5 Tips for Writing the Common App Essay 

by / 3 Comments / 468 View / October 29, 2014

It’s that dreaded time of the year again: college application season! While you could be watching Orange Is The New Black and catching up on some well-needed rest, you’re stuck in the rut of procrastination and essay rewrites.   As two college students who just went through the process, we are here to provide some tips and advice regarding this application.

1) Try to write an essay that fills in the gaps of your application. Your application maybe says that you want to eventually go to graduate school for Social Work and that you’ve spent the last four years interning with nonprofits and volunteering in your community. Why? What makes you want to do what you want to do? Do you have a personal story from your childhood that contributes to why? Is there something in your community that has made you want to go into social work? 

2) Get creative, but not too creative.  The common app is a great vehicle for showing personality and uniqueness, but be aware that there is a limit to the amount of acceptable creativity.  Don’t try to impress by making your essay a poem in iambic pentameter, especially if poetry doesn’t come naturally to you. Keep in mind that you’re not going for an MFA in Creative Writing. 

3) Mention something that makes you tick. Mention your favorite book (for example, Atlas Shrugged) or your favorite author(Noam Chomsky or John Steinbeck). 

4) Don’t be afraid to add humor, if your piece calls for it.  Many people think that the common app essay should be thoroughly serious.  It can be, but if your piece has the right tone, a bit of humor can make it stand out.  Just make sure not to forget your audience or take a completely flippant approach. Be aware that the people reading your essay are often from a different generation than you are, with probably a different cultural background. 

5) Tell an engaging story.  Don’t fall into the trap of simply listing or describing your accomplishments.  Weave your achievements or your extracurricular activities together with an engaging narrative that shows how you grew as a person and how you would add a unique perspective to colleges. In my Common App essay(Toni Airaksinen), I began with an anecdote from age 15, then went back to talking about my experiences when I was in elementary and in middle school, jumped back to the present, jumped back to my Freshman year of high school, and then talked about what I want to do in the future. Although this approach may not work for you, colleges are not only looking at what you are saying in your essays, but how well you can say it. 

  • Lena Johnson

    What should I do if I want to apply to an Ivy but my ACT score is really bad?

    • Halifax Steppenwulf

      You can either have an SAT score that’s very good and just not report your ACT score or you can begin thinking hard about what your second choice schools are.

    • Dae

      Find other ways to distinguis yourself! Like a hella ton of community service, internships, ect

      Or think long and hard about why you want to go to an ivy, seriously. Think about it.