Essay Writing Tips

What is a Common App Essay/Personal Essay?
A Common App Essay is important because it can help you gain admission to the college of your choice. Admissions professionals use these statements to gain insight into the students’ traits and goals so they can determine whether the individual is a good fit for the school. For example, they use these essays to assess your writing skills and to learn about your skills, perspective, accomplishments, and career goals. It also provides a lot of information about a person’s personality, outlook and motivations and how specific circumstances formed them. A common application/ personal essay consists of three main parts: introduction, body and conclusion, and it differs from formal essays in their length, tone and purpose. If your values, objectives, and skills align with the mission of the institution, it may indicate that you’re a good fit for the school.

How do you write and prepare a Common App/Personal Essay?
Give yourself plenty of time to write and think about what you want to say. This essay requires significant thought on what to include, how to structure the essay and what tone or style to use.

What is the tone of an essay?
The tone used in writing refers to the feeling the words invoke in the reader. A written piece might have a positive or uplifting tone, or the tone might feel sad or tense. When you write, your mood at that time might have an impact on the overall tone of your piece.

What does style mean in writing?
The word choice, sentence structure, and sentence arrangement all work together to establish mood, images, and meaning in the text.

Five Steps to Writing a Great Common App/Personal Essay:

  • Choose a writing prompt. The prompt helps provide a guide for what you’re writing about and how to structure your essay. There are usually writing prompts on several topics, including:
    • Backgrounds, identities or talents: In your essay, you can write about a significant part of your identity, your cultural background or any interesting talents you have. Sharing your unique qualities can differentiate you from other applicants and help admissions officers learn about your character and personality.
    • Challenges or obstacles: For this type of essay prompt, you can write about a significant challenge you’ve encountered in your life, work or education and explain how you overcame that challenge. You can also write about a current obstacle and how you plan to confront this obstacle.
    • Personal or professional growth: You may decide to write about a time when you experienced significant personal or professional growth. In your essay, include details about the situation, how it affected you and what you learned from the event.
    • Questions about beliefs: If applicable, you can write about a time in your life when you challenged a belief system. Describe what the belief system was, how you questioned it, what the outcome was and what you learned from the experience.
  • Outline your essay. Once you choose a writing prompt, you can begin outlining your essay to decide what components to include. You might use bullet points or headers to identify where and how you want to organize specific ideas. When outlining, plan the following components of your Common App essay:
    • Introduction: Introduce the topics you’re discussing and try to address the writing prompt you’ve chosen. For example, you might start by sharing an anecdote or providing context for a story or event.
    • Body paragraphs: In three to four paragraphs, expand on the main ideas from your introduction to further address the prompt. Use interesting adjectives and verbs to discuss things like growth and skills.
    • Closing: Depending on the prompt, you might explain the outcome of an experience or a lesson you learned. You might also explain your goals or accomplishments and how they relate to your education.
    • Many times, a Common Application/Personal Essay has word limits, such as anywhere between 250 – 3000 words. It is important to be to the point while also including a strong story with details.
  • You are ready to write your essay! Writing an essay can take anywhere from hours to days, depending on how quickly you write and how often you take breaks. Focus on telling a complete story and include personal details that relate to the essay topic and use language that creates emotions depending on your purpose. Your essay should highlight your educational or career goals and share your personality.
  • Proofread your essay. Proofreading or editing your Common App/Personal Essay is one of the most important steps in the writing process because it allows you to find errors, adjust your tone or word choice and ensure your essay addresses the essay question. Start by checking for spelling, grammar, or punctuation errors by rereading your essay and using a word processor or website with a spelling and grammar check program. Then, review your style and tone to make sure your essay is professional, tells a compelling story and answers the prompt. You may also want to have a teacher, counselor, parent, champion or trusted friend review your essay to help you identify strong and weak points in your writing.
  • Submit your essay. After you write and edit your Common App/Personal Essay, you can submit it through The Common Application, which usually costs a fee. Ensure you’ve completed or added your essay to the correct part of the application before submitting it.
Resource Information:
Wayne County College Access Network
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