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Teacher Tips and Answers

Warm-Up for College-Entrance Writing

Heading from high school to an even higher education can be a daunting prospect. You'll go from being the oldest and most experienced student to the youngest and least experienced. You'll also need to find the right school to help you achieve your goals. Finding that school—and making sure that school finds you—is a process.

One key part of the process is the college application. You'll provide all kinds of information about yourself, including your high school transcripts, standardized test scores, letters of recommendation, and intended field of study. On most applications, you'll be asked to write one or more essays focusing on some aspect of your life or education and how it relates to your goals. Providing an on-target response begins with understanding the college-entrance prompt.

What Is a College-Entrance Prompt?

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Writing Literary Analysis
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A college-entrance prompt is a brief set of instructions telling you what to write about on a college application. To analyze a prompt, you can use the PAST questions:

  • Purpose: Why am I writing? (to explain, to define, to narrate, to show?)
  • Audience: Who will read this? (admissions officers, fellow freshmen, college community?)
  • Subject: What am I writing about? (leadership, community service, education, vision?)
  • Type: What form should my writing take? (personal essay, biographical essay, reflection?)

In this unit, you'll learn to use the PAST mnemonic to analyze any college-entrance prompt or any other writing assignment you receive. First, though, you should warm up your thinking by reflecting on your goals after high school.

Thinking About the Past and Future

Before you start applying to schools, you should think about your past and future. A reflection chart can help you track how you are changing over time.

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