Let’s Talk About College Essays

Wondering when to start preparing for your College Application Essays? The answer is now, but don’t panic! Stagepunch is here to offer some inspiration!

Whenever someone asks us when they should get started on their application journey, we always give the same answer: Now – The sooner (is absolutely) the better. This goes for writing your college essays as well. Getting on top of the application game early can give you a massive confidence boost throughout this stressful process. Another bonus is that it will free up ample time for you to prepare for the high-stakes moments like your audition or interview.

But do I really have to spend my summer writing essays?

We are in no way suggesting that you should start writing your college application essay yet, quite the opposite. You’ve just completed a whole year of school and have earned a break from writing. However, this is the perfect time to start cooking up some essay ideas! We often hear from students that the most challenging part of the college essays process is figuring out where to begin. Getting a head start will alleviate a lot of that anxiety.

Pro tip: We have included a full Application Timeline in the Stagepunch Guidebook. The scene gives you an overview of the entire year leading up to the start of your college experience.

Successful examples

When I was writing my college essays, I found it helpful to look up a few successful examples that people had shared online. I don’t think it’s smart to base too much of your essay on the work of others – after all, your essay should be about your personal experiences – but reading other essays gave me a feel for what was possible. How much I could play within the genre, and how to stand out from the crowd.

Some colleges will actually publish selections of essays from previously accepted students as a guide for potential applicants. It is also a way for them to show off the talent that resides within their campuses. One of these schools is Hamilton College, located in Clinton, NY. We suggest you check out their selection of College Essays That Worked.

Just this past week, the New York Times published their annual collection of college essays. Each year they ask high school seniors to submit application essays on the specific themes of money, work, or social class. This year’s NY Times College Essays Article consists of five essays, and they are all worth the read. (You do have to log in with a NY Times account to access the article, but it is free to create one.) Earlier in the year, the New York Times also published an article with excerpts from college essays on the impact of Covid-19, which was included in several prompts (including Common App.) More than 900 high school seniors submitted their essays, and you can take a look at what some of them wrote HERE.

Essay prompts

To get your creative juices flowing, we have also included a few essay prompts for you. These are intended as jumping-off points for the application essay, and most schools will give you several options to choose from. The prompts below are the current 2021-2022 essay prompts from Common App. Some schools will ask you to answer their own prompts instead, so be sure to check out the websites of your top choices. Soon, Stagepunch will be able to help you keep track of application criteria. You can sign up right HERE to be among the first to learn how to pack that PUNCH! In the meantime, I hope you can find some inspiration from the list below:

Common App:

  1. Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.
  2. The lessons we take from obstacles we encounter can be fundamental to later success. Recount a time when you faced a challenge, setback, or failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience?
  3. Reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea. What prompted your thinking? What was the outcome?
  4. Reflect on something that someone has done for you that has made you happy or thankful in a surprising way. How has this gratitude affected or motivated you?
  5. Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others.
  6. Describe a topic, idea, or concept you find so engaging that it makes you lose all track of time. Why does it captivate you? What or who do you turn to when you want to learn more?
  7. 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.

Pro tip: To go even deeper in your college essays preparation, check out “Act II Scene III – The perfect application essay” in the Stagepunch Guidebook.

Have fun preparing. Remember, you’re chasing your dream and Stagepunch is here to help you reach it!

Jonas Kobberdal

Jonas is the Content King at Stagepunch. He leads the research team, writes blog posts, and one time even got PUNCHED in the face for the good cause. Jonas is an actor and artist originally from Norway, currently a world traveler, and a New Yorker at heart. After getting rid of his remaining hair, he now spends most of his spare time channeling his inner Bruce Willis. Having studied for an acting degree himself, Jonas knows the many joys the right program can bring your life. He is passionate about supporting young artists who are chasing their dreams!

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