Patricia M. of Merrick, NY writes:

I'm the parent of a soon-to-be high school senior and want to know when we can get started on those college applications.

The College Whispererresponds:

That would be the editorial "we," right? LOL

The Common Application, which is the starting point for the admission process at nearly 500 colleges and universities, does not go "live" until August 1. Proprietary applications for colleges that are not members of Common App typically come online mid-summer to early September.

That said, newly-minted high school seniors and their parents (as well as counselors and advisors) can get a sneak preview of the many facets of the revised Common App, including the new Writing section, at

This should be a good starting point, particularly in getting those creative juices flowing in connection with creating a vibrant, nuanced, and highly critical personal essay.

Here are the essay prompts, with instructions, as they will appear on the 2013-14 Common Application:  

The essay demonstrates your ability to write clearly and concisely on a selected topic and helps you distinguish yourself in your own voice.  What do you want the readers of your application to know about you apart from courses, grades, and test scores?  Choose the option that best helps you answer that question and write an essay of no more than 650 words, using the prompt to inspire and structure your response.  Remember: 650 words is your limit, not your goal.  Use the full range if you need it, but don't feel obligated to do so.  (The application won't accept a response shorter than 250 words.)

Some students have a background or story that is so central to their identity that they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.

Recount an incident or time when you experienced failure. How did it affect you, and what lessons did you learn?

Reflect on a time when you challenged a belief or idea.  What prompted you to act? Would you make the same decision again?

Describe a place or environment where you are perfectly content. What do you do or experience there, and why is it meaningful to you?

Discuss an accomplishment or event, formal or informal, that marked your transition from childhood to adulthood within your culture, community, or family.

Thinking caps on. Pencils down. We're in the exploratory stage at this point. A figurative glimpse into the future, as your child prepares to begin his or her senior year, revels in the lazy (relatively speaking) days of summer, and gears up for the great college application frenzy that follows in the fall.

By the way, with the "first look" at the Common App comes this advance notice: There's no better time to begin planning for college, and staking your claim on admission to the college of your choice, than now!

Plan. Prepare. Prevail!

The views and opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of
The College Whisperer. Who knows what peril lurks in the college application and admissions process? The College Whisperer knows. . .
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