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Common App Essay Tips and Writing Strategies

Some application essays are chosen, others are rejected. Which one will be yours?


It doesn’t matter whether you are competing domestically or internationally for college admission, you will experience both failure and success. The only way to increase your rate of success is to double your attempts. Even better, triple them. Better yet, quadruple your efforts.

Do you think it’s impossible? Not with the Common Application (Common App), which allows you to submit your writing to multiple colleges and universities. Now, this software is not much of a thesis or research paper writing help, but you’d hardly find a more convenient tool for streamlining your admissions applications.

What is the Common App Essay?

The Common App is an application allowing its users to submit their admissions essays to more than 800 educational institutions across the US, Canada, China, and Europe. The app was created more than 4 decades ago by an NGO that is presided by a volunteer board of directors comprised of 13 admission deans. The software is exceedingly popular among first-year and transfer college applicants.

Word Count Issue: What Is the Word Limit for Common App Essay?

The maximum word limit for 2019 common app essay prompts has not been changed since the previous year. It remains at 650 words. Basically, it does not matter how many words you will write as long as you do not exceed the top limit and satisfy the minimum word count criteria – 250 words.

Fortunately, you don’t have to worry about exceeding the length of your essay because the limit is imposed by the application form. It will prevent you from entering excessive text.

How to Start a Common App Essay?

How long is the common app essay? As mentioned above, its length should be under 650 words, which roughly amounts to a two-paged paper. To take the full advantage of the available word limit, try to have a sharp focus and make each sentence count. Nowhere the application of this caveat is as important as it is in the essay’s opening paragraph. By the way, you can order essay here and not worry you’ll get something wrong.

Once you’ve selected one out of seven available common app essay prompts, analyze it carefully. Look for words such as “lessons,” “obstacles,” or “interests,” which will serve as a launching pad for your opening paragraph. Engage in brainstorming to come up with a title and a hooking thesis.

The following questions will guide your rush of thoughts and help you start the essay:

  • What does the prompt ask?
  • What do college admissions officers want to read about me?
  • What does define me as a person?
  • What have I accomplished?
  • What are my strengths?
  • What does set me apart from others?

Draw from the years of personal experience, choose a story to tell, and keep it in focus to create a forceful opening for your common app essay.

How to Write a Good Common App Essay?

What makes a good admissions essay? Believe it or not, there is no single secret ingredient to make your essay great. Yet, there are several strategies you can employ to govern the creative process:

  1. Create an outline

The outline will function as a blueprint for a common app essay. It will help you plan the major parts of your paper and ensure that they progress naturally.

  1. Make it personal

Tell the admissions officers something about yourself. The examples of the best essays recount the applicants’ job experiences, struggles, and triumphs.

  1. Be specific

The more specific you get, the easier it will be for the readers to relate to you. Additionally, particular details about your experiences will let your voice come through.

  1. Edit and proofread

Let your common app essay sit for a while, then read it out loud. When proofreading, remove contractions, mistakes, and slang.

Best Common App Essay Examples

Whether you are applying for Harvard or some other college that doesn’t fall under the umbrella of Ivy League, you have to remember one thing: your personal essay can spell either the failure or success of your admissions efforts. Thus, a bad, half-hearted attempt at writing won’t do.

How to know what great writing is? It’s simple: use essay samples and guidelines to get inspired for the creation of your own text. Ahead, is a short template of an essay’s opening we’ve created for you:

Sometimes discordant, mostly groovy, repeating motifs of swing jazz flummoxed and awed me for as long as I can remember.

I found the joyfully elastic syncopation soothing, which is why it was easy for me to weave five haphazard, albeit instinctively coordinated, beats into the arabesque of rhythm assembled in successions of twos. By gleefully superimposing the salvos of beat upon the underlying structure of the melody, I wanted to create a tingling feeling in the listeners’ blood and bones. They liked it. And so did I, until I did not.

Being an African-American female drummer in a jazz band comprised of white males was not an endeavor for fainthearted.

Where to Find Good Common App Essay Topics?

Luckily, there is no need for it. You can write an essay in response to the seven available common essay prompts that can be found here. Which one to select? It is entirely up to you; however, before making a choice, ensure that you have great ideas for creating a gripping essay. If you already have a worthy essay, you can avoid the writing sessions altogether. Why? Because it is allowed to submit an essay that responds to a prompt of your own design.

How to Format Common App Essay?

When writing your essay for Harvard, Standford, or any other college, keep these formatting tips in mind:

  • Stick to general formatting rules: 12 pt font, double spacing, Times New Roman/Arial.
  • Write your essay in Google docs, Word, or Pages; otherwise, you may lose your work.
  • To make paragraphs in the Common App text box, use spaces instead of an indentation.
  • Do not copy the prompt because it will diminish your available word count.
  • Titles cannot be centered in the Common App textbox.

Can I Change My Common App Essay for Different Colleges? – Yes, You Can

As you must’ve noticed, Common App is a really flexible tool. So there’s no wonder it does allow students to change the essay for each school you apply to and submit them. You can edit an essay or upload a completely new content – as long as it is of the proper length, you should be able to send different pieces to different colleges.

Parting Thoughts

To conclude, a gripping essay is your best chance to get into the college of your dream. Therefore, you should give everything you have or hire a professional to help you out.

Petra Lipfer
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Petra Lipfer is a professional blogger from Orlando, Florida. She has degrees in Education and Management and has taken three advanced IT courses. She has been writing for several educational portals and now is a stuff writer at MyAdmissionsEssay.com.
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