Kate Sundquist 4 min read College Essays, Essay Tips

When Do College Essay Prompts Come Out?

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If you’re gearing up for the 2019-2020 college admissions cycle, you may be wondering when you’ll have access to complete college applications. While filling out information like activities and honors may be fairly standard, college essay prompts change from year to year and many students are anxious to get a start on them during the summer months.


In this post, we’ll discuss when you can expect college essay prompts to be released and how you can best prepare for them.


When Are Prompts for the Common App, Universal App, and Coalition App Released?


We have good news for you—the essay prompts for these applications, which will likely account for the bulk of your college applications, have already been released.


Common App


In January, the Common Application announced that the prompts for the 2019-2020 application cycle would remain the same as they were the prior year. This is not unusual. Typically the Common App tends to change up their prompts only every couple of years, and even then it is usually only one or two of the seven prompts that change. For our top tips on tackling these essay prompts, don’t miss our post How to Write the Common Application Essays 2019-2020 (With Examples).


Coalition App


The Coalition Application also released their prompts earlier this year. They can be found on the Coalition Application Essay Prompts page, and they consist of five choices. Like the on Common Application, one of the essay prompts provides students the chance to write about the topic of their choice. Don’t miss our post How to Write the Coalition Application Essays 2019-2020 to learn more about them.


Universal College App


The Universal College Application prompts are a little different in nature than those requested by the Common App or Coalition App, but they still provide applicants with the chance to write about essentially anything they want. You can read more about them on the Universal College Application Essay Instructions page.


When Will Supplemental College Essay Prompts Be Released?


In addition to the essays required for the Common App, Coalition App, or Universal App, many colleges also require a supplemental essay. These supplements range in how extensive they are, from Harvard’s optional single essay to Princeton’s four required supplements, which in the past have asked students to discuss their activities, their summer pursuits, answer a number of short questions, and write an additional 500 word essay.


Typically these supplements are released at some point during the summer. You can expect all supplements to be released by September 1st, but most will come out in July and August. Once you have finalized your college list, you should check the application websites weekly to see if supplemental prompts have been published.


Another easy way to track supplemental essay releases is to sign up for updates from CollegeVine. CollegeVine’s Essay Prompt Database contains supplemental essays for the 100 top colleges along with tips for how to tackle each. You can sign up for updates to receive the latest news once supplements are out.

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3 Ways Prepare for College Essays Now


Even though you’re still waiting for more college essay prompts to be released, you can still get started with your preparation process.


1. Brainstorm


Most college essays are broad enough that you can shape the most intriguing parts of your personal story to fit at least one prompt. Get started by creating a list of topics that inspires you to write. These could be things about yourself, personal experiences, movie quotes, books, or even places that inspire you. Keep a running of list of these sources of inspiration so that you can refer back to it later in the writing process.


2. Know What a Good Essay Contains


Consider the intention behind a college essay. The admissions committee wants to learn more about you, like who you really are and what makes you tick. Keep this idea central as you prepare for college essays. At CollegeVine, we know that a solid response to a college essay question addresses these Core Four questions:


  • “Who Am I?”
  • “Why Am I Here?”
  • “What is Unique About Me?”
  • “What Matters to Me?”


3. Start Writing


Just because the supplements aren’t out yet doesn’t mean you can’t get started on the essays prompts provided on the Common App, Coalition App, or Universal App. Summer is a great time to start these because you probably have fewer commitments and more time to write freely.


Also, don’t be discouraged if your essay doesn’t seem to flow at first. This is why you are starting early, and starting over at this point is no skin off your back. Try a few approaches and when one of them seems to click, run with it.


How CollegeVine Can Help


If you need more help with college essays, check out CollegeVine’s College Essay Programs. Our Essay Specialist Program pairs you 1-on-1 with your very own expert essay consultant who will work with you on your essays through every phase of the process: brainstorming, drafting, editing, and putting together a final draft. Or, for students who just need an extra set of discerning eyes, consider our Rapid Essay Review through which a team of essay consultants will be able to provide comprehensive revisions, edits, and comments and have your essay returned to you via email within a time frame that you specify.


For more help at every step along the path to college applications, consider the benefits of the CollegeVine Applications program, which exists to help you optimize your application, ensuring that you are supported through every step of this process. You can trust us to help you gain the tools you’ll need to attend your dream school.

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Kate Sundquist
Senior Blogger at CollegeVine
Short bio
Kate Koch-Sundquist is a graduate of Pomona College where she studied sociology, psychology, and writing before going on to receive an M.Ed. from Lesley University. After a few forays into living abroad and afloat (sometimes at the same time), she now makes her home north of Boston where she works as a content writer and, with her husband, raises two young sons who both inspire her and challenge her on a daily basis.