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  • Writer's pictureCassandra Hsiao

New Year, New (Understanding of) Me



When is the best time to start college apps? 


This is one of the most common questions that I get. My answer? Second semester junior year, aka… now. 


As we celebrate the new year, making new resolutions and goals, this is also the perfect time to do two things:


One, reflect on the past. The reason why colleges have these long applications with numerous supplements is so that they can understand what made you into who you are today. Think back to what you accomplished in the last year, and the years before. How did you get to those milestones? What were some of the challenges you overcame to get there? Why did you set those goals in the first place? Thinking about these questions are key to brainstorming not only your common app essay, but also how you’re going to present yourself in the rest of your supplements. 


Two, start scribbling nonsense down. See, I could’ve said “start writing your memories down” but I don’t want to place pressure on you… just get something on the page! Even if it’s nonsense. Because nonsense on the page is more of a starting place than a blank page. Get into the practice of freewriting every day for 5 minutes. Freewriting is the practice of writing whatever comes to mind without stopping—don’t let your pen ever leave the page! 


We have to write the nonsense in order to get to the good stuff. Lin-Manuel Miranda once told me: “Keep writing. Don’t stop writing. … When you start writing, you’re turning on a faucet and when you turn on a faucet, the water’s brown and it’s full of whatever’s just been in there, clogged up and waiting to come out. Then you just keep writing and writing until the water’s clear and that’s when you find your own voice.”


Believe it or not, I had a good time writing college apps. Don't get me wrong, it was definitely stressful at times, but looking back on that season, it was a time where I could really dive deep into my origin story and why I became who I am today. It is a platform to handwrite your dreams and goals for the future. Perhaps for many of you, like me, it’s the first time we really get to sit down and be thoughtful about the next 5-10 years of our lives.


It is not easy to land on an idea or story to “capture” who you are… which is why you MUST start early. I went through 5-10 drafts before my final version, starting spring of my junior year. 


This is why I am offering a spring class on college essay writing starting in February. Spots are going quickly, sign up here!

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