5 Essay Tips for Students Working on the Common App
Now that the Common App is officially open, many rising seniors are eager to get started on their personal statements. Writing an impactful essay can help students convey their personality to an admissions office and reveal something that may not be found anywhere else on their application.
In order to craft a compelling essay, it’s important to start drafting your piece early and rework it as needed. Keep reading to learn some of our top essay tips that can help students write a personal statement that they are proud of.
Give Yourself Time to Brainstorm
Don’t settle for the first topic that comes to mind. Instead, give yourself time to explore many ideas and pinpoint the causes and experiences that have been most impactful for you. Review the list of essay prompts, highlight the questions that seem most interesting, and try to generate a handful of ideas for each. Once you have a list to choose from, continue to narrow down your options so you can select an idea that you really gravitate towards. If you’re stuck between a few topics, try writing a paragraph for each and see which stories come most naturally to you.
Stay True to Your Voice
Admissions officers want to get a sense of your personality and what makes you tick in your personal statement. Consequently, it is important to let your authentic voice shine through. Avoid trying to wow your readers with words or phrases that seem impressive if they aren’t part of your normal vocabulary. Instead, be careful and strategic with the words you use; make choices that convey exactly what you wish to tell in your own voice. Once you have a draft, read it aloud to get a feel for how your words really sound.
Stick to the Guidelines
While creativity is always an asset, it’s important to follow the rules and guidelines laid out on the Common App. For example, since the maximum word count for personal statements is 650, you need to keep your essay at this number or below. Also, reread the prompt you choose several times to ensure that your essay directly answers what is being asked.
Don’t Be Afraid to Do Something Different
If you’re the caption of your soccer team or editor in chief of the school newspaper, writing about these pursuits might seem like a natural choice. While there is absolutely nothing wrong with writing about an extracurricular activity, students should explore other options as well. The essay is a unique opportunity to tell admissions officers something they can’t glean the rest of your application, so be sure to consider all of your options. Reflect on the people, experiences, causes, and passions that have helped shape you into the person you are today.
Ask for Another Set of Eyes
Even the most talented writers benefit from feedback and edits. Once you have a finished draft, consider sharing it with a parent, counselor, or close friend whose writing style you admire. Ask your chosen editor to proofread and also for feedback on the thoughts and themes in your personal statement. After they look it over, don’t be afraid to go back and rework some of the sections that might not be as clear to a reader. Continue to revise your essay until you have a version you are truly proud of. This is where a college counselor is especially helpful – they can tell you how your essay will be read by college admissions officers and if your writing or theme will resonate with the admissions committee.
While writing a personal statement can feel daunting at first, students who get started early will have more time to rework their drafts and create a piece that excites them. If you’re in the essay writing process and looking for guidance, our team of admissions counselors and tutors can help find your voice.