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Common App Essay Writing Tips

How do I start writing the Common App essay? Here are some easy tips...

The Common App Essay is a short piece (200-650 words) that gives the college insight into your personality and how you think. It is an essential part of the application process for undergraduate admissions to the US. The Common App Essay prompts allow for a wide range of subjects (see for topics). Remember authenticity and originality are key, as this essay gives colleges a window into ‘your’ unique world.


Give yourself time to prep. Think about what you want the college to know about you. Don’t duplicate topics you may be submitting with your application already, give them a broader view of who you are. And don’t recycle essays or rehash your resume.

Start with a list of your positive traits, achievements, key experiences, or information related to why you may be applying to a particular course at a particular school. Now look at the essay prompts and choose the one that allows you the best opportunity to portray yourself. Don’t be hasty in deciding.

We find a great resource for reading sample essays are the Tufts and Johns Hopkins websites. Here are essays for which students have been accepted. You could even order the 50 Successful Harvard Sample Essays for tips.

Remember, prep is key for that amazing essay!


For the 2020-2021 application, Common App will provide students who need it with a dedicated space to elaborate on the impact of the pandemic, both personally and academically. The idea is to have students answer COVID-19 questions only once while using the rest of the application as they would have before to share their interests and perspectives beyond COVID-19.

Below is the question applicants will see:

Community disruptions such as COVID-19 and natural disasters can have deep and long-lasting impacts. If you need it, this space is yours to describe those impacts. Colleges care about the effects on your health and well-being, safety, family circumstances, future plans, and education, including access to reliable technology and quiet study spaces.

  • Do you wish to share anything on this topic? Y/N

  • Please use this space to describe how these events have impacted you.

The question will be optional and will appear in the Additional Information section of the application. The response length will be limited to 250 words.


Now that you have chosen your topic, start with a draft of your unique story. How will you illustrate what you want to say? Focus on the structure—a compelling opening that draws the reader in; an organized flow of content; and a powerful conclusion. Don’t ramble on or digress, and try not to show off your extensive vocabulary. Simplicity is key. Stick to the word limit. Make sure that you address everything that is asked of you in the prompt, especially ones that have two-part questions. Watch out for your tone, you don’t want to come across as condescending, entitled or cynical! A strict no-no is quotes from famous people (unless they’re absolutely essential for your essay!).

It is a process, for a good common app essay, it takes 10 to 12 drafts, sometimes even 20! Have patience.

Don’t be afraid to be creative and think out-of-the-box, as long as it serves what you want to convey. Finalize your essay and check whether you have incorporated all the above factors.


Once the writing is done, don’t just rely on your computer’s spell check and grammar to correct it. Go over it carefully for errors. Proofread your piece and read it aloud slowly. Share it with a few people whose opinion you trust, to read it and give you feedback. Correct any missed errors and incorporate any changes you may think relevant. You’re now good to press submit!

To make it easier for you, Writers Qi is hosting a special workshop on "Writing the Common App Essay." We will walk you through the writing process with writing exercises, show real essays of successful admits and identify your pain points.

Registration Link:

🗓️ Friday, 7th August | 🕖 7 PM IST or 9.30 AM EST

📧 | ☎️ +91 8595600281

Here's an interesting video that we enjoyed watching!! (Credit Curiosity Theorem.)

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