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Conquering College Apps, Part II

After completing the research and planning based on “Conquering College Apps, Part I,” what should be done next? Essay writing and interviews are some of the most difficult parts of the application, so part two of my college application advice addresses these concerns:


Recent Arcadia High School graduate and Valedictorian Emily Zheng is heading to Pomona College this fall.


Essay Writing College essay topics vary widely depending on the colleges you choose. However, there are some general questions that could help with your writing. Similar ones were asked on many of my supplements, so you could probably reuse the responses for these questions or tweak them to match specific prompts.

  1. Which activity has been the most important to you and why?

  2. What is your college major and career plan, if you have one? Describe them. Why have you chosen this major or career plan?

  3. Has anyone made an impact on you or your life? If so, explain.

  4. Have you ever had to overcome an obstacle or major challenge in your life? If so, explain.

Many past essay prompts can be found online, but there is no guarantee that they will be the same as this coming year’s prompts. However, I encourage you to write as many essays as you can during the summer because they might come in handy in the future and at the very least will be good practice.

The Interview No, not the movie. Some private colleges hold on-campus or alumni interviews to get to know the applicants, and these can be quite nerve-wracking. Though you cannot anticipate what will happen, you can still prepare for them by researching the schools in-depth a few days beforehand. Jot down special programs or qualities of the school that you like in particular. Is there a certain organization you would like to join? How do you like the living situation? Also, it will be safe to prepare responses to some typical interview questions so you will have some practice responding to questions before the real deal. Some that could be asked include:

  1. Why do you want to attend this school?

  2. Tell me about yourself.

  3. What are three words your friends would use to describe you?

  4. What are three words your teachers would use to describe you?

  5. What is your greatest weakness?

Do not be afraid to elaborate! Remember, these interviews are solely for the chance to get to know you, your personality, and your story. There are no “correct” or “incorrect” personalities; stay true to yourself as much as you can, but professionally.

Generally, make sure to arrive at least a few minutes early; many of my interviews started as soon as I arrived, even when it was five to ten minutes ahead of schedule. Bringing your resume may help your interviewer write their reports, but do not be discouraged if they do not accept it. Some schools forbid the interviewers from taking applicants’ resumes. Though some interviews are casual, dressing up semi-formally or formally will not hurt. Finally, the end of the interview is open for any questions you may have. This is tricky to navigate, because it is recommended that you have something to ask because it shows your interest in the school, but you probably do not want to ask a question that you could easily find on the website. However, it is in your best interest to ask a question, so during your research of your school, write down any you may have about the programs, classes, college life, and more.

Afterwards, I send a thank you email to my interviewer. They volunteer their time to do this, so it is important to show your appreciation.

Tips for Staying Motivated Listing all of your tasks before you start will help you prioritize the hardest ones first. Set attainable goals by breaking down tasks into chunks. This will make a big job much smaller and therefore much easier to complete. When you’re in a writer’s slump, think of creative ways to approach the problem!

I hope you find this article helpful. Best of luck!

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