Common App Essay


What Is the Common App Essay?

The Common App essay represents a pivotal component in the landscape of college applications, serving as a personalized medium for students to convey their unique stories and perspectives. When tasked to write a Common App essay, a student embarks on a journey of self-reflection and personal expression, adhering to a specific set of prompts provided by the Common Application system. This essay is more than just a written piece; it is a window into the applicant's character, aspirations, and experiences.

The definition of a Common App essay extends beyond a mere narrative; it is an opportunity for students to distinguish themselves in a pool of applicants. Each essay is a narrative tapestry, interweaving personal anecdotes with intellectual curiosity, often underscored by the student's aspirations and insights. This essay not only showcases writing skills but also the ability to introspect and articulate thoughts coherently and compellingly.

In essence, to write a Common App essay is to craft a story only the applicant can tell. It transcends traditional academic writing, breaking free from rigid structures, and delves into the realm of creative storytelling. This personalized narrative provides colleges with a holistic view of the applicant, beyond grades and test scores, highlighting individuality through experiences, beliefs, and aspirations.

The definition of the Common App essay thus lies in its ability to offer a multifaceted portrayal of an applicant. It's a crucial element in the application process, a unique piece that can tip the scales in favor of the applicant, showcasing not just who they are but who they aspire to become.

What is the Purpose of the Common App Essay?

The purpose of a Common App essay is multifaceted, encompassing a broad spectrum of objectives that transcend mere academic evaluation. Primarily, this essay serves as a conduit for personal storytelling, allowing applicants to transcend the quantitative aspects of their application - such as grades and test scores - and delve into the qualitative facets of their persona. It provides a platform for students to articulate their individual experiences, perspectives, and aspirations, thereby offering admissions committees a more nuanced and comprehensive view of the applicant as a person, not just a student.

Fulfilling the purpose of a Common App essay necessitates a delicate balance between introspection and expression. Applicants are encouraged to reflect deeply on their life experiences, values, and goals, and to convey these reflections in a manner that is both engaging and authentic. This essay allows students to demonstrate their ability to think critically and creatively, to express themselves eloquently, and to convey their unique voice and perspective. In doing so, the essay can often serve as a decisive factor in the admissions process, particularly at institutions where the competition is fierce and the distinctions between candidates are subtle.

Moreover, the purpose of the Common App essay extends beyond the admissions process, providing a valuable exercise in self-reflection for the students themselves. The process of crafting the essay encourages applicants to introspect and articulate their identity, experiences, and aspirations, fostering a deeper understanding of themselves and their place in the world. This introspective journey not only benefits the admissions committees in their evaluation but also aids students in their personal growth and self-discovery.

In conclusion, the purpose of a Common App essay is to offer a holistic view of the applicant, bridging the gap between academic metrics and personal identity, and to provide a platform for self-expression and introspection. It is a critical component of the college application process, offering a unique opportunity for students to present themselves as rounded individuals with diverse experiences and aspirations.

How to Start Your Common App Essay

Embarking on the journey of composing a Common App essay is akin to preparing for a pivotal academic endeavor. The commencement of this task involves a strategic blend of introspection and creativity. To effectively write a Common App essay about a subject that resonates deeply with one’s personal narrative and academic aspirations, several methodologies can be employed. Below are some of the best ideas for the Common App essay, designed to guide students in initiating this crucial component of their college application.

Firstly, selecting a topic that aligns with your personal experiences and intellectual passions is imperative. Ponder over life events that have significantly influenced your perspective or character. When you write a Common App essay about such experiences, it reflects authenticity and depth, offering admissions officers insight into your personal journey and intellectual maturity.

Engaging in brainstorming sessions is a vital step. List down poignant life moments, challenges you've overcome, or unique experiences that have shaped your identity. Among these, identify the ones that not only resonate the most with you but also have the potential to showcase your strengths, growth, and reflective abilities. This approach aids in pinpointing the best ideas for the Common App essay, ensuring that the topic chosen is not only unique to your experience but also reflective of your persona.

Furthermore, consider employing literary techniques such as anecdotes or descriptive narratives at the onset of your essay. Setting the scene with a compelling story or a vivid description can immediately capture the attention of the reader and establish a strong emotional connection. This narrative style, when well-executed, can significantly enhance the impact of your essay.

Conclusively, it’s important to remember that the best essays are those that are not only well-written but also deeply personal and reflective. They should provide a window into your soul, offering a glimpse of your personal journey, intellectual curiosity, and aspirations. Through careful topic selection, thoughtful brainstorming, and engaging storytelling, you can effectively embark on crafting an essay that resonates with both the admissions officers and yourself.

How to Structure a Common App Essay

The structure of a Common App essay plays a pivotal role in conveying the applicant's narrative effectively and cohesively. A well-structured essay not only facilitates clarity in expression but also ensures that the narrative flows logically, maintaining the reader's engagement throughout. Below is an elucidation of the key components that constitute the structure of a Common App essay.


The introduction of a Common App essay is the gateway to the applicant's story. It should begin with a hook — an engaging statement, anecdote, or question — designed to immediately capture the reader’s attention. The introduction should then smoothly transition into a brief exposition of the central theme or narrative, setting the stage for the detailed exploration that follows. This section must intrigue the reader and provide a glimpse into the essay's overarching narrative.

Thesis Paragraph

Following the introduction is the thesis paragraph, which serves as the cornerstone of the essay. This paragraph should succinctly present the central argument or primary focus of the essay. The thesis statement, often a clear and concise sentence, encapsulates the main idea the essay will explore. It should reflect a unique aspect of the applicant's identity or experience, thereby providing a roadmap for the narrative that unfolds.

Body Paragraphs

The body paragraphs form the crux of the Common App essay, where the narrative is developed and articulated in detail. Each paragraph should focus on a specific aspect or incident related to the thesis, providing evidence and examples. These paragraphs should maintain a logical flow, with each one building upon the previous, weaving a cohesive narrative. It is essential to balance personal anecdotes with introspective insights, demonstrating self-awareness and growth.


The conclusion of a Common App essay is not merely a summary of the narrative but a culmination that highlights the applicant's introspection and learning. It should revisit the thesis in the light of the narrative explored, emphasizing how the experiences and reflections have shaped the applicant’s perspective and aspirations. The conclusion should leave a lasting impression, encapsulating the essence of the essay and reinforcing the applicant's unique qualities and potential contributions to the academic community.

In summary, the structure of a Common App essay is a fundamental aspect that demands careful consideration. It necessitates a strategic arrangement of the introduction, thesis paragraph, body paragraphs, and conclusion to create a compelling and coherent narrative that vividly portrays the applicant's journey, insights, and aspirations.

Top 7 Common App Essay Tips

In the realm of college admissions, the crafting of a Common App essay is a task that demands thoughtful preparation and strategic execution. To assist in this endeavor, the following are seven quintessential tips that can guide students in navigating the complexities of this process. These tips encapsulate not only advice on selecting the best common app essay topics but also methodologies for effectively writing a Common App essay.

  1. Choosing a Resonant Topic: The selection of a topic is the foundation upon which the essay is built. It is crucial to choose from the best common app essay topics that are reflective of your personal experiences, passions, and perspectives. A compelling topic is one that is both unique to your journey and offers insights into your character and aspirations.
  2. Embracing Authenticity: Authenticity in your narrative is paramount. Your essay should be a mirror reflecting your true self, not what you presume the admissions officers wish to see. Authenticity resonates more than perfection.
  3. Crafting a Strong Opening: The introduction of your essay should be engaging, setting the tone and context for your story. An impactful opening not only captivates the reader but also establishes a connection with them from the very beginning.
  4. Developing a Clear Structure: A coherent structure is essential in guiding the reader through your narrative. Organize your essay with a clear introduction, body, and conclusion, ensuring each part seamlessly contributes to the overall message.
  5. Using Vivid Storytelling: Employ descriptive language and vivid imagery to bring your experiences to life. Storytelling can transform a simple narrative into a compelling and memorable essay.
  6. Reflecting on Your Experiences: Beyond narrating events, it's important to reflect on their significance. Discuss how these experiences have shaped you, contributing to your personal growth and understanding of the world.
  7. Revising and Refining: The process of revision is as critical as the initial drafting. Review your essay multiple times, seeking feedback from trusted mentors or peers. A well-edited essay demonstrates attention to detail and commitment to excellence.

Following these tips for writing a Common App essay can significantly enhance the quality of your submission. The essay, after all, is not just about telling a story; it's an opportunity to showcase your unique voice, experiences, and the value you bring to a college community.

What are the Common App Essay Prompts?

The Common App essay prompts are designed as catalysts for introspection and storytelling, providing a platform for applicants to share their unique experiences, values, and aspirations. Each prompt invites a different angle of self-reflection, enabling students to select the one that resonates most profoundly with their personal narrative. An understanding of these prompts is crucial for crafting an essay that is both authentic and engaging. Herein, we shall delineate the nature and scope of these Common App essay prompts.

  • Prompt 1: Often focuses on students' background, identity, interest, or talent that is meaningful to them. This prompt seeks to unearth stories that have shaped the applicant's character and aspirations.
  • Prompt 2: Centers around obstacles, challenges, or failures and the lessons learned from them. It delves into resilience and the ability to confront and grow from adversity.
  • Prompt 3: Encourages reflection on a time when the applicant questioned or challenged a belief or idea. This prompt explores the realms of critical thinking and personal conviction.
  • Prompt 4: Concerns itself with a problem the applicant has solved or would like to solve. It addresses the applicant's innovative and solution-oriented mindset.
  • Prompt 5: Invites discussion on personal growth and a newfound understanding of oneself or others. This prompt aims to uncover the evolutionary aspects of the applicant's character and worldview.
  • Prompt 6: Focuses on a topic, idea, or concept that makes the applicant lose track of time or about which they are extremely passionate. It delves into the depths of the applicant's intellectual curiosities and passions.
  • Prompt 7: Offers an open-ended opportunity to share an essay on any topic. It caters to those who have a distinct narrative that does not align with the other prompts but is crucial in depicting their unique persona.

Each of these Common App essay prompts serves as a starting point for an introspective journey, enabling applicants to delve into various aspects of their experiences and personalities. The choice of prompt should align with the applicant's unique story they wish to convey, thus providing a clear, cohesive, and compelling narrative to the admissions committee.

Choosing your Common App Essay Topic

The process of selecting a topic for your Common App essay is a critical exercise in self-reflection and strategic decision-making. This choice can significantly impact the effectiveness of your application, as it serves as a window through which the admissions committee views your personality, experiences, and potential for future success. Understanding the distinction between good common app essay topics and worst common app essay topics is paramount in this context.

Good common app essay topics are those that provide a rich canvas for showcasing your unique perspective, experiences, and personal growth. These topics are often deeply personal, allowing you to share stories and reflections that highlight your resilience, curiosity, creativity, and ability to overcome challenges. Ideally, a well-chosen topic should offer insight into your character, values, and the way you interact with the world around you. For instance, discussing a personal challenge that led to significant personal growth or an experience that sparked a change in your worldview can be compelling choices.

Conversely, worst common app essay topics are often those that are overused, superficial, or fail to provide a deeper insight into your personality and potential. Topics that fall into clichés, like common travel narratives or over-generalized discussions about societal issues, often miss the opportunity to present a unique and personal story. Similarly, topics that are controversial or inappropriate can detract from the main goal of the essay, which is to present yourself as a thoughtful, mature, and reflective candidate.

When choosing your topic, consider the following:

  • Does the topic reflect an aspect of your personality or life that is not evident from other parts of your application?
  • Can you approach this topic with sincerity, depth, and nuance?
  • Does the topic allow you to connect personal experiences to broader themes or insights?

In conclusion, selecting your Common App essay topic requires careful consideration and introspection. Aim for a topic that not only reflects your genuine self but also adds a new dimension to your application. Avoid common pitfalls by steering clear of clichéd or controversial topics, and instead focus on narratives that are uniquely yours, rich in depth, and reflective of your journey and aspirations.

Common App Essay Examples

  • Psychology and common sense

Psychology and common sense

  • Common Fire Related Hazards

Common Fire Related Hazards

  • Common Assessment Framework

Common Assessment Framework

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