More Thoughts on Essay Writing

Thinking About Your Common App Essay 

By: Becky Georgenes  

Senior College Advisor, Road to College - Former Princeton University Admission Officer

After the admission officers read your essay, you want them to know you better, to have an idea about what sets you apart from other strong applicants. Imagine that after reading the essay, the admission officer has to write two sentences about you.  What would you want him or her to say?  If you think your best characteristics are flexibility, compassion, and a sense of humor, then be sure that your essay conveys that.

Admission officers spend day after day reading application after application. They can be recent college graduates, or seasoned university employees; trust that they are dedicated to learning about you as an applicant. If you write an essay that makes the reader look forward to finding out where you are going with it, then you have given the admission officer (and yourself) a real gift.

There are a couple ways to go about deciding what you want to write about for your Common App essay.

* You may already know what topic you want to write about. So think about the topic, look at the prompts, and see what fits in a way that will give you best opportunity to share what is meaningful about your story. If you pick this approach, just be sure that you are answering the question.


* You may not know what you want to write about, but you may find a prompt that intrigues you and gets you thinking. If you choose this approach, then be sure that you are not only answering the prompt, but you are using it as an opportunity to let the college learn what is important to you.

Whatever approach and whatever topic you pick, know that there are no right answers. You should look at this as your opportunity to show what makes you special – about how you think, what you have experienced, how you see the world, how you see yourself, and how you express yourself in writing.  And be sure that you give yourself plenty of time to write your essay. It will most likely go through several iterations and drafts. It’s fine to show it to others, but try not to get too confused by too many opinions.  Take everyone’s advice with a grain of salt.  Ultimately, what you submit as your essay is your decision.