Review My Common App Essay Tips

I'm a senior this year and this past summer something took over my common sense and resulted in me spending 4 hours of a random evening writing my Common App essay. I've sent my essay to quite a few people for advice, very few of whom have given me legitimately helpful advice on how to write a stellar essay. I'm a good writer (taking AP English and excelling this year) but I've been told a few too many times that writing a good paper is very different from writing an amazing college essay.

This is where I look to the people who have already undergone the torture of applying to various colleges and universities. I'd like any advice in general about what to do, what not to do, etc. Also, if you are a current high school student like me, and would like to share some advice as well, feel free!

Lastly, if you are willing to, please private message me if you'd like to read my essay. Or leave a comment saying that it would be okay for me to private message you with my essay.

Thanks in advance,


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As high school seniors prepare to write their college essays, many feel anxious and are at a loss. “How do I start?” “What should I write about?” “I don’t know what it takes to write the Common App essay.” While there are no magic formulas to write the ‘perfect’ essay, here are some tips on how to get started.

What should I write about?

The 2014-2015 Common App prompts remain unchanged from last year. Among the five choices offered, there must be at least one that best distinguishes you and the experiences you have encountered in your life. As a start, keep a notebook and copy an essay question down at the top of each page.

Start listing relevant experiences that answers each question best. You will soon realize that some of the prompts can easily be eliminated. If there are two or more prompts that could possibly result in great essays, ask yourself which topic is more unique and which would best show your personality and maturity.

There are certain subjects that should be avoided. Don’t write about your entire life story by cramming as much information as possible onto one page. Likewise, don’t try to rehash your high school resume. Avoid writing about your European vacation as a travelogue and by describing the amazing places you visited. Skip the mission or volunteer trip you took last summer where you wowed every native and made the village “workable” within a two week period.

College essays should not focus on all of your life experiences. Instead, pick a topic that focuses on one of your life experiences. By identifying one small event that is meaningful to you, the essay can grow to encompass more of your personality traits and truly reveal the authentic person you are.

The Common App essay is a challenging assignment and many students struggle to capture the real essence of conveying who they really are. Often, it can take time identifying the one experience that changed your perspective on something, someone or somewhere, but once you’ve determined what you will write about, you are well on your way to start crafting ideas on paper or on a blank screen.

How do I start writing?

Writing the first few words can be nerve wracking. Every sentence has an impact, so starting out right will set the tone of your writing. Think of how you want your story to flow, but don’t overthink. Just start writing! Make sure you answer the question.

If the question poses “why was it meaningful to you?” focus on yourself and not why ‘Mom told me it was meaningful.’ Every essay response should be about you and admissions officers are looking to learn more about your character and how you can confidently stand out from the competition.

If you find yourself stuck, put your work aside for a while and return to it with a clear mind. You may need to make adjustments to fit the flow of your story or you may even want to start over again. Coming up with a final version often takes time and it is important to start early in order to be in good shape to meet the deadlines.

When do I know I have a great essay?

A great essay should have an attention grabbing opening, it should flow effortlessly throughout, and have a powerful ending. Does your essay entice the reader to want to read beyond the first few lines? Do you portray your experience concisely without wasting too much space on detail? Is there a clear lesson learned? And finally, does the conclusion show that you’ve learned a meaningful lesson that has made an impact on your life?

Once you are satisfied with the content of your essay, it is important to edit it thoroughly. Do not rely on the computer’s spellcheck. All too often, students use words inaccurately and sometimes substitute words that sound similar to what they actually meant to write. If you are unsure about the exact meaning of the word, make use of a dictionary. Does your essay sound too elementary? Is there room to substitute words using the thesaurus? A word of caution – it is best not to overuse the thesaurus, in case you aren’t quite sure of the exact meaning of the substituted word.

Check the structure, style and tone and double check the grammar. Does your essay flow? Is your language understandable, clear and creative? Do you come across as overly confident or too meek? Are you being too negative and fail to turn your story around to accentuate on the positive? Are there any meaningless sentences?

Once you have thoroughly reviewed the content of your essay, make sure that it falls within the 250-650 word limit. You may wish to receive feedback on your essay from family members, friends or teachers. Everyone will want to read your essay and everyone will want to provide you with some type of relevant or irrelevant feedback.

It is important to identify a few trusted people who would best provide you with an honest and unbiased review and people who can clearly identify your weaknesses in your essay. Be selective and take into account only suggestions that can improve your writing.

Your Common App essay must clearly show who you really are to the college admissions officers reviewing your application. If you can clearly distinguish yourself and bring out the best of you, you should be satisfied with your work. Be yourself, let your creativity flow and just write!

College Essay Boot Camp

Every summer, MEK Review offers a 3-day intensive College Essay Boot Camp in Palisades Park, NJ. Each three day session lasts from 9:00 AM-5:00 PM. For more information, please call (855) 346-1410 or click here.

– Ms. Brigitte Chang, College Counselor

Article by admin / Academic Counseling Services, College Admissions


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