College Planning FAQs for Parents of an 11th Grader

Hello, friends!  Are you grinding your teeth more these days? Do you have a teen who is starting to look tired in the morning?  If so, your college planning family may have caught a case of the We-are-getting-a-teensy-bit-stressed-about-applying-for-college flu.

Essay Coaching offers a cure.  If you’re a parent of an 11th grader, here are the answers to three frequently asked questions (FAQs) parents are asking now:

Q: When should my daughter start working on her college application essays?

A:  She can start now (in the spring) if she is ready. Some students start now or before school ends. Some start in the summer and make sure they finish before school starts.  Some start in September.  But if you are reading this now, you are thinking ahead, which is GREAT!

Planning is one excellent medication for the We-are-getting-a-teensy-bit-stressed-about-applying-for-college flu.

One quick, easy way is prepare is to sign up for my Wed. May 2, 2018  Secrets for a Strong College Application Essay class at Old Liberty High School in Saline. Parents and students are welcome!  I promise that you will feel better walking out than when you walked in. Read how to sign up for this $19 class here.  It will be a power-packed hour and a half, starting at 7 PM.

“I loved this class. I learned so much and I’m glad I took it. One thing I really liked about this class was the one-on-one with the teacher, and the 10 min free writes. I would recommend it to anyone who wants to have a winning college essay.”–Hina Jaffe

Q:  Do you know when applications open up and you can start signing in to portals to identify essay topics?

A: The Common Application (also known as Common App) essay questions at are available now and won’t change. This means students can start their Common Application essays now. The Common App essay goes to most colleges.  Many colleges also require their own additional essay. College-specific essay prompts are usually available by August, and can be found on the Common Application and on individual college websites.

Here are the 2018-2019 Common App Essay Prompts:

1. Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.

2. The lessons we take from obstacles we encounter can be fundamental to later success. Recount a time when you faced a challenge, setback, or failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience?

3. Reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea. What prompted your thinking? What was the outcome?

4. Describe a problem you’ve solved or a problem you’d like to solve. It can be an intellectual challenge, a research query, an ethical dilemma – anything that is of personal importance, no matter the scale. Explain its significance to you and what steps you took or could be taken to identify a solution.

5. Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others.

6. Describe a topic, idea, or concept you find so engaging that it makes you lose all track of time. Why does it captivate you? What or who do you turn to when you want to learn more?

7. Share an essay on any topic of your choice. It can be one you’ve already written, one that responds to a different prompt, or one of your own design.

According to the Common Application, the most popular essay prompt of the 2017-2018 application year (through January 5, 2018) is “Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth…” (23.6%), followed by the topic of your choice option (22.5%), and “Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful…” (21.4%).

“Through the Common App essay prompts, we want to give all applicants – regardless of background or access to counseling – the opportunity to share their voice with colleges. Every applicant has a unique story. The essay helps bring that story to life,” said Meredith Lombardi, Associate Director, Outreach and Education, for The Common Application.

Read more about the common application here.

Q:  Anything else you would recommend for college planning at this point?

A: Help your teen get organized, if he isn’t yet.  College-specific essay prompts overlap, so it is great to have a file (Excel or a table in Word) where a teen keeps a list of the essay prompts for each school, as he or she learns about them.

Also, consider creating a dedicated college planning notebook for essay ideas, early drafts, notes about schools, etc.  When you visit schools, encourage your teen to take good notes about who he has met, what was said, where he went, what he liked, etc. That can be very helpful in college-specific essays that ask questions similar to “Why Do You Want to Attend Our College?”

If you would like to offer your son or daughter a personal tutor to assist them with their college essays, I’m happy to help.  Please write to me at for details or call me at 734-646-5985 for a short, helpful phone chat.

Read more on this topic:

How Adults Can Support Students Who Are Working On Their College Admissions Essay

The category of “parent and child” has been around for 200 million years, according to Jordan B. Peterson in Twelve Rules for Life. You’d think someone would have figured out a training course for parents by now! But there’s none, so we just have to help each other. (I’m a parent too. )

And here is more information on FAQs:

Twenty-nine (29) Essay Coaching FAQ on Quora

Need more assistance with writing your college application essay?  Check out the free Essay Coaching quizzes here.  Would you like to work with an award-winning writer who helps students tell their story in a compelling, meaningful way?  Write Debbie Merion:

Congrats to Lucas (pictured) for his admission to University of Michigan for voice performance in 2018.  He is happily holding Essay Coaching’s 2018 giveaway pen collection in great green, realistic red, particularly compelling purple, blatantly awesome blue, and original orange.