The WRITE Time: 5 Techniques for Writing Powerful Common App Essays

In one sentence, the common application essay can be described as a small moment that encompasses a student’s whole life story. Even this description can seem overwhelming. For many rising high school seniors who are contemplating submitting their college applications, the most overwhelming process is writing their common application essay.

But remember, starting the process of brainstorming and writing is the most challenging part of writing the common application essay. Once students start brainstorming, the ideas start accumulating and stress levels diminish. Furthermore, once students have ideas, the process of writing starts to develop a flow. 

Here are 5 techniques to help students write their common application essays:

  1. It is essential to brainstorm. The college application essay emphasizes the importance of thinking. So, before students write, they must think – and brainstorm. Brainstorming is all about pinpointing a topic and theme. Students already have the experiences. Now it’s time for them to decipher which experiences they feel best represent them. Students should focus on identifying their interests and determining the characteristics that they feel are valuable. Brainstorming also includes free write sessions. Students can accumulate ideas without worrying about putting together grammatically correct sentences. While free writing, students should focus on one or two topics from the list of topics they brainstormed. This process helps students determine whether the topics they added to their brainstorming lists could become viable essays. 
  2. Choose a theme. First and foremost, students should choose a theme that represents their lives. When choosing a theme, students should consider how their experiences fit together. Students should contemplate which experiences shaped them. Additionally, students should contemplate the ways in which their theme ties into any potential future goals and objectives. A good theme will highlight their personality and keep readers engaged.  
  3. Make it personal. The common application essay prompts are very broad. They purposely leave room for you to interpret them in different ways because they want you to tell a meaningful and personal story.  It is vital for students to showcase who they are at this point in their lives. Part of this process involves a willingness to open up and tell personal stories. Students should talk about their journeys and any obstacles they overcame to get to this point. They should discuss the ways in which they changed and grew throughout their time in high school. They should tell impactful stories about their lives. The ways in which students express themselves, everything from their topic of choice to the words they use to illustrate this topic, give admissions officers a sense of who they are at this moment in their lives. Most importantly, essays should reflect students’ values. 
  4. Contemplate the future. No one can predict the future, but students have a sense of where they want to end up. After students tell their stories, discussing their past experiences, they should contemplate what they learned and how these experiences changed them. Students shouldn’t dwell on the past. Rather, they should focus on how their past selves helped them evolve into their present selves and how their past and present will influence their futures. 
  5. Edit the essay. Then edit it again and again. Strong writers spend a lot of time editing their work. Without investing a significant amount of time in the editing process, students could end up with hastily written, potentially incoherent essays. Throughout the editing process, students will tighten their stories to make sure that they are clear and that their personalities shine through. Editing essays gives students the opportunity to refine their ideas, correct spelling and grammatical errors, and strengthen the overall quality of their work. Finally, editing essays, students ensure that their essays are having the impact that they intend for it to have. 

Writing college essays requires students to invest time, brain power, concentration, and creativity. Many students have to dig deep and step out of their comfort zones to write meaningful essays and tell their authentic stories. GAMECHANGER Tutoring Connection is here to support students throughout the arduous essay writing process. 


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