the alumnix graduated years ago, they can likely shed some light onto the spirit of the school. (No worries if you don’t know anyone off the top of your head you can speak with. Contact your school guidance counselor or college counselor and ask if they could help you reach a student at your desired school.)
  4. Another way to speak with current students: reach out to Facebook groups for each school!  Ask a question and you will probably get a ton of answers right away.
  5. Email the admission reps for your geographic area for each school you are interested in. Don’t be afraid to ask them any questions you have about the campus, the social life, the academics. Most admissions reps are thrilled to talk to students about their colleges.
  6. Do your online research. Look up an alumnix list, check out the study abroad opportunities, intramural teams and other clubs and organizations.
  7. If possible, take a driving tour of the campus. Even though you may not be able to actually take an official tour, there is a lot to be gained by seeing the campus, (hopefully getting to walk there for a few minutes) and checking out the nearby city or town.


The Covid Essay

Earlier this year, the Common Application added an optional 250 word question about the way that Covid has impacted your life. This is the place to talk about any technology and environmental issues that affected your learning (such as limited or non-existent internet access or lack of quiet place to study.) If members of your family lost employment or income or your home life was otherwise significantly affected, this is the place to mention these circumstances.  If anyone in your family passed away or contracted the virus, this is also the place to speak briefly about how this impacted and continues to impact you.

This is also a space to talk about your personal reflections with regard to the global pandemic. Were there any positive outcomes or personal discoveries you made?  Did you pitch in and make masks? Get involved in online community service? Help younger siblings with their schoolwork? Take on more responsibilities at home?

We urge students to think carefully about the ways in which you can use this space meaningfully and have this question only be seen as an additive to their application. Whether or not you answer is a case-by-case decision. Looking for more guidance with this question? Carnegie Prep is happy to help you every step of the way!