How to Write a Common App Essay

How to Write a Common App Essay

When it comes to how to write a Common App essay, it is very important to keep some things in mind: the counselors spend less than 15 minutes reading the application. Make the most of that time by adding new context to the information you already have. Avoid polarizing topics, and highlight a moment in your life. You should also avoid repeating information from other parts of your application. For more tips on how to write a Common App essay, check out our guide to writing a stellar essay.

Avoid polarizing topics

One of the most important rules of Common App essays is to avoid controversial or polarizing topics. While political activism is a good life practice, it is not a topic that works well in the Common App essay. You do not want your essay to come off as a manifesto, and your admissions officers are not partisans. As such, they do not want to read something that may make them uncomfortable.

Highlight a moment in your life

When writing a Common App essay, you may want to include a personal story from your life to illustrate your goals and maturity. A poignant moment can help you show your critical appraisal of your goals and character. For example, if you were a member of a Model Congress club, or you’ve worked with a local politician to start a recycling program, you could highlight a time when you helped those around you. If you were passionate about public advocacy, you could discuss how you were able to work with the government to pass laws, or you could even fantasize about solving waste management issues.

Share a personal story

There are many ways to get creative with the Common Application essay. If you are wondering how to write a personal story, start by thinking small. Think about a memory or event from your life that was meaningful to you. Now, ask yourself if the story is representative of the larger qualities of your character. The perfect essay topic will highlight your passions, ambitions, and personality. It should be a reflection of yourself.

Don’t repeat information from other parts of your application

Don’t repeat information from other parts of the Common App essay. Admissions officers will spend a maximum of 15 minutes reviewing applications, so you want to make the most of this limited time. While you can discuss the same activities, events, and places you’ve already listed, you should not write about the same information twice. You should share information that is new to your reader or enhance a previous piece of information.

Avoid rehashing your resume

The most obvious rule to follow when writing a Common App essay is to avoid rehashing your resume. The essay is not the place to highlight all of the content that you have listed on your resume. Instead, it’s the perfect opportunity to showcase your personality and softer skills. While your resume will have plenty of places to be presented in your application, you should avoid rehashing your resume in your Common App essay.


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