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Tips & Advice

Tips for the Common Application Essay

August means end of summer pool parties, school supply shopping, and, for soon to be seniors, the release of the common application prompts. While the smell of post it notes and sunscreen may make most teens happy, the college application process, especially the essays, inspires fear. So here are some helpful tips for concerning the dreaded common app essay.

1. Don’t settle. There are two typical approaches to college applications, either to get them in early or wait until right before the deadline, both can lead to rushing the entire process.  Take your time to pick the topic you feel best fits your life and personality. There is no right answer but you should take some time to think about each of the topics and how you could best approach them.

2. Find what makes you unique. Each of the common applications questions are designed with the same goal in mind, to figure out what makes you special.  Whether it’s a unique hobby or a personal struggle, colleges want to know what makes you well, you. This comes through in not just your topic, but also your diction. It’s still a formal essay, but you can have fun with it.

3. Walk away. Type out a rough draft (hit save!) then put it away for about a day. This allows you to have a clear head and new perspective. If you’re not convinced it is the best possible representation of you, edit until it is!

4. Get feedback. Former teachers are a wonderful resource; ask if they have a few minutes to look over a draft so you can have an academic opinion.  Don’t stop there ask friends, and even relatives, if they will take a look at it as well. You do not need to take every suggestion that appears in red ink but at least consider how others interpret your writing. After someone reads your essay ask them to describe the tone and theme in 4 words, this will allow you to see your writing from other people’s (like the admission boards) point of view!

5.  Don’t over think it. This may be the most important step. The tendency is to stress out over every single word being perfect, which will drive you crazy. It will also force you to make changes that take away from your natural writing. Trust that you and your stories are good enough. Colleges are looking for people who are willing to work and learn. The multitude of drafts you will go through, 4 years of high school and a boat lode of extra curricular have shown your skills.  Good luck and happy writing!