Begin Application Essays Early
by Chino Baluyut

This is a former student’s story.

Alex applied to several private high schools, all requiring a 500-word writing sample.  A diligent student, she had been churning out decent five-paragraph essays in middle school. What’s a couple more, she thought, deciding to delay this necessary task for winter break.

Alex’s writing plans coincided with the family’s late-December trip to Lake Tahoe.  Images of a conducive writing environment flashed in her head.  This is perfect. I will write my essay from my room. I’ll be in my pink pajamas, sipping hot chocolate, inspired by the view of snow capped trees and white mountains.  

The best laid plans, however, often go astray.

While Alex was chained to her laptop, her younger siblings were outside, masters of their sleds and skis.  Sounds of their shrills, shrieks, and slushing boots pervaded her workspace.  She could already feel the wind whooshing on her face as she dreamed of a free fall down a powdery hill.

Just a couple of sentences, and I’ll be good. Alex managed to type a few general statements (“My uncle Joe is someone I admire because he worked hard every single day”).  To satisfy the persistent urge to slam her screen shut, she led her fingers away from the cold keyboard and into her warm gloves.

As Alex grabbed her eager snowboard, her mom asked about her progress.  “Just a few more main points, mom!”  Then it was out into the white wilderness for Alex, her high school application dissolving into a distant memory.

This went on for a week.  On the last day of their vacation, mom heard a muffled sobbing from Alex’s room.  Curled up in her chair, her daughter was a pale zombie staring at a white screen.  A few lines were typed at the top of the document, red and green squiggly lines all over the text.

“I don’t know what to do, mom.  And I still have four prompts to finish.”

Mom, realizing that the January 15 deadline was only two weeks away, felt her blood curdle in a semi panic.  Her anger, however, was suppressed by Alex’s tears.  How could she have squandered all this time?  Should they not have waited until December to begin writing?  What do we do now?  That’s when they contacted me for help.

Application essay writing can be herculean task if it is left to the last minute.  Think of the essay as a great sculpture or a painting; Michelangelo did not create David or paint the Sistine Chapel in a weekend.  Important essays deserve the same treatment. After all, this masterpiece will help you get into the high school of your dreams.

It is never too early to begin.  Start as early as the summer of 8th grade, even if it is just listing down ideas and narrowing down topics.  Throughout the fall, allow those ideas to germinate and expect a bountiful harvest before the winter.


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