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Common App Essay: How to Write It Step-By-Step & Examples

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The Common Application essay is a required component of the Common Application used by over 900 colleges and universities in the United States and abroad. The Common Application essay is an opportunity for applicants to showcase their writing abilities and share a meaningful experience that highlights their personality, values, and goals.

It may not be the easiest task, but it is always useful to take such an option when submitting via Common App system. It gives you an opportunity to make a good impression with your writing skills.

This article will help you with such preparations. We’ve collected basic information about this essay type and picked several helpful tips on how to start and how to complete it. Read them carefully, and it should be easier for you to come up with an excellent composition your college would approve. Let’s go!  

Common App Essay: What it Means?

Common App is a system that lets students prepare standard applications that can be accepted by many different colleges in different US states and abroad. Over 900 institutions in North America, China, Japan, and Europe participate in it.

A Common App essay is a part of the application process. It serves as your personal statement and can be mandatory or optional, depending on a school. When starting the Common Application process, you can typically find information about an essay, particularly the suggested prompts, in an assignment. After you upload an essay, all institutions participating in this system will be able to access it, which is useful when applying to multiple schools at once.  In a rush? Try our admission essay writing service for the best results.

Common App Essays: Importance

As shown above, Common App essay is a unique opportunity to improve your chances of admission as a senior. If done right, writing and submitting such a personal presentation could help you make a strong positive impression on the admissions officers. What makes it even better is that you can use the same essay when applying to different schools of your choice. All colleges participating in this system get access to essays that have been uploaded there. That is why you need to invest your time into coming up with a top-notch essay!

Common App Essay Word Limit

Recommended Common App essay length is 650 words. However, some schools might recommend using between 250 and 650 words. Anyway, it would be wise to use the whole limit. If your personal statement is too short, it won’t stand out much. At the same time you shouldn’t write much more than that, so take your time and plan it carefully.

There are several prompts for writing this type of essay. Some of them might be easier for you than others. So take the word limit into account before choosing one.  

How to Write Common App Essay Step-By-Step

Now let’s discuss the main thing: how to write a college application essay that will help your application stand out? Try thinking like one of the admissions commission officers when you write it. What kind of a student’s self-presentation would impress you in a positive way? Do you feel this person would fit in your college?

A general rule of a good Common App essay is to be concise, well readable, original, and interesting. Below you’ll find a brief guide where we explain each step to you in detail.  

Step 1. Brainstorm: Answer Common App Essay Questions

First, spend some time to come up with some good ideas and choose the best one. The goal is highlighting your strength and experience and showing that you really can fit in a college of your choice.

Here are several core common app essay questions to be addressed in your work:  

  1. Who am I?
  2. Why am I here?
  3. What is unique about me?
  4. What matters to me?

Make sure your topic will allow you to answer all of them without being too wordy. It should be related to something both important for you and for those who will read an essay. If you have doubts, best pay for college application essay to play it safe. 

Step 2. Choosing Your Common App Essay Topic

After you’ve decided on the general idea, it is time for choosing from common app essay topics. You might get several prompts suggested for you in the assignment. They can be helpful for a topic selection.

It is better to choose something relatable for your personal statement. Something you are ready to stand for. Your topic should be well familiar to you. At the same time it should look original for the commissions in universities you are applying to. Choosing a strong topic is a key step towards success of your application.  

Step 3. Structure Your Common App Essay According to Your Topic

Build your Common App college essay ‘around’ your topic. It should highlight your main idea best. Of course, a traditional 5 paragraph essay system can be used here. But feel free to adjust it to the situation. For example, start with questions, then answer them one by one in your text.

Does your essay focus on your background? Put some basic facts into an introduction and explain your scholarly progress below. Does it tell about challenges you’ve overcome or confrontations you participated in? Start with some tension, some culminating scenes to make it engaging for readers.  

Step 4. Writing Your Common App Essay

After you’ve composed your plan or outline, proceed with writing the full text. Students’ Common App essays should deliver strong messages that highlight their authors’ strengths and capabilities, as well as demonstrate their writing skills. This is why you should make yours interesting to read.

Spend some time composing a concise and logical text. Make sure its conclusion matches its introduction. Proofread it at least once before submission. You wouldn’t want some obvious mistakes to ruin its success.  

Common App Essay Tips

We’ve picked some tips for Common App essay, which could help compose a winning one to apply for colleges. They are based on the fundamental rule of writing such essays. Developing a strong personal statement while keeping it concise. Keep these tips in mind when writing and reviewing your text:

  • Show, don’t tell – back your claims with strong arguments;
  • Be specific: this essay is about you as a person;
  • Choose active voice, not passive voice;
  • Be original, avoid clichés – otherwise, your essay won’t stand out;
  • Focus on your goals, don’t turn away from the main line.

Common App Essays: Final Thoughts

In this article we’ve summarized general information about writing common app essays. A strong essay should be concise, original, focused on your own experience as an author, and make a good impression on readers at the end. Keep in mind the tips we’ve given you and good luck with your application! Order essays online at StudyCrumb whenever you need any type of help – informational and practical alike.

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Frequently Asked Questions About Common App Essays

1. How many Common App essays are required in 2022?

Common Application requires just one general Common App essay that is then sent to any colleges using the app. You don’t have to write multiple essays for multiple applications. And this is what the main advantage of this system is. Spending much less time and effort while securing your chances of success.

2. Is a common app essay the same thing as a personal statement?

The common app essay is the main personal statement you'll submit to colleges that use the common app and require the essay. Your personal statement gives you the chance to delve deeper into your interests, experiences, passions, and strengths. As you can see, there is no significant opposition between ‘common app essay vs personal statement’. The latter is just a more general concept.  

3. What is the format for the Common App essay?

There are no strict requirements for the Common App essay format. There is an essay text box where you can submit your work. It only has formatting for bold, underlines and italics. No subheadings or separate sections are available.

If you include quotes in your paper, it is better to add some basic references to them. But keep in mind that using sources isn’t necessary.  

4. How many paragraphs should a common app essay be?

There are no strict requirements or limitations for Common App essay paragraphs. Just keep in mind the overall limit of 650 words. It is, however, recommended to follow the standard five-paragraph paper structure. Make an introduction containing at least one paragraph and a conclusion of the same size. The main part should contain at least three ones but can also have many more if needed.

Article posted on:May 10, 2022
Article updated on:May 13, 2024


Leave your comment here:
6/25/2022 9:47 AM
Hello. I'm working on my common app essay now, and the choice of topics gives me a headache. Can you advise what I should avoid? What are some bad common app essay topics?
6/25/2022 11:47 AM
Hello Kailyn,

Although some believe that there are no bad essay topics, only bad essays, we can think of a few topics that you shouldn't write your common app essay about. For example, don't write your essay in the style of a short story or any other creative writing. You might also avoid writing an essay that looks like it could be sent to any college you might care to apply to - make your essays more targeted to a specific college. Also, don't write about any personal romantic stories, they are just off.

Hope this helps.
7/7/2022 8:26 AM
Hi! I am writing a common app essay, and although it seems like I do everything right, something just feels inadequate and I want to add more. Like a picture, for example. Can I insert a picture in the common app essay?
7/7/2022 9:32 AM
Hi Victor,

Unfortunately, you can't insert images into your essay. The text boxes for essays are designed to determine the number of both characters and words. The presence of a picture could confuse it.

It doesn't mean you aren't allowed to include your photograph! If you're an arts student, you'll have to prepare an art portfolio that will be evaluated in your application. The portfolio is uploaded to the site of the college. You can also upload images to an individual website, in case you're not an artist and do not have an art portfolio.