Q:

I want to start applying to colleges. Is it possible to get applications to most colleges now? -- Eager to Start

A:

Many colleges do not make their applications available until late in the summer. A good first step is to go online now to the Common Application website (www.commonapp.org) to see if any of the schools where you are planning to apply will accept the Common Application, which is online Aug. 1. More than 500 colleges and universities accept this application. Using the Common Application can really cut down on the number of applications that you will need to complete.

As soon as you can get the Common Application, you can begin to work on the essays. You will only write on one of the essay choices, and the limit is 650 words. Be aware, however, that some colleges may want you to write additional essays. And some colleges will only require applicants to answer their essay questions. Do find out what essays you will need to write before you begin writing any.

According to Dr. Rachelle Wolosoff of CollegeSearchExpert.com, you can start brainstorming ideas for the Common Application essay as well as the supplemental essays, even if they are not out yet. She says that one of the common essays for most colleges is: Why XYZ college? Why are you choosing us?

Here are the 2015-2016 Common Application essay prompts. New language appears in italics:

1. Some students have a background, identity, interest or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.

2. The lessons we take from failure can be fundamental to later success. Recount an incident or time when you experienced failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience?

3. Reflect on a time when you challenged a belief or idea. What prompted you to act? Would you make the same decision again?

4. Describe a problem you've solved or a problem you'd like to solve. It can be an intellectual challenge, a research query, an ethical dilemma -- anything that is of personal importance, no matter the scale. Explain its significance to you and what steps you took or could be taken to identify a solution.

5. Discuss an accomplishment or event, formal or informal, that marked your transition from childhood to adulthood within your culture, community or family.