Does your student have some free time on their hands? If so, now could be a great time to start working on college essays. The Common App and Coalition App release their essay prompts well ahead of time– January for the Common App, for example. While these are especially pertinent for current juniors, the prompts change little, if at all, from year to year so younger students might benefit from taking a look as well. Even if you don’t start writing today, knowing the prompts is an opportunity to start to frame experiences for future writing.

Here are the Common App prompts. Here are the Coalition App prompts. And while they are fairly similar, such that the same essay might be used for both, there’s a big difference: the Common App essay is a maximum of 650 words, whereas the Coalition App should be a maximum of 550 words. Our experience was that made them effectively two different essays.

Students are also well advised to look at supplemental essay requirements for colleges they are interested in. Most private schools require supplemental essays, as do many scholarships. The essay process can become overwhelming: my daughter only applied to 8 schools, two of which were public and thus didn’t have supplemental essays, but between those schools and a couple of scholarships, she wrote almost 25 essays. Getting a head start over the summer before her senior year was essential in managing the application process along with her schoolwork.