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Common Application Personal Essay Samples

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With the 2017-2018 application cycle soon to be underway, the essay team here at CollegeVine has decided to share some of our best tips and strategies on how to write the all-important Common App essays. This year, The Common Application has announced various revisions and additions to its essay prompts. In total, three of the original five prompts have been revised, and two entirely new prompts have been added.

 

In this blog post, we’ll provide advice on how to break down these prompts, organize your thoughts, and craft a strong, meaningful response that will make admissions committees take notice.

 

Overview of the Common App

The Common App essay is the best way for admissions committees to get to you know you. While SAT scores, your past course load, and your grades provide a quantitative picture of you as a student, the Common App essay offers adcoms a refreshing glimpse into your identity and personality. For this reason, try to treat the essay as an opportunity to tell colleges why you are unique and/or what matters to you.

 

Since your Common App essay will be seen by numerous colleges, you will want to paint a portrait of yourself that is accessible to a breadth of institutions and admissions officers (for example, if you are only applying to engineering programs at some schools, don’t focus your Common App on STEM at the expense of your other applications — save that for your supplemental essays).

 

In short, be open and willing to write about a topic you love, whether it is sports, music, politics, food, or watching movies. The Common App essay is more of a conversation than a job interview.

Strategy for Writing the Common App 2017-2018 Essays

Because the Common App essay is 650 words long and includes minimal formal directions, organizing a response can seem daunting. Fortunately, at CollegeVine, we have developed a simple approach to formulating strong, unique responses.

 

This section outlines how to: 1) Brainstorm, 2) Organize, and 3) Write a Common App essay.

 

Brainstorm

Before reading the Common App prompts, brainstorming is a critical exercise to develop high-level ideas. One way to construct a high-level idea would be to delve into a passion and focus on how you interact with the concept or activity. For example, using “creative writing” as a high-level idea, one could stress their love of world-building, conveying complex emotions, and depicting character interactions, emphasizing how writing stems from real-life experiences.

 

A different idea that doesn’t involve an extracurricular activity would be to discuss how your personality has developed in relation to your family; maybe one sibling is hot-headed, the other quiet, and you’re in the middle as the voice of reason (or maybe you’re the hot-head). These are simply two examples of infinitely many ideas you may come up with.

 

To begin developing your own high-level ideas, you should address these Core Four questions that all good Common App essays should answer:

 

  1. “Who Am I?”
  2. “Why Am I Here?”
  3. “What is Unique About Me?”
  4. “What Matters to Me?”

 

The first question focuses on your personality traits — who you are. The second question targets your progression throughout high school (an arc or journey). The third question is more difficult to grasp, but it involves showing why your personality traits, methods of thinking, areas of interest, and tangible skills form a unique combination. The fourth question is a concluding point that can be answered simply, normally in the conclusion paragraph, i.e., “Writing matters to me” or “Family matters to me.”

 

Overall, there is no single “correct” topic. You will be great as long as you are comfortable and passionate about your idea and it answers the Core Four questions.