What are the steps in the essay writing process?

  • After a student’s school list has been determined, counselors and students work together to collate a list of all of the prompts that each student must answer. For the UC’s, this will be four 350-word essays. For the Common App schools, the Common App doesn’t roll over until August, and some schools might not post supplemental essay topics until September. In this case, students begin brainstorming based on the previous year’s prompts. Most Common App schools ask for an additional 3-5 essays, in addition to the “Personal Statement” Common App essay.

  • Students then begin the Free-Write questionnaire. Answers to this questionnaire will provide us with the source material for all application essays. Students will have approximately three or four meetings with their counselor to complete this phase of work. Your counselor will be in touch to give you more details on this very soon.

  • After the FWQ is complete, student and counselor brainstorm ideas about essay topics for all essays (UC, Common App, and supplements). They then present their essay topics to Dr.M in a Topic Determination Meeting, where ideas are discussed and approved. Please note: after this meeting, topics cannot be drastically changed, though of course will evolve during writing and revision.

How long does the editing process take for each essay?

Each application essay can require up to 3-4 revision cycles or more. Dr. M typically expects to see an “editable” draft approximately a month before the application deadline (see specific dates below). This gives ample time for the student and counselor to implement Dr. M’s feedback and resubmit drafts to her for finalization. While counselors can review and revise essays with students multiple times during a week, Dr. M reviews essays on Mondays. If a student misses a deadline and doesn’t get an essay in to Dr. M before her review day, s/he can fall behind.

For EA/ED schools due 11/1. students have approximately 8 weeks to draft and finalize essays and applications: the months of September and October. That may seem like a lot of time, but remember – students applying to 10 schools cannot work only on EA/ED applications for those 8 weeks – they also have to begin drafting essays for other schools, due later. The UC’s will be due only 4 weeks later and the 1/1 schools not long after that.

Counselor and student will establish a schedule of when drafts are due – this schedule is sent to both students and parents. Please note that in order to draft all essays on a timely basis, most students will draft two essays a week – one each on each day of the weekend. Once October comes, they might be revising a few essays while also drafting new ones.

We have found in our experience that students and parents often underestimate the amount of time it takes to produce thoughtful, competitive application essays. One key factor is that California’s educational ranking out of the 50 U.S. states is far from stellar. Therefore, essays that students write that may be perfectly acceptable to schools and teachers in California may not compare favorably with those written by students in more highly ranked states, such as Massachusetts. Generally speaking, it can take additional time for California, it can take additional time for California students’ essays to be brought up to “Massachusetts” levels.

Blue-Stars Admissions Schedule 2022
Blue Stars Admissions Deadlines 2022

Responsibilities

Blue Stars counselors…

  • Keep students productive and on schedule

  • Guide students toward the most impactful applications they can produce

  • Provide inspiration and direction

  • Address parent questions and concerns

Blue Stars students…

  • Schedule regular writing time into their week

  • Produce original content

  • Stick to the agreed deadlines and check their deadline calendar regularly

  • Adhere to the Student Agreement

  • Stay in close communication with their counselor throughout the process

  • Show up to scheduled meetings prepared to discuss revisions and next steps

Blue Stars parents…

  • Support students in meeting their editing schedule

  • Communicate with Blue Stars staff about any questions they might have

  • Discuss applications with their student only if they want to (students are dealing with a lot of new challenges, and might not be able to describe it all while still immersed in the admissions process)

  • Remain patient as their child works through the process!