1. Reuse essays when you can
Some of my students have this belief that sending the same essay to multiple schools is cheating, and that colleges will somehow find out that you didn’t write that essay about your summer at coding camp expressly for them and then hold it against you. But none of that is true. In fact, the Common App even puts it right in one of their prompts: “Share an essay on any topic of your choice. It can be one you’ve already written, one that responds to a different prompt, or one of your own design.” And this is true for supplemental essays too. Many colleges ask similar questions about why you’re pursuing a particular major or why you’re interested in their school; if you’ve put together a thoughtful list, you probably have overlapping reasons for wanting to go to University of Colorado, Boulder and USC. So feel free to reuse your essays when you can – just make sure you’re not telling Seattle University how excited you are to attend Santa Clara.
2. Don’t fall prey to application FOMO
Right before my students go back to school senior year, I tell them to maintain confidence in their list and try not to get influenced by all the schools they hear about other people applying to. The reality is, any student can apply to any college. You don’t need to have straight A’s to apply to Harvard, and you don’t have to speak French to apply to the Sorbonne. They’re happy to take your application fee whether you’re a competitive candidate or not. So trust that you have done your research and you have a well-balanced list of schools that are right for you. There’s no such thing as a college soul mate, so there’s no reason to fear that you’re missing out on some perfect school.
3. Don’t let perfect be the enemy of the good
As a writer, I know that there is no such thing as a perfect essay. There is always more you can do to polish, develop, and tweak your writing. But sometimes, my students get so stuck trying to write a “perfect” essay that they give themselves writer’s block and can’t produce anything. Obviously, an imperfect but real essay is better than some imaginary flawless essay. At the same time, don’t let done be the enemy of the good either. If you find yourself churning out an essay you don’t feel good about just to cross that item off your list, hit pause. Ask yourself if it’s worth submitting an application you haven’t devoted time or energy to just to get it done. Many of my students reassess their lists as we go along, and realize that a school they thought they were excited about just isn’t a good fit anymore.