How to Write Stand Out Common App Essays

There are two main types of essays you need to write for college application: Common Application essay and School supplemental essay (Why school/major/program?  Describe extracurricular activities, etc.) Today we will talk about how to write stand out Common App essays.

Common essay are the essay sent to all schools. It should be written within 250 to 650 words. You have to make sure that it answers these 4 questions in your common essay: "Who am I?" "Why am I here?" 'What is Unique About Me?" "What Matters to Me?"

There are some general tips for a strong Common App Essay: 

  • It should not be a five-paragraph essay but a creative storytelling piece;
  • It shows but doesn't try to tell;
  • Use active, not passive, voice in your essay;
  • Avoid cliches (quotes, sayings, etc.) in your essay;
  • Avoid common experiences such as sports injury and pet death;
  • Know your audience: Reed College admissions officers will be very progressive; Liberty College are religious conservatives;
  • Avoid discussing polarizing topics in a controversial way;

These are seven prompts for a Common Essay:

1. Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story. 
You can write your personality and your unique interest. But don't feel pressured to force uniqueness for the sake of differentiation. Ask yourself, what has impacted me in a meaningful way. You can start brainstorming by focusing on 1 of 3 areas:

  • Background--family, relationships, "what forged you?"
  • Identity--your place in a community, how you see yourself, personality;
  • Interests/Talents--something unexpected that's not a formal activity;

2. The lessons we take from obstacles we encounter can be fundamental to later success. Recount a time when you faced a challenge, setback, or failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience? 
You can write about a massive obstacle you have gone through. Or you can write about your response to being destabilized and the actions you take when there's no clear solution. For example, analyzing an argument with a friend--evaluate both sides, reflect on your decisions, and how you've grown or your thinking has changed; 
you can also write about smaller, repeated "failures" such as stage fright. You need to put the admissions officer into your head. What were you thinking in the moment, before, during, and after?

3. Reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea. What prompted your thinking? What was the outcome? 
The biggest pitfall is trying to make a big statement about society or politics without trying to include personal circumstances. You could use smaller belief or idea to reveal your personality or mindset. Ultimately, the exploration of thought processes and decision making is more important than the actual question at hand.

4. Describe a problem you've solved or a problem you'd like to solve. It can be an intellectual challenge, a research query, an ethical dilemma - anything that is of personal importance, no matter the scale. Explain its significance to you and what steps you took or could be taken to identify a solution. 
You can share any of your personal experience that you think of personal importance to you. Focus on how you solve this problem and why it is important to you. For example, you can write about your experiences of improving your English skills, losing weight and becoming popular at school.

5. Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others. 
This is the most popular essay prompt of 2017-2018 application year. You can share a story or even that changed or inspired you in a way. For example, you can write a volunteer activity that inspire you to become a non-profit organization leader.

6. Describe a topic, idea, or concept you find so engaging that it makes you lose all track of time. Why does it captivate you? What or who do you turn to when you want to learn more? 
The essay to this prompt must show passion and specialized knowledge. It can be very creative in terms of how you introduce it, but it could reflect on the underlying reason a topic captivates you. Successful essays will use sensory details.

7. Share an essay on any topic of your choice. It can be one you've already written, one that responds to a different prompt, or one of your own design. 
This prompt can be very risky but also can be quite rewarding. If you choose this prompt, make sure to ask yourself whether the essay answers the 4 questions (who am I? why am I here?etc.)

Resources: CollegeVine Webinar 10.17

Baylor University

Baylor University in Waco, Texas, is a private Christian university and a nationally ranked research institution. Chartered in 1845 by the Republic of Texas through the efforts of Baptist pioneers, Baylor is the oldest continually operating university in Texas. Located in Waco, Baylor welcomes students from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and 89 countries to study a broad range of degrees among its 12 nationally recognized academic divisions.

Baylor has a reputation for academic excellence. You'll find more electives, options, and room to explore than at a smaller institution. With the range of Baylor's offerings, you can pursue almost any career path. Choose from baccalaureate programs in fields as varied as business, education, nursing, pre-medicine, music, and computer science. The most popular majors at Baylor University include: Biology/Biological Sciences; Registered Nursing; Accounting; Marketing/Marketing Management; and Psychology.

U.S. News & World Report list of National Universities #75
Academic Ranking of World Universities #601

Students who apply to Baylor University through AnB Education, are accepted, and decide to attend in 2019 fall will receive a $2,000 scholarship from AnB Education!

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