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How to Write an Early Decision Essay in 10 Days

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stopwatchThis is not a drill. November 1 is 12 days away. Super procrastinators, take heart. We can help you write your essay in just 10 days (and we do recommend submitting your essay at least 24 hours before the official deadline). All you need to do is set aside at least 45 minutes per day to watch a video and work through one crucial step of the writing process at a time. Here’s the breakdown:


1. Find your essay’s purpose.

The essay plays a different role than your grades or test scores. It is your one opportunity to speak to admissions in your own voice – and to jolt them awake from their application-reading-induced slumber. What do you want your essay to tell admissions that they couldn’t learn anywhere else on your application? How will you grab and hold their attention?

2. Review the Common App prompts.

Even if you have other essays to write for your early decision or early action school of choice, the Common App essay is the place to start. Read through this year’s prompts and wrap your brain around what the questions are really asking. Then, hide them away and don’t look at them again until you have written a draft. At the end of the day what it most important is the story you want to tell. You can almost always back into one of the Common App prompts once you have honed your topic to perfection.

3. Brainstorm your topic.

Stop waiting for divine inspiration. Go out into the world and look for clues. Whether you create lists, take notes on your daily habits, or call up your grandma for ideas, devoting time to brainstorming is the only sure way to uncover your magic topic.

4. Free write your heart out.

Once you have brainstormed your way to a magic topic, set aside some time (perhaps three different times throughout the day) to freewrite on what that subject means to you. Get your first thoughts on the page in full and without judgment. Dig for details. You’ll never know what’s inside your brain until you allow it to come out on the page.

5. Sculpt your story.

Review your free writes and you’ll probably start to notice patterns. What particular moment or individual sticks out in all of your notes? Is there a word or image that seems significant? Use these clues to organize your story into a preliminary outline. We bet you can even pull complete sentences and paragraphs from your free writes into your first draft.

6. Edit, edit, edit.

How can you make sure that first draft is transformed into a mind-blowingly memorable essay? Read it over at least three times. Edit for story. Then edit for clarity at the sentence level. Finally, edit for grammar.

7. Organize those supplements.

Most supplemental essays fall into one of a few classic categories, so organization is key. If you are applying early to just one school, make sure you do your research thoroughly so you can fill your essay with relevant details. If you are applying to more than one school, group similar assignments together and work on those essays from longest to shortest.

8. Manage your writer’s block.

We know you know that feeling. Your mind is fuzzy. You’re not really feeling like yourself. Every time you sit down in front of the computer your head hurts and your fingers cramp. You can cure this horrible feeling with a few small mental changes. For starters, lower your standards. Not like, forever. Just for the beginning of the process. You will raise your expectations of yourself later as you refine and polish. When you start, quality is not the issue. The issue is that you turn that scary blank page into one filled with ideas.

9. Refer to example essays in moderation.

Poring over dozens of sample college admissions essays immediately before sitting down to write your own can be a debilitating exercise because you may feel compelled to compare your earliest ideas to these final, polished essays. That doesn’t seem fair! That said, we do think that it can sometimes be helpful to read through a few (just a few) to help direct your brain towards the style of the personal narrative.

10. Call for help!

After all of your hard work, if you are still wondering if your topic is worth its weight in hamburgers; if you’re not sure whether your story structure is strong enough to support your big idea; even if you’re just wondering whether or not your overall story will create enough fireworks to hold the attention of an admissions advisor for your allotted two minutes of admissions essay fame, CALL US! Or email us: We will personally extract the winning ideas from your noggin with our magic powers (of conversation).

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