Guide to CommonApp Essay

Guide to CommonApp Essay

What should the basic outline be?

The common application essay is meant to give universities a greater understanding of who you are as a person. This helps them gauge not only how doing a specific course is going to benefit you but also how you are going to contribute to the classroom environment. Therefore, the essay needs to have a storyline. Take an event, for example, which has greatly impacted you; a turning point perhaps, and present that in the form of a story. Talk about who you are and what makes you, you.

A common mistake that candidates make is thinking that the experience they speak of should be a negative one or that they should talk about world issues or serious questions that face mankind. You can choose to take either this path or the bright and bubbly one with an upbeat story. Either way is perfectly acceptable and you can choose the tone of your essay based on how you feel most comfortable expressing yourself.

Should the content be more specific or generic?

While we all love to express ourselves in abstract forms and weigh ourselves in intangible scales, here, the more specific you get, the better. Express your specific thoughts, emotions, understandings and revelations. The uniqueness of you. Take the sentences you write and analyse how detailed they are. Add detail wherever possible to give the reader a deeper look into your mind.

Generic example: “It was a beautiful day.” Can be rewritten as “It was an unexpectedly sunny day in the middle of autumn with the leaves shining golden in the cobbled streets of my favourite city.” Attention to detail is important whilst painting a picture for the reader. This keeps them engaged.

How serious should the tone be?

While you want to come across as someone who takes things seriously and is capable of working under pressure, you must make sure your essay is an interesting read. You can brighten up the language, add frills to your story, add a comic twist or create suspense, all while still maintaining the persona that you are trying to exude through the essay.

It is important to understand that the person reading your essay is just that, a person. Therefore, when you are writing your essay, ask yourself, “would I find this an interesting read?”
Student writing her commonapp essay

How shall I portray my personality?

Just be you! But make sure that the way you perceive yourself, comes across in a simple and transparent manner in the essay. This can be achieved by ensuring utmost comprehension. Having a comprehensive essay which does not confuse the reader, rather engages the reader as it seamlessly moves from sentence to sentence is extremely important. You do not want to come off as someone who cannot gather, complete or link their thoughts. So remember, comprehension is key!

Should I edit as I go along?

Try to write the entire essay in one shot so as to not break the flow and not lose your train of thought. Once written, leave it for a while and come back to it with a fresh mind and then sit down to edit. This will allow you to see errors that you might not have noticed otherwise. It could also help to have someone read your essay and give you feedback.

Why is this essay important?

This essay is the part of your application that humanizes you and holds about a 15% weightage in the decision making part of your admission process. That is why it is so important. It is the part of your application that turns you from an applicant to a person. You must ensure that you make it as personal as possible because until one reads your common application essay, you are a culmination of your work. It is only when this essay is read that you become a culmination of your experiences.
Importance of CommonApp Essay in US Application

How seriously should I take the word limit?

The word limit is there for a reason. It is usually between 250 and 650 words and commonapp will not accept an essay with words fewer than or exceeding the above mentioned limit. Therefore, you must structure your essay in a manner that it is neither too short nor too long whilst simultaneously maintaining the fabric of your story. If you are finding your essay to be too long, go through each paragraph and look for any unnecessary information or details you might have given and try to remove them. You can also find that sometimes sentences run too long. Try to break them down. If you find that your essay is too short and feel like you have covered all the points, go back to each paragraph and see where you can add more details or where you might have missed out on something. Whilst doing this you must ensure that the details you add are both interesting and relevant so as to neither steer away from the topic nor bore the reader.

Good Luck with your essay. You can book a session with our essay specialists if you are stuck!

By: Ishani Nakra, Academic Mentor at Rostrum Education
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