So now that you understand what the Common App is about, and how you should approach it, here are a few tips and tricks that I have gathered from my own experience and others around me.
1. We all know that the most difficult step in any writing process is the very first one: picking a topic. For the Common App essay, the actual “event” itself is not that important. The first thing you should do is pick something about yourself that you want to emphasize for the admission officers to know about. This is called your “angle.” It could be about your excellent work ethic, or passion for protecting the environment, etc. Remember that the Common App is a persuasive essay, trying to convince the admissions counselors that you are needed on their campus. Basically, think about what makes you so darn fabulous.
2. Now, it is time to pick an event or a story that you want to tell. This should support your “angle” of the paper. It could be any event, as small as ordering food at McDonald’s, or as big as climbing Mountain Everest. An important point to consider when choosing a story is knowing what your tone of voice is. Are you a more serious person, or are you a more humorous writer? If you know that you’re more comfortable undertaking a serious tone of voice in papers, don’t try to be funny in your essay.
3. Outline, outline, outline! When I was writing my essay, it really helped me to outline what I wanted to write about before jumping right into the actual paper. The outline helps you remember all the points that you want to talk about in the paper, and even helps you think of new ideas for the essay. There are many different ways of outlining, and everyone has his/her preference. Here is a helpful article about choosing the best outline method from Writer’s Digest.
4. Now that you have your outline, just write the paper. Remember that this is only your first draft. I like to think of first drafts as free spaces for me to ramble on without any restrictions: I can always edit later. Another tip is that you don’t have to start from the beginning. Whenever I try to start the paper from the very beginning, I overthink and spend three days on the first sentence alone. I like to start from the middle of the paper, with the body paragraphs, or even the conclusion. Here is a helpful tool to motivate you to keep writing—for every 100 words, you are awarded with an unbelievably cute picture of a kitten.
5. Edit, edit, edit! You can never edit a paper too many times; writing is a never-ending progress. When it comes to the Common App essay, it is best to receive advice from different people with different points of view on the college admission process. I had my essay edited by four different people: a high school English teacher, a friend of mine, a college professor, and lastly, a college student. Each person had very different things to say about my paper because of their different opinions and outlooks on college. However, be careful not to have too many people edit your paper; the most important thing about the Common App essay is your own voice. Never lose your identity in the paper!
6. After numerous edits and many sleepless nights, it is finally time to click that submit button. Congratulations, you’re officially finished with your Common App essay! Now go celebrate with some pizza and Starbucks (that’s what I did).