Spring break is typically a time that students and families take to the road for their college search. The weather is relatively predictable (i.e. not snowing), college campuses are full of students, so the potential peer group is visible, and you might even have a set (or two) of test scores that help guide you toward possible, realistic options. For the Class of 2021, just about all of this is out the window. While it is not snowing, campuses are empty and not receiving visitors, you may not have had a chance to meet with your school counselor to get a list started, and with all the test date cancellations, it is not unusual for you to still be waiting to take a standardized test. This can feel immobilizing.
Please do not feel helpless. There are a number of opportunities to use this gift of time in unanticipated ways. It may be a tad early to consider your Common Application essay topic, but it is not too early to consider some of the common supplemental essay topics that schools are likely to ask.
You are disappointed about your spring sport season or school musical being cancelled. You should feel free to grieve that; it is indeed a loss. But stop and consider WHY you miss that sport or show rehearsal. Then put 150 words down on paper that tell a reader about the most important extracurricular activity you have done and why it was so important. All the reasons you miss it give you insight into why you value it. That “most important extracurricular” essay (typically 150 words) is a very common one!
Your schoolwork may be taking less time than usual. Your schedule may have gaps in it because your club/sport/job has been interrupted. Pick a book to read for simply enjoyment. Pure pleasure. Why? It is also common for schools to ask “Tell us about the last book you read for pleasure”. So, unless you really have a passion for reading Plato’s The Republic, don’t choose because you want to impress someone, choose because you have the freedom and time to do so. Graphic novel? Perfect! Light, current fiction? Go for it! Sci fi or dystopia? Absolutely! Then dash off 150 words about what you read and your reaction to it.
These short exercises will give you a chance to write with purpose, while providing an initial draft to popular college application supplemental essays. These are unusual times, and your college application process is still being refined. Grab the opportunity to take the first steps on your own terms.
Jodi Rosenshein Atkin is an independent educational consultant in private practice. She holds a BA and MA from the University of Rochester in Psychology, and has over 20 years of experience in educational and clinical settings. Jodi is committed to finding a “best fit” school for every student, considering academic, financial, social and cultural factors. It’s about more than the mascot and the sweatshirt; it’s about finding the places that each student can thrive and grow, making the most of their higher education investment. Finding the right school is a journey, not a race to some imaginary finish line.