College App Essays: Short Answer


College App Essays: Short Answer for Summer 2024

Teacher: Maya Inspektor

Email: minspektor@gmail.com

You are not currently logged in.

You must log-in/sign-up before you can register for a course.

Note: Mrs. Inspektor's section of each workshop is now full, but limited space remains in Ms. Pochily's sections! 

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 personal statement 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 personal statement. 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:

  • RESEARCH: Which questions will you need to answer? We will help you develop a complete list of the short answer questions you will need to answer, and we'll help you choose questions strategically so that you present a complete and compelling picture of yourself to colleges (and so that you minimize the number of different essays you need to write overall).
  • GENRE: What are the specific demands of the different kinds of short answer questions? We'll help you with all genres of short answer responses, from the personal questions asked by UC prompts, to the "explain why you chose us" questions asked by many colleges in supplement to the Common App, to the quirky supplemental questions asked by the University of Chicago and many other colleges. 
  • STYLE: How can you convey your points persuasively and concisely? What level of detail should you include, and to what extent can you be creative in short answer responses? Should you include dramatic hooks or fully-described scenes?
  • PERSONA: How do you present yourself honestly but positively to colleges? We'll help you present an authentic picture of yourself that still casts you in the most appealing light possible.

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: $200


Frequently Asked Questions:

When can I register for this workshop? We should open registration on February 1st, 2024. 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. 

How many short-answer responses can I finish in this workshop? We encourage students to try to finish at least seven supplemental essay responses or all four UC essay responses. However, the number of essays you finish is really up to you and the amount of effort you are willing to put into the workshop. We'll give you feedback on as many as you can finish!

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! 

  • If you plan to work on the University of California essays (or other stand-alone short answer essays, such as the MIT prompts) in the short essay workshop, I suggest taking the short essay workshop first. This is because you will explore multiple topics as you write the UC essays, each of which might turn into a strong Common App essay, so the short answer workshop will make you more prepared to write a strong Common App essay. 
  • If you plan to primarily apply to Common App schools and want to work on supplemental essays in the short essay workshop, I suggest taking the Common App workshop first. That way, you can write your supplemental essays with your Common App essay focus in mind, so that you complement that essay instead of repeating details. 

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 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 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 the 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 similar 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. :) All students are welcome to register by submitting payment.  

What if I don't know where I'm applying to college or what I want to major in? I do recommend that you develop at least some sense of this before you join the workshop, as most short-answer responses are college-specific.

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 approximately one week before the workshop begins, so mark your calendars. 

Can I sign up for more than one short answer workshop? Certainly! For example, you could plan to work on your UC essays in one workshop and then your Common App supplemental essays in a second workshop.

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 via e-mail 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, I can definitely help you present yourself in the best possible light, and past students have gotten into UC Berkeley, MIT, Harvard, Princeton, U Chicago, Oxford, Wheaton, 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? I (Mrs. Inspektor) write all of the instructional messages and oversee each workshop, so I'll be your teacher no matter what. Signing up for one of my co-teacher's sections simply means that my co-teacher will be the one giving you detailed personal feedback on your work (sometimes after discussing your essay with me). I'm happy to be available to all students, so you can always e-mail me 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. 

What if I can't finish my essay 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 it into a final draft, though we don't promise you the detailed or rapid feedback we offer during the 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 2024:

Workshop #1: Monday, May 20 - Friday, June 7

Drafts due: 
  • Sunday, May 26
  • Sunday, June 2
  • Sunday, June 9

Instructors responding to student work:

  • Maya Inspektor *FULL*
  • Meredith Pochily  

Workshop #2: Monday, June 10 - Friday, June 29

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

Instructors responding to student work:

  • Maya Inspektor *FULL*
  • Meredith Pochily  

Workshop #3: Monday, July 15 - Friday, August 2

Drafts due: 
  • Sunday, July 21
  • Sunday, July 28
  • Sunday, August 4

Instructors responding to student work:

  • Maya Inspektor *FULL*
  • Meredith Pochily  

Workshop #4: Monday, August 5 - Friday, August 30

Note: While instruction in this workshop will begin on August 5th, this workshop will have a one-week break in the middle from August 11 to 17, with the first draft due after that brief break. During this break, Mrs. Inspektor will be out of communication. If a student will miss the first week of class and plans to catch up in the break week, I recommend that this student sign up for Ms. Pochily's section. 

Drafts due: 

  • Sunday, August 18
  • Sunday, August 25
  • Sunday, September 1st

Instructors responding to student work:

  • Maya Inspektor *FULL*
  • 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: Pochily" will register you to Ms. Pochily's section of the the August workshop, which means that Ms. Pochily 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 at least 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: https://classes.aphomeschoolers.com/pages/refunds/ 



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, don't hesitate to e-mail minspektor@gmail.com.)

Meredith Pochily has co-taught the summer essay workshops with Mrs. Inspektor for the last several years. In the past, she co-taught AP English Language, as well, and she has worked extensively as an English tutor with students of all ages. She graduated summa cum laude from George Washington University and later earned her Master of Social Work degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Ms. Pochily recently opened a private therapy practice where she provides outpatient therapy to teens and adults. Whether through therapy or writing, she loves helping others express themselves and finds this to be one of the most rewarding parts of these essay workshops.


Click here to read class reviews for this class (or post your own review)