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How To Write A Common App Essay

How to Write a Common App Essay

Most colleges are keen on giving admission to those students who are articulate, curious, persistent, and self-aware. The common app essay is a great opportunity for you to showcase these personality traits.

The topics usually chosen for the common application essay are designed such that the essay you write reveals a story from your life. Some examples of common app essay topics are;

  • How did failing help you learn a lesson? Write an essay detailing your experiences and your learning.

  • Write an essay that reflects your talents, background, interest, or identity.

  • Write an essay when you made a deliberate attempt to break convention. What prompted this action and what did you learn?

  • Write a story from your life when you believe you made that transition from childhood to adulthood. How did this change your perception to everything and everyone around you?

If you notice all these topics are very personal and compel you to dig deep into your life experiences and write a story that had an impact on you.

This article gives you some tips on how to write a common app essay. There are many things to keep in mind while writing your common app essay and some of them are mentioned in a little bit of detail here.

Keep the essay at a personal level and think small

A common mistake committed by a lot of students is to fill a 650-700-word essay with so many details from their lives that an admission officer will be leave befuddled about who you truly are. Start with thinking small. Find that event or story in your life that means something to you.

It could be a vacation with your family that you thoroughly enjoyed; it could be how as a family you adopted a dog and how his habits and lovable nature changed the way your family functioned, and more. Avoid generalized essays that talk grandiosely of how important it is for families to go on vacations together or how important it is for people to have pets to truly understand how beautiful life can be. Instead keep your essay personal and close to your heart.

Avoid using clichés

Clichés should be avoided in common app essays as they tend to put a stop to your own creative writing capabilities. Moreover, admission essay readers are known to find clichés unappealing. So avoid the following:

  • Beat around the bush

  • Trip down memory lane

  • Get our goats

  • Nose to the grindstone

  • Think out of the box

  • Makes your blood boil

  • Raining cats and dogs

  • Lasted an eternity

Instead, dip deep into your creative capabilities and use your own words as much as possible. This also makes the essay very personal which is a key element in common app essays.

Don't keep editing in the middle of your writing

Finish what you want to write and then go back, read, and edit your essay. The problem with editing as you are writing, is that your mind is jumping from one idea to another without substantially concretizing anything. We also expect pure brilliance in our writing from the first time itself which is quite an imprudent expectation.

Even the best of writers have to do a couple of revisions before they can produce a great piece of writing. So, complete your writing first; then revise and edit as often as you want till you believe that you have created the perfect common app essay that has little or no chance of getting rejected.

Explain your experiences in detail and not in generalized sentences

Let us look at the following two sentences:

  • At the adventure camp, our daily activity included fishing and then cooking the fish we caught.

  • Our daily (which soon became our favorite) activities at the adventure camp included catching salmon at Lake Ontario, making a fabulous dinner with our catch using spices from a local farm and enjoying the delicious meal as a group in front of a campfire every evening.

In both sentences, the reader is clear that the writer participated in fishing and cooking activities in the adventure. However, in the second sentence, the reader gets a clear picture of the writer's spirit of adventure, his or her joy in working in a team, and that he or she learned about spices by regularly visiting the local farms to pick up spices.

So, the beauty of a story lies in its details. Don't hesitate to explain your experiences including the seemingly small details. These details are reflective of your true personality which is what the common app essay is expected to present to the admission officer.

Create your own brand

Your essay should have a branding thread running across it. It should create an image in the mind of the reader as to who you really are. Get down to specifics. Stick to one story and talk in great detail about it so that the admission officer will be able to recall you as that girl who saved her dog's life or that boy who got lost in an adventure camp in the middle of a forest and found his way back home or that boy who chose to apprentice under a trapeze artist instead of waiting at a burger joint in his summer vacation. Your story should burn these details into the head of the admission officer like how data is burned onto a non-rewriteable DVD! This will make you a brand!

Final Notes

I would like to summarize the tips how to write a common app essay as follows:

  • Keep it small and very personal

  • Fill in ample detailing

  • Avoid clichés and use your own words

  • Create your brand while burning images onto the reader's head

  • First, write the essay fully, and then only edit

Even after the above useful tips or for other reasons, if you still cannot write your common app essay, contact Prescott Papers, and our experts will help you do the needful.

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