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    Writing Your College Essay

    Writing Your College Essay

    Writing Your College Essay

    The pressure of the CommonApp essay can be very overwhelming, and is something that is not discussed as largely when applying for a school. Most people think that you have to have a perfect grade point average, many extracurricular activities, and take many advanced placement classes to get into college. These are great things to have going into college applications, but a large factor is the CommonApp essay. 

    What is the CommonApp Essay?

    If you are not familiar, CommonApp is an undergraduate college admissions application that many students can use when applying to colleges and universities. It makes the application process a lot smoother as you only have to fill out your basic requirements once, and then it plugs that in for every school you apply to. CommonApp has over one thousand colleges and universities that students can apply to. 

    With using CommonApp, you are expected to write a personal essay. A personal essay that is 250 to 650 words, answering one of the seven prompts, and able to capture your unique individuality. 

    For me, this sounded quite easy, until I started writing. Tour guides at almost every college I have toured have always said that “we want you to stand out.” They want their students to be creative, innovative, and savvy. So how was I supposed to start an essay that displayed each of these features? In this article, I will discuss the steps of writing the CommonApp essay that captures you and that overall makes the process less overwhelming. 

    Choosing the Right Prompt For Your College Essay

    One of the most important parts of writing the essay that is a perfect fit for you is choosing the right prompt. CommonApp offers a variety of prompts, seven in total, so that everyone feels they can write an essay distinctive to their own life experience. The seven prompts as for the 2023-2024 academic school year are as follows:

    1. Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.
    2. The lessons we take from obstacles we encounter can be fundamental to later success. Recount a time when you faced a challenge, setback, or failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience?
    3. Reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea. What prompted your thinking? What was the outcome?
    4. Reflect on something that someone has done for you that has made you happy or thankful in a surprising way. How has this gratitude affected or motivated you?
    5. Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others.
    6. Describe a topic, idea, or concept you find so engaging that it makes you lose all track of time. Why does it captivate you? What or who do you turn to when you want to learn more?
    7. Share an essay on any topic of your choice. It can be one you’ve already written, one that responds to a different prompt, or one of your own design.

    How to Successfully Write the CommonApp Essay Using the Prompt You Chose

    As you can see, each prompt asks students for a topic that shows their character. When I first saw the prompts, I chose my favorite three and started brainstorming ideas of what I could talk about. Then, I listed out topics I could discuss with each prompt, and what this would show if they were looking at my application holistically. I had trained myself to think about what made my essay different from others. I personally chose prompt six, because I felt like it showed a unique interest of mine that I have spent hours engaging with. 

    CommonApp offers suggestions for what admissions officers are looking for in each of the prompts on their website as well. When deciding, choose the prompt that you feel that you can answer fully and shows a different side to you than your grades, classes, and extracurricular activities do. 

    After I chose my prompt, it took me months of working and perfecting it before I submitted it to any colleges. I had asked English teachers at my school to look over it, as well as family members. Feedback makes the revision process ten times easier because sometimes you just need a different pair of eyes looking for you. 

    For rising seniors, and for any interested high school students, it is never too early to start working on your essay. Time management is key. To make your essay less stressful, create a timeline of important college deadlines to know when you should have it finalized by. My best tip I could give you would be to not procrastinate your essay. 

    Best of luck to all out there who will soon be starting the college application process!


    For more college essay tips, check out Girl Springs’ 6 Tips for Writing a College Essay!