Fairview High School > College Essays / Writing

Fairview High School

College Essays / Writing

Your college essay is the final puzzle piece
that binds together all the other parts of your application.

It can provide a central theme that conveys the passion and reasoning that drove you to pursue certain courses, activities and projects, further confirmed by your transcripts and recommendation letters. Essays are your chance to complete the picture of you for an admissions committee to view.

And YOU are in complete control.

Don't leave out any important pieces or admission reps won't get the full picture of who you are.

Your College Application - The Full Picture!
Your College Applicaton - California Public Schools

(Click on each to learn more)
Personal Essay This is generally a one page statement about yourself.
Additional Information Section This is strongly recommended for selective schools.
College Specific Supplemental Essays These are specific to the colleges to which you are applying.
University of California Essays The University of California requires 4 short answer Personal Insight Questions.
Disciplinary Essays These are essays to explain any disciplinary incidents.
J.R. Moehringer describes writing his college application essay for NPR Author Interviews, September 26, 2012.

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J.R. Moehringer graduated from Yale, Class of 1986. He won the 2000 Pulitzer Prize for Feature Writing, is the author of bestselling memoir Tender Bar and Sutton - A Novel, and was the ghost-writer of Open, the bestselling autobiography of Andre Agassi.

FAQs: Click to see more or less.

  • How much do essays count?

    In general, the more selective the college, the more the essays are weighed. A mediocre essay will probably not eliminate a student from consideration; however, a poor essay may negatively affect chances for acceptance. An outstanding essay, on the other hand, may provide an admissions officer with a reason to accept a student with weaker test scores and grades.

  • Do all colleges require essays?

    Not all colleges require essays.

    • Close to 200 Common App colleges do not require a Personal Essay.
    • Almost 350 Common App colleges do not require additional college-specific essays.

    However, if you’ve taken the time to write a Personal Essay for other colleges you’re applying to, you should go ahead and submit it.

  • I don't have anything else to say. Do I really need to complete the Additional Information section?

    Many application forms provide an Additional Information section to allow elaboration on special circumstances or any topic of your choice.

    Because the Additional Information section is optional, many students decline to provide more information. However, if you are applying to more selective schools or if you believe that other essay opportunities provided have not allowed you to convey your entire story, the Additional Information space is a good opportunity to further describe yourself.

    See the Additional Information Section page for more information.
  • When should I start?

    Your junior year is the appropriate time to begin thinking about what you would like to say. Even if you do not know the specific questions, you can start developing a personal essay and trying out topic ideas. Exact essay questions can be viewed when the latest college applications come out in the summer, but the questions often remain the same for several years.

    Fairview Language Arts teachers introduce the personal essay in the spring of your junior year. You will be encouraged to explore a topic and produce a working draft.

    Most students applying to a number of selective colleges will begin exploring several topics and angles over the summer before senior year.

  • How do I find all the prompts for each college?

    • See the Quick Links above right for Common App and Coalition App prompts.
    • To view prompts for non-Common App or non-Coalition App schools, go to its freshman or undergraduate admissions website to access all application questions.
    • To view additional prompts in any online application, answer all main profile and academic questions first. Some prompts are only visible depending on how you answer academic questions.
      In the 2016 Common App, a green check mark automatically appears next to optional sections to indicate completion, even if you have not previously viewed the section. Be sure to open those sections to check for optional questions.

  • What should I write about?

    Personal Essay prompts are meant to be open-ended, so that any topic a student chooses can be used to answer one or more of the prompts.

    See the Personal Essay page for more information.

  • What should I NOT write about?

    See the Personal Essay page for more information.

  • Where do I start? I need help with the writing process.

  • I composed my essay on a word processor (e.g., MS Word or Apple Pages) and my word/character count is different when I copy and paste it into the application. How do I fix that?

    An essay composed in MS Word, Pages or other rich text editor will include invisible formatting that increases word or character count when copied and pasted into the answer field of an online application.

    To strip all hidden formatting, first copy and paste your essay into a plain text editor, such as Notepad (Windows) or TextEdit (Apple), before copying and pasting into the online application. This should give you a more accurate word count.