Rebecca of Lawrence, NY writes:

I'm the parent of a high school junior and want to know when we can get started on college applications.

The College Whisperer responds:

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

The Common Application, which is the starting point for the admission process at most colleges and universities, does not go "live" for those hoping to enter the ivy-covered gates in the fall of 2013 until August 1.

That said, high school juniors and their parents (as well as counselors and advisors) can get a sneak preview of the complete Common App (sans Supplements), including the essay questions, 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 essays, with instructions, that will be on the application:

Personal Essay.
Please write an essay of 250 – 500 words on a topic of your choice or on one of the options listed below, and attach it to your application before submission. Please indicate your topic by checking the appropriate box. This personal essay helps us become acquainted with you as a person student, apart from courses, grades, test scores, and other objective data. It will also demonstrate your ability to organize your thoughts and express yourself. NOTE: Your Common Application essay should be the same for all colleges. Do not customize it in any way for individual colleges. Colleges that want will ask for them on a supplement form.

*Evaluate a significant experience, achievement, risk you have taken, or ethical dilemma you have faced and its impact on you.

*Discuss some issue of personal, local, national, or international concern and its importance to you.

*Indicate a person who has had a significant influence on you, and describe that influence.

*Describe a character in fiction, a historical figure, or a creative work (as in art, music, science, etc.) that has had an influence on you, and explain that influence.

*A range of academic interests, personal perspectives, and life experiences adds much to the educational mix. Given your personal background, describe an experience that illustrates what you would bring to the diversity in a college community or an encounter that demonstrated the importance of diversity to you.

*Topic of your choice.

Students will also be asked to "briefly elaborate" (as in, make a long story short) on one extracurricular activity or work experience.

Thinking caps on. Pencils down. We're in the exploratory stage at this point. A figurative glimpse into the future, as you or your child finishes up the junior year, decides what to do on summer vacation, 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!

The views and opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of The College Whisperer.
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