The Common App has released their essay prompts for the 2014-2015 school year, and while they have not changed from last year’s this is a good reminder for rising high school seniors to start drafting their college essay now. Your senior year will start out to be busier than you ever imagined, and the last thing you want is to put off your college essay then be rushed in drafting it.

Putting those first few words of your essay onto paper can seem daunting. Don’t get bogged down with the idea that you need to create an eloquent essay right off the bat. Start by brainstorming. Putting pen/pencil to paper and jotting down ideas and notes of what you want the essay to include can be a great way to start the process with much less intimidation. Write down your thoughts, don’t be afraid of your ideas, and remember to show, don’t tell - which essentially means that you should use detail that helps the reader envision what you’re talking about. At this point, don't worry about editing. First, focus on putting your ideas down on paper. Edit later.

As you are completing your first draft ask yourself the following questions to help improve your essay:

What can I contribute to this college that no one else can?
Use this as your opportunity to let the admissions office know how you can help strengthen their community. You want your essay to be memorable for all the right reasons, so be sure to highlight your writing skills as well as the aspects of yourself that make you a desirable candidate for the college. Remember, colleges are looking for students who can help maintain or improve their image.

How can I tell a story in a way that is unique to me?
Colleges are looking to distinguish you from other applicants so think about what you can bring to the essay to make it unique. Use caution when using humor as the essay reader may not have the same sense of humor as you. Avoid the three “D’s” Death, Disaster and Divorce, as it’s likely that a great number of students will choose one of these as their topic. Be unique in how your voice sounds or how your essay is told.

Who do I trust to proofread my essays?
The more eyes on your essay...the better, especially if one is an English teacher! You’ll be writing many drafts of your college essay before you are done. Be sure that you have others read it and offer you feedback.

Show them who you are
Your college essay is your chance to show the admissions office who you are. They want to hear your voice and learn more about you and the impact you will have on their community. Do your best to show this in 650 words or less, be prepared to write multiple drafts, and ALWAYS have someone proofread your final version.

Need help?
If you need assistance with your essay, MES can help with our FREE college planning assistance and resources. All of the services and support offered by MES are FREE so contact them today at or call 800-922-6352 for more information.

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Kate Leveille joined the MES team in May 2012 as its College and Career Access Program Director. Her primary role is to assist in increasing college access awareness and to support Maine students and families, helping them to achieve their post-secondary education goals. She currently serves as a member of the Board of Directors for The Jump$tart Coallition of Maine as well as a Steering Committee member for Maine College Access Network, also known as MaineCAN!