Most college applications require writing - either writing essays or answering questions. It is important to use writing opportunities to tell your colleges things about you that they won't find elsewhere in the applicaton.
University of California Personal Insight Questions:
The University of California provides eight Personal Insight Questions and asks that applicants answer four of them. You'll find more information about what the PIQs are here: https://admission.universityofcalifornia.edu/how-to-apply/applying-as-a-freshman/personal-insight-questions.html
There are many places students can go for advice about answering the PIQs but the guidance provided in the link above is a great place to start.
Another highly recommended resource is Ethan Sawyer - The College Essay Guy. Here's his take on the PIQs: https://www.collegeessayguy.com/uc-essays.
Common Application Essays
The Common Application offers seven essay prompts and asks students to pick one and write and essay of no more than 650 words.
Here are the Common Application Essay Prompts for 2020-2021: https://www.commonapp.org/apply/essay-prompts.
Again, there are many resources available to help students who need guidance in writng their Common Application essays. Subscribe to their YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/user/CommonAppMedia
Here is some advice from Ethan Sawyer on writing Essays for the Common App: https://www.collegeessayguy.com/blog/common-app-essay-prompts.
Many college also require "Supplemental Essays" or additional questions. Often the question is regarding why a student wants to attend that college and what they hope to take advantage of while there. These supplements are important! These essays should be a well-researched love letter to the college. Tell them what you love about the school - but not something shallow ("I want to go to a school with a good football team.") It should be something specific to the school, meaning the student needs to do the research - dig in to the school's website and understand the academic offerings that are available and make a strong case why they are a great fit and would be an asset to the college.
Previous Essay Presentations:
Essay Presentation for Juniors - May, 2019 by Linda Dowley
Essay Presentation by Southern Methodist University Admissions Representative, Rick Diaz