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Starting Your College Essay

Common App Essay Prompts

As the final days of summer wind down, many rising high school seniors are turning their attention to their college essay. And, as we’ve heard from students visiting our campus the past couple of weeks, they are doing so with varying degrees of success…

Thinking back to my own college search and application process, writing the college essay stands out as one of the more difficult parts of applying for admission. Although I always have enjoyed writing (and was an English major during my undergraduate college years), coming up with my topic and crafting the essay weren’t easy. In fact, I can still clearly remember sitting at my computer looking at a blank page, watching the cursor blink back at me.

So, although my own college essay experience was a number of years ago, I can still relate to the students I’ve spoken to this summer who have expressed the difficulty they’ve had getting their essay started. And while I can’t give you the answer to the topic you should choose for your essay, the following are some thoughts that I hope help you to get started on an essay you’ll be proud of:

Start early
Find some time during the final days of the summer to start seriously thinking about your essay, and put something down on paper. Even if it’s just an outline or some notes, getting started now is important. As difficult as it may be to come up with an essay topic or to write an essay that you’re completely happy with, it’s even more difficult if you wait until the week (or the day…) before the application is due. Even if you tend to procrastinate with your schoolwork, don’t do that with your college essay. The writer’s block gets worse the closer you get to the deadline, believe me…

Make it personal
As I always tell students at our campus group information sessions, the best essays we read each year are personal and well-written (more on the “well-written” part in a minute). By “personal,” we don’t mean sharing your deepest, darkest secret with us or anything like that… rather, we’re looking for the essay to be personal in the sense that it tells us something about you that we wouldn’t be able to learn from elsewhere in your application… and it’s an essay that the classmate who sits next to you in Physics couldn’t have also written.

Spelling and grammar count
All of us spend a great deal of time on social media and sending text messages, and unfortunately we’ve seen some Twitter and texting habits make their way into college essays. Remember, your college essay is a formal piece of writing!

Choose a topic you feel comfortable with
At an essay workshop I was at last week, a student told me she was considering changing her essay topic because her friends were telling her that they didn’t like her topic. Having read her essay, I reassured her the topic was just fine… and I would implore you to also choose something to write about that you feel comfortable with, and not feel like you have to follow the crowd and write the “sports essay” or the “service essay” because that’s what everybody else is doing. Pick the topic that best represents who you are to an admission reader who most likely hasn’t had the chance to meet you in person.


I hope this post helps you get started… before you know it, your essay will be done and you’ll be submitting your college applications. Good luck!

A Look at the Class of 2018

With just a few weeks remaining in the summer and the campus gearing up for the return of our students at the end of the month, we now have profile data available for the incoming Class of 2018. Interesting data for both our freshmen (to get a sense of who else is in your class) as well as for rising high school seniors (to get a sense of who was accepted to PC last year).

The Profile also includes up to date information on the entire student body at PC… definitely worth a look! View the Class of 2018 and Student Body Profile.

Class of 2018 Profile

Call for Bloggers!

PC Blogs

Incoming members of the Class of 2018: We are looking for a freshman to join our team of student bloggers this fall. If you have an interest in sharing your Providence College story with high school students and families currently going through … [Continue reading]

Summer Campus Visits


It's early July, which means that our summer campus visit season is already in full swing. Many families will ask us about visiting during the the summer vs. the school year, so let's take a look at summer visits here at PC. First, there are three … [Continue reading]

Waiting List Update (6/5)

At this point, the Class of 2018 is at capacity, which means that there are no further class spaces available from the waiting list. The following message was sent by e-mail yesterday to all students who remained under active consideration on the … [Continue reading]

Waiting List Update (5/19)

The following message was sent by e-mail on Monday, 5/19 to all active candidates on our waiting list: As we approach the end of May, the Class of 2018 is nearing capacity. We are continuing to monitor waiting list activity at other schools but at … [Continue reading]

Waiting List Update (4/30)

The following message was sent by e-mail to all active candidates on our waiting list: Thank you for your continued interest in Providence College. With May 1 approaching and strong enrollment activity in the past few days, the Class of 2018 is … [Continue reading]

Family Day Weekend Recap… In Pictures


Now that we're just a week away from the college enrollment deadline of May 1, let's take a look back at our Family Day weekend for students accepted to the Class of 2018:     … [Continue reading]

Post Deposit Information

As we move through the month of April, we continue to receive a number of enrollment deposits each day - our congratulations to you for making your college decision! We're excited to have you join the PC Class of 2018! When we receive a student's … [Continue reading]

Family Day Weekend Prep

Family Day Preparation in Alumni Hall

We're excited about the busy weekend we have ahead of us welcoming accepted students to campus! Tomorrow's Family Day event is the centerpiece, as we're expecting more than 800 accepted students and 2,500 people total to spend the day at PC. As we … [Continue reading]

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