Common Application Essay Writing Tips

The essay is your chance to tell the admissions officer a story about yourself – the kind of person you are, your passions, the experiences that have really transformed you, or anything else that you feel is integral to who you are. This is something that your grades and extracurriculars cannot narrate. It is also your chance to stand out – to describe the values and experiences that you would bring to the college community – from the thousands of applications that an admissions officer has to evaluate.

Here are some tips to keep in mind:

1.Don’t paint your life as the climax of an epic story. When students are faced with the task of choosing a topic for the common application essay, we hear concerns such as “Nothing big has ever happened to me” or “I don’t know what my passion is.” Admissions officers aren’t expecting a dramatic story but are looking for ordinary moments or life experiences that speak about things you care about.

2.Make sure you sound like yourself. Admissions officers just want to learn about you in your own voice. They want to understand who you are and what you will bring to their campus. They are looking for authenticity and will be able to tell if you have tried to use complex language that is not your genuine voice. A weak writer can make the most dramatic topic a bore and a good writer can make any topic interesting. Your voice is the most important.

3.Ensure that your experiences conclude with a reflection or projection of what you have learned and how you plan to apply this going forward. It is important to link the experiences or moments you speak about to how they have shaped you and how you plan on using these skills or learnings on campus.

4.When choosing a topic, try and avoid clichés. For example, the big tryout, the moment that changed your life forever, or overcoming shyness or fear of public speaking. If this is your story, you need to reflect on it in a unique way and make it fresh to someone who has seen the topic innumerable times before. A shy student who, upon giving a speech at school, realized that public speaking isn’t actually scary, is a common story. A shy student, who spontaneously took charge during a fire at school and escorted the youngest children to safety, and who then became the school representative and worked with authorities to ensure emergency preparedness for the school, is a story not just about overcoming shyness but about showing the student developing in other ways.

For some more useful essay writing tips, we encourage you to watch this video.

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