9 Tips for Completing the Common App Essay Prompts
It is very easy to get lost in the pile that is college applications. Essay prompts start to blend together, and eventually students just want to submit it and get it over with. Here are some tips on completing the Common Application essay prompts to the best of your abilities.
- A lot of the time, there are various essay prompts to pick from. Pick one that will allow you to present yourself in the best light. It may be helpful beforehand to come up with a list of stories and achievements you want to highlight. Select prompts that allow you to talk about all of them. This also sometimes allows for “recycling” parts of your essays. For example, if two colleges have similar prompts, you might be able to use the same essay with a few changes and not have to come up with a completely new essay.
- Talk about yourself, and try to avoid essays about other people or experiences. The admissions counselors want to have a picture of who you are and how well you might fit into their college. Make sure to sell yourself. If you do talk about other people or experiences, be sure to focus on how these things impacted YOU.
- Spell check and have someone read over your essays. It's easy to overlook spelling and grammatical errors, especially after writing multiple essays. It is extremely important to have someone look over what you wrote before submitting it. If you are uncomfortable with having someone you known read the essay, you can always let it sit overnight, and read it with a fresh set of eyes the next day, or have a teacher or coach critique it instead.
- Don't summarize your resume. Your resume will be available for the admission staff to read. They already know what's on it, and they don't need to see it again. Instead, make the essay personal, and highlight your most important accomplishments, even if it may not be portrayed on a resume.
- Keep the language simple. Don't replace every word with those from a thesaurus. It will be apparent to those reading your essay if that is what you are doing. It is okay to use some fancy vocabulary every now and then, but do not make these a distraction.
- It is okay to talk about your weaknesses, but make sure you demonstrate how they were (or will be) overcome. Articulate how these weaknesses create strengths. It is easy to avoid talking about weaknesses, but do not do so if you are unable to turn it into a positive, inspiring topic.
- Know the school you're are applying to before starting their essays. Some colleges have specific values or areas of studies. If you pay attention to these things, and are genuine about them in your essay, it will look good to those on the admissions committee.
- Take your time. Even if it is just a 200-word essay, think about what you are going to write about and how you are going to structure the writing efficiently. You do not want these essays to feel rushed, because those who are reading it will be aware of this, and it will not always bode well for you.
- Be authentic and don't just tell them what you think they want to hear. After all, the purpose of these essays is to allow the admission staff to get to know you. They want to know who you are beyond the bullet lists on your resume, your test scores, and the numbers of your GPA, so be sure to give that to them. Don’t be afraid to stand out from their other applicants.