5 Reasons Why You Should Start Writing Your College Essays Now

It's the last summer before your senior year of High School. You know you've got to make the most of it. Next summer you'll be headed off to college and saying good bye to friends. The summer after that you'll probably be working part time, at an internship, or just desperately avoiding high school classmates. This is the last summer before college applications take over your life.

Actually, I'm here to tell you that you need to start working on your college essays now.

A lot of people are going to fight me on this one, because summer is summer and you want to have your fun. But believe me, if you don't want to be strung out from all the stress next year, you will take my advice. Here are five reasons why you should start writing your college essay this summer.

1- Essays take time. No one (well relatively no one) can write a perfect essay on the first try-- especially not a college essay. When it comes to in-class essays, you know what the expectations are. The rules are pretty well defined. You know what they're looking for. This type of essay is a story. Every word counts. Every word has to have meaning. It's not just what you say, but how you say it. I wrote 40 drafts of my college essay before I was happy with it. This is not something you can give yourself 2 weeks to do, from start to finish. Even coming up with an idea can take weeks and when you start down on it, you may discover you need a new one. If you start this summer, you have plenty of time to work on it, think about it, research, look at essay tips, and go over it with friends and teachers.

2- You may discover that there are more essays to write than expected. Some people go into the application process thinking that there's only one essay. And in that, you would be very wrong.

Some people think they only need to do one essay because some schools share the same application-- the best example of this is the Common App, an application used by many colleges. You tell the Common App which schools you want to apply for from a list of participating colleges, and they pull the appropriate Common App questions and form fields for you to fill in. The Common App includes an essay portion, with 5-6 essay topics as well as a free choice, so that you can pick your own topic or use one of their prompts as a spring board. This same essay will be sent to all Common App schools that request it.

However, many schools do not use the Common App, and have their own essays and questions they want answered. Those that are on Common App almost always have a supplement, specific to their school, which will ask more university-specific questions, like if you are eligible for Legacy, but will also often have a second essay portion or additional materials section. It says optional, but always do this section if it is available to you. It will put you on par with every other student who took the time to do this "extra" section. Although sometimes this section will allow you to send in non-essay pieces (like videos, art pieces, audio recordings, scrapbooks, etc.) you may find that writing another essay is the most advantageous for you, if you don't think your personality or ability translates well into other mediums.

Some schools may ask you to write multiple essays as a requirement, others won't require any essays at all, and still others will only have you do a few short answer questions to be answered in 3 paragraphs or fewer. Check out your schools and see what their apps look like!

3- If you wait for school to start, you'll find that school has started. Life doesn't stop just so you can work on your college application. You will still have homework, projects, tests, sports/clubs, and all kinds of other things to worry about. A lot of my friends saw the school year as "work time" and summer as "play time" and left starting their essays to after homework and projects and tests started mounting. Your college app will always take a back seat to things with more immediate deadlines-- until the application deadline becomes immediate! Start working on your essay when there's still enough time for you to dedicate to it.

4- You give yourself options if your essay is done early. If your essays are out of the way early, you then have the option of applying early action or early decision to some schools. If you get in you no longer have to stress about getting in, and even if you get deferred, there's still round two! Applying early gives you a chance to send additional materials, even if you are deferred. I applied early decision, and let me tell you, my year was much less stressful than everyone else's since I got in early. When everyone was at each other's throats as the rejections and acceptances start rolling in, it was so nice to not be caught in the fray.

5- In the summer, there's plenty of time to relax between sometimes-stressful brainstorms and writing sessions. You can visit the pool, go on a trip, hang out, whatever. It's nice to be able to take a breather from college stuff. You won't really get that opportunity going into senior year. You'll find that you're more creative, more focused, and more effective if you write when you're not stressed all the time. You're also freer from the ideas and biases of other people affecting how you think about your essay.

Have more questions on college? Send them my way, either by comment or email at samantha.harper.y@gmail.com and don't forget to enter for your chance to win a fantastic laundry solution-- because whether you're in college or at home, you shouldn't be worrying about laundry when life is happening!

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5 Inspirations: Cuteness and Displays!

This is where I talk about and show you some things that mean a lot to me and/or get my imagination going! Yes, this is an eye-candy post!

Hanging Painted Mason Jars 
This was part of a display at Anthropologie. I don't buy things there but I really love looking at the things there. They're great inspiration. This would be great for a photoshoot set. Mason jars + watered down paint + hanging apparatus-- so pretty!

Childhood nostalgia is something I'm pretty big on-- and who didn't love a good game of Candyland? You didn't even need numbers to play this game, so it was particularly awesome-- and I know I'm not the only kid who imagined themselves having amazing adventures in Candyland. Candyland is so brilliant!

 Fabric Cacti for the Home
More things at Anthropologie! Fabric Cacti in a sweet tablescape! Cute! Simple! Kitschy!

Chicken Planner
This is my planner-- I bought it at a Korean stationery store for about $3. I think cute chickens are the best! Organization is best when form meets function, and man, do I love my little Chicken planner!

Candy Display
This is a display at the Juicy Couture-- not a store that's quite my style, but I love beautiful jars and candy so how could I not love this display? Truth be told, I'd love to design store window displays!

I take most of my photos on my iphone-- but I'd love to get a nice SLR someday (when I can afford it). These photos are on my instagram account as well. You can follow me on instagram: my username is harperdearest.
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DIY: Re-Style a Bulletin Board!

 Check out the pretty fabric-covered bulletin board I made! I love bulletin boards because I'm a visual person-- and I have a tendency to be a piler. A piler is someone who saves stuff they like into piles-- only to have them buried until the next clean-out day. Bulletin boards are a great solution for pilers because it keeps things in sight and off your horizontal surfaces--not to mention my love affair with things that help me utilize vertical space.

Here's the before picture:

This bulletin board was my dad's in college. It's a pressed fiber board, which works like cork, but isn't actually cork. It had a wood frame and a pretty whack red fabric inside. It was a lame and outdated as the word "whack" being used in reference to design. Obviously I had to do something about this.

Here's how I did it

Not gonna lie, I got some really great help from my dad, who let me work in his workshop and use his tools. The majority of this project doesn't really take any heavy duty equipment, but it felt silly not to take advantage of the tools my dad had-- specifically the pneumatic nail gun. You can probably use a regular hammer and nails or a good staple gun for my pneumatic bit.

Anyway here's what you need!

  • Bulletin Board -- take it apart from the frame
  • newspaper
  • spray primer
  • spray paint
  • pretty fabric
  • scissors (not pictured)
  • spray adhesive (not pictured)
  • staple gun w/ staples (not pictured)
  • hammer (not pictured)
  • pneumatic nail gun and nails (not pictured)

Note - for nails and staples, be sure to use an appropriate size! You want to make a pretty board, not a torture device.

These are the spray paints and primers I used. I decided to paint the frame, but you don't have to-- nor do you have to use spray paint! make sure you read all the instructions and use this stuff only in a well-ventilated area.

 I sprayed the primer first-- that's why it's primer. you have to make sure to coat everything really well. Get the sides too! Use short, one directional strokes. Go back and forth, but release the spray button when switching directions-- otherwise, the spots you switch directions at will get double spray and be too wet and tacky!

While that's drying, you can work on your board!

Lay out your fabric. Cut out the fabric to size.

Spray the bulletin board with spray adhesive. This will help you keep the fabric intact. Smooth out any wrinkles in your fabric! Flip your board over to begin further securing the fabric.

 I left the red fabric on because the pressed fibers are not quite as solid as cork and I didn't want to break the board in my attempts to get the fabric off-- now the red is on the back of my board.

Bust out your staple gun! Start at a corner, then do the middle of a side and the other corner. Then work on the middle. And just keep going! Afterwards, use a hammer to really secure the staples and get them flush with the board's surface.

hammer time!

So now that that's done, let's get back to the frame. Or maybe a TV/writing break if your primer is still drying.

Now it's time to spray the color! Once again, read all the instructions, make sure you use the technique mentioned previously, and cover everything. I put these wood blocks under neath the frame to make it easier to spray the sides. Once again, wait for this to dry and do a few coats.

I didn't get photos of this last step, but basically I popped board into the frame and took the nail gun and diagonally nailed the board to the frame. You may not have to do this depending on your frame, but since mine was literally just a wooden rectangle, this was the only way to secure it in there.

and done!

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