College App Essays: Short Answer


College App Essays: Short Answer for Summer 2023

Teacher: Maya Inspektor

Email: minspektor@aphomeschoolers.com

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This workshop will help students prepare answers to short answer college application questions, whether these are the supplemental essays required by most colleges in addition to the Common App or the short answer questions required by some colleges (such as the University of California system, MIT, Georgetown, and many religious colleges) instead of the Common App essay. The structure and content of these essays needs to be quite different from a traditional Common App essay. Dedicated students can emerge from this workshop with polished final drafts of all of the short answer questions required by their colleges! 

In this workshop, we will cover the following topics:

I hope you emerge from the workshop with polished essays ready to submit to colleges, as well as with the tools to write any other short-form essays the application process demands.  

Who should apply: Rising seniors who will be applying to college in the fall. You should have a pretty good idea of which colleges interest you when you take this workshop, because short answer questions are fairly college-specific. 

Workshop cost: $180


Frequently Asked Questions:

When can I register for this workshop? We should open registration for the 2023 workshop on February 1st, 2023. We plan to offer this workshop every summer, and registration will always open February 1st, with this course description updated in January. 

What time does this class meet? While this workshop is highly interactive, none of this interaction is live. Instead, students will read daily instructional messages and interact with classmates by responding to their essay drafts or instructional message responses. Instructors will provide extensive written feedback on each essay draft. Students should be prepared to complete work every weekday, but they do not need to be available at any particular time of day. 

Should I take the short answer workshop or the Common App workshop first? Mrs. Inspektor also offers a separate workshop focused on responding to the Common App prompts or similar long-form college essays. While we will talk briefly in this workshop about adapting short answer essays into Common App essays, many students take both workshops and want to know which one they should take first. The answer: it depends! 

I only want to take one workshop. Which one should I choose? If you are applying primarily to Common App schools, I suggest you take the Common App workshop instead of the short answer workshop, since the main 650-word essay is more difficult to write. On the other hand, if you are primarily focused on the University of California schools or another college that requires short answer responses instead of the Common App, I suggest taking this workshop.  

Can I take both workshops at the same time? While you can, I don't recommend this. It's much better to focus on one essay genre at a time. 

If I take both workshops, should I choose the same instructor for both? Yes, if possible! That way, your instructor will get to know you quite well during the course of the summer and can help you make all parts of your applications work together. (Mrs. Inspektor is the head instructor for all workshops, but the instructor you choose when you register-- either Mrs. Inspektor, Ms. Chan, or Ms. Pochily-- will be responding to all drafts of your work.)  

I want to apply to military academies. Which workshop should I choose? That's actually a tricky question. Military academies want to see focused responses more like "short answer" essay format, but they also expect a more complete narrative like a "Common App" essay. Either workshop should work well for you!

How do I know whether my first-choice schools require short answer responses? Many schools that accept the Common App also require short answer responses. You can find out what these are by searching for college names here: https://appsupport.commonapp.org/applicantsupport/s/writing-requirements.

If your first-choice school doesn't accept the Common App, you should research requirements on the college's website. For example, the University of California expects students to answer only short answer questions, and they don't use the Common App-- for the University of California personal insight questions, students must choose four out of eight prompts and write four 350-word responses to these prompts. MIT requires students to answer a series of short answer essay questions without the option to pick and choose.  Georgetown asks a series of questions, including short answer responses. Brigham Young University asks a series of mandatory short answer questions. Liberty University asks students to write two mandatory short answer essays about their faith

Do I have to fill out an application to join this workshop? No-- we aren't cruel enough to require an application essay to get into the application essay workshop. :) You register by submitting payment, no application needed.  

What if I don't know where I'm applying to college or what I want to study? I do recommend that you develop at least some sense of this before you enter the short essay workshop, because short answer essays are usually college-specific. However, if you add some colleges to your list after the workshop ends, I think you'll be able to apply skills you learn here (and even adapt essays you've already written) to other college applications. 

Can I take this workshop as practice even if I'm not applying to college yet? Perhaps you could, but I don't recommend it. We'll focus heavily on the specific demands of college application essays, so this isn't a general writing class. You certainly could use this class to work on a different kind of application essay, such as an application to a special high school program. 

I signed up for the workshop-- when will I hear from you? If you received an e-mail receipt from AP Homeschoolers, you're registered! I'll invite you to access the class website at least one week before the workshop begins, so mark your calendars. 

Can I sign up for more than one short answer workshop? Certainly! Most students find they can complete around 4-6 short answer essays during the course of this workshop, so if you have the time and means, you may want to sign up for more than one session so that you can finish all of your college essays. In particular, the UC essays are much more difficult to write than typical supplemental essay questions, so you may want to sign up for one session to work on UC essays only and one to work on supplemental Common App essays. 

I want to participate in the workshop, but I don't want my classmates to see my essays or personal information. Is this ok? Sure! You'll miss out on a bit of interaction this way, but you're welcome to submit your essays and personal details privately to your section teacher instead of posting them publicly on the class website. 

Can you get me into MIT? Unfortunately, I can't promise that your essay will achieve any particular result. College admissions depend on many factors, including luck. However, we can definitely help you present yourself in the best possible light, and past students have gotten into UC Berkeley, MIT, Harvard, Stanford, Princeton, and other top schools using essays written in my workshop! Sometimes they have even received personal e-mails from their admissions officers letting them know how much the admissions officers loved their essays. 

Who will be teaching my workshop? Mrs. Inspektor writes all of the instructional messages and teaches each workshop. Signing up for one of her co-teacher's sections simply means that her co-teacher will be writing detailed comments on your work (sometimes after discussing this work with Mrs. Inspektor); if you sign up for Mrs. Inspektor's section, she'll be the one commenting on your work. Mrs. Inspektor is happy to be available to all students, so you can always e-mail her if you want a second opinion on your work.

Can I participate if I'm not homeschooled? I'll provide some instruction specifically aimed at homeschooled students, but any students are welcome to participate. Many of my past students have not been homeschoolers. Feel free to invite your cousins and friends to join the workshop! 

What if I can't finish my essays in three weeks? If your essays aren't ready to go at the end of the workshop, we'll be happy to keep working with you via e-mail to polish them, though we don't promise you the detailed or rapid feedback we offer during the workshop. We can't promise unlimited feedback on additional short answer essays that you didn't start during in this workshop.

What if I miss part of the workshop? We understand that you have busy summer schedules! It's fine to miss part of the workshop-- you'll just need to catch up on what you missed later, and you may miss out on a bit of interaction with your classmates. It will be your responsibility to keep your instructor updated about your absence and to let your instructor know when you post late work. It's better to miss the end of a workshop than the beginning.

Help! My first-choice school hasn't posted its 2023-24 prompts yet! Most colleges and application systems don't change their prompts much from year to year. For example, MIT keeps its prompts roughly the same from year to year, and there's also a lot of overlap between MIT prompts and UC prompts. Once you learn how to write a "why us" essay for one college, you'll find it easy to write "why us" essays for other colleges. Don't worry-- your work here will still benefit you, even if you have to tweak your essays once you finalize your applications!  

Will you write my essays for me? Absolutely not! Your essays should be your own work-- and they should sound like you. I'm very proud of how different every essay that comes out of my workshop is, because each participant is different. We'll certainly help you shape and polish your essays, though, and we'll help you decide which aspects of your personality and experiences to showcase. 


These are the offered dates in 2023:

Workshop #1: Monday, May 22 - Friday, June 9

Drafts due: 
  • Sunday, May 28
  • Sunday, June 4
  • Sunday, June 11

Instructors responding to student work:

  • Maya Inspektor   This section of workshop #1 is now full
  • Odelia Chan  
  • Meredith Pochily  

Workshop #2: Monday, June 12 - Friday, June 30

Drafts due: 
  • Sunday, June 18
  • Sunday, June 25
  • Sunday, July 2

Instructors responding to student work:

  • Maya Inspektor   This section of workshop #2 is now full
  • Meredith Pochily 
  • [Odelia Chan will not be co-teaching this workshop session] 


Workshop #3: Monday, July 10 - Friday, July 28

Drafts due: 
  • Sunday, July 16
  • Sunday, July 23
  • Sunday, July 30

Instructors responding to student work:

  • Maya Inspektor  This section of Workshop #3 is now full
  • Odelia Chan
  • Meredith Pochily  


Workshop #4: Monday, July 31 - Friday, August 18

Drafts due: 

  • Sunday, August 6
  • Sunday, August 13
  • Sunday, August 20

Instructors responding to student work:

  • Maya Inspektor This section of workshop #4 is now full 
  • Odelia Chan  
  • Meredith Pochily 

Note: Maya Inspektor will write all of the daily instructional messages, craft the workshop exercises, and oversee the progress of all students. However, she will only directly comment on the essays for students registered to her section of the workshop; her co-teachers will directly comment on writing from students signed up to their sections. You will choose which instructor will comment on your work when you register; for example, registering for "Workshop #4: Chan" will register you to Ms. Chan's section of the the August workshop, which means that Ms. Chan will comment on your work. When one teacher's section fills up, that option will disappear from the online store. We'll also try to note here when sections fill up.


How to register:

To register, simply submit payment for the correct workshop via the AP Homeschoolers website store. I'll contact all registered participants one week before each workshop starts. As each section fills up, the option to pay for admission to this workshop will disappear from the online store, and I'll try to update this page as well.

You can read the refund policy for summer workshops here: http://www.aphomeschoolers.com/refunds.shtml 


Maya Inspektor has almost two decades of experience teaching AP English Language and AP English Literature via PA Homeschoolers. As a teacher, her passion and strength lies in helping students bring out their own writing voices and work through the process of revision. She has informally helped students with admissions essay writing for years, and she has offered these workshops since the summer of 2016. If you have any further questions or would like to see sample essay feedback (or guidance about choosing one of my co-teachers), don't hesitate to e-mail minspektor@aphomeschoolers.com. (If you don't hear from me within three business days, try e-mailing minspektor@gmail.com and yiyehtov@gmail.com in case your e-mail is snagged in my spam filter.)

Odelia Chan is the current co-teacher for Mrs. Inspektor's AP English classes as well as a published novelist, freelance writer, and private tutor. She graduated summa cum laude from Waldorf University, majoring in Communications. She loves guiding students toward becoming excellent writers, and she is known for her prompt and perceptive responses to student essays. She is especially talented at helping students bring out their authentic voice and argument in their essays. 

Meredith Pochily co-taught AP English Language with Mrs. Inspektor for two years. She graduated summa cum laude from George Washington University, where she majored in International Affairs, and later earned her Master of Social Work degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. After college, she worked with an organization supporting state child welfare agencies, where she managed publications and oversaw the editorial services team. In addition, Ms. Pochily has worked extensively as an English tutor with students of all ages. She is the go-to editor among friends and colleagues, regularly reviewing their papers, essays, and cover letters. She currently works as an outpatient therapist and leads therapeutic and expressive writing groups in addition to providing one-on-one therapy. 

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