THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL | JUNE 2020 55 will ask if supplemental essay prompts for next season will change. If she hasn’t been in touch with a rep, she will use this year’s prompts as a guide. Good news: Every one of her col- leges takes the Common App, which will streamline the process. Now she has a list that looks like this: Notice that Rachel will be applying Early Action where it’s offered. (She cannot afford to apply Early Decision because her family needs to compare financial aid offers.) She intends to submit all applications by Oct. 15, even those that aren’t due until January. That 1. Main essay for the Common App of up to 650 words. 2. “Why This College?” essay (Michigan, 550; Barnard, 250). 3. “Community” essay (UVA, Michigan; both 250-300). 4. “Favorite work of literature” essay (UVA, 250-300; George Mason, up to 750). 5. “Extracurricular activity” essay (Michigan, 150). 6. Unique essay: “What makes you unique and colorful?” (William & Mary, 500 words). 7. Unique essay: “What woman in history would you converse with, and about what?” (Barnard, 250 words). will allow her to focus on academics and enjoy the holidays. She’s also heard that the Common App website can get slow around dead- lines. And because her grades and scores are strong, and she’s already asked two teachers for letters of recommendation, there’s no reason not to apply early. To her surprise, it takes Rachel more than a week to obtain all the data and organize these lists, and now she wishes she had started working on this during the last week of school. What Exactly Will Rachel Have to Write? Now Rachel goes through her col- leges’ essay prompts and groups similar essays together to come up with a list of what she has to write. Some colleges don’t require supple- mental essays at all: Mary Washington, NYU, Drew, Denison and Knox. She finds reassurance in the knowledge that if for some reason—say, a global pandemic— she cannot finish all of the supplemental essays, at least she can easily apply to five great schools by writing just one main essay. Finally, Rachel has a detailed list to work from. For similar categories of essays, Rachel plans to write one rough essay, then tweak it for different colleges. Brainstorming the Main Essay Topic Rachel tackles the main essay first. She enlists her friends and family to help her brainstorm topics for it. The result is a list of possible ideas: n The story of when Rachel and a friend got lost on a hike and how they got back to safety. n The family dogs Rachel has rescued/ adopted in different countries. n Homeschooling during the COVID- 19 pandemic. n How Rachel ended up backstage with Maroon Five. n Rachel’s lifelong passion for basket- ball. n Handling the loss of her grand- mother from overseas. She decides against the “getting lost” story, as it happened when she was 8; although if she could find a metaphoric connection with feeling lost and found when moving to different countries, it could work. Likewise, she was 10 years old when Maroon Five came to the Dominican Republic, where her dad was the cultural attaché. The story’s tone feels too “privileged,” with no real lesson learned; and colleges prefer more recent experiences anyway. Homeschooling during COVID-19? No; probably every teenager in the world UVA (Deadlines: Early Action (EA) Nov. 1) Common Application (CA) main essay, plus two supplements: one about community (from a choice of four prompts), and one for the College of Arts and Sciences about a favorite work of art, literature, etc. William& Mary (No EA; Regular Decision (RD) Jan. 1) CAmain essay, plus supplement about what makes you unique. George Mason (EA Nov. 1) CAmain essay, plus Honors College supplement about favorite literature. University of MaryWashington (EA Nov. 15) CAmain essay. University of Michigan (EA Nov. 1) CAmain essay, plus three supple- ments: Community, Activity, “Why Michigan?” NYU (RD Jan. 1) CAmain essay. Barnard (RD Jan. 1) CAmain essay, plus “Why Barnard?” and “Converse with a woman from history.” Drew (EA Dec. 15) CAmain essay. Denison (RD Jan. 15) CAmain essay. Knox (EA Dec. 1) CAmain essay.