How to Write an Amazing General Application Essay (2022-2023) - Examples Included - Shemmassian Academic Consulting (2023)

Learn how to create a unique topic and choose the right general application essay to make a strong personal statement and get accepted to your dream college. Also a complete common application essay example

How to Write an Amazing General Application Essay (2022-2023) - Examples Included - Shemmassian Academic Consulting (1)

(Note: This guide can also be found in our free 110-page comprehensive guide to the best college admissions.How to Get into America's Elite Universities: The Ultimate Guide.)


Part 1: Introduction

  • What is the common application?

  • Why is the common application essay and other college essays important?

  • What are these mystical college essays anyway?

  • Common Applications for Writing Applications 2022-2023

Part 2: Prescription of your essay of general application

  • Brainstorm Common Resume Writing Topics

  • free writing

  • Writing Timelines: How to write your app's overall personality statement, whether it's six months old, three months old, a month old, or even less

Part 3: Choose Your General Application Essay Topic

Part 4: Write your joint application essay

  • What kind of essay do you need to write?

  • describe

  • Writing and proofreading: common mistakes

Part 5: General Application Test Example

Part 6: FAQ


Part 1: Introduction

College Application – The phrase alone can strike terror into the hearts of seniors and even those of us who have had the experience.

Every year the college application process seems to get more complex and intense. If you're a student, you might read rumors and horror stories about your classmate with perfect grades and a 1500 SAT score who somehow got rejected byany Ivy League school. If he's a parent, he may be concerned about how the college admissions system has changed and become more competitive since he was the age of your children, or perhaps he never had to navigate the system.

One of the biggest fears of many students and parents is the complete anonymity of the process. You, the college prospect, worked hard through high school, earned straight A's, and thereby broadened your worldview.extracurricular activitiesand contribute to your community... and right now, it can feel pretty unfair to put yourself at the mercy of an app system that seems arbitrary, blind to your personality, or even indifferent.

However, there is good news.

There is logic to the college application process, and you, the candidate, can navigate and trust. All those essays, all those forms, all those questions? It's about connecting with the most authentic and vibrant version of yourself. In fact, when approached with intelligence, thought, and organization, the college process can offer you the opportunity to lead the admissions process through you as a person, rather than some distant name on the screen.

What is the common application?

maybe you know themcommon application, common app for short, which serves as a single app shared by more than 900 universities, including all Ivy League schools and similar elite universities like Stanford, Caltech, and the University of Chicago. The regular app allows you to enter information like your name, demographics, extracurricular activities, and more just once for each school that uses it. You'll also find The Common App Essay, also known as Your Personal Statement (PS), which is the focus of this guide.

Although not all schools use the Common Application (many state or public schools often have their own systems), the work you put into writing your Common Application essay will help you with all other components of the process, including applying to schools. that are not part of the common application and write the secondary and complementary essays that usually accompany both types of applications.

(Suggested literature:Which schools use the joint application? The rank-ordered list)

Why is the common application essay important, and any other college essay?

You may have heard the phrase "holistic admission" before: many universities follow this model, which means they don't necessarily have one.ACT o SATCutoff grade and also does not require a specific number of AP/IB/Honors courses. Instead, they try to get to know the candidates as people. Admissions officers are people, people who would be terribly bored if all their work consisted of numbers, statistics, cutoffs, and counting their AP, SAT, and ACT scores.

To get into your dream school, you need not only good grades and test results, but also a strong personal statement.

Because? Your personal statement is the highest "qualitative" element of your application. He brings the student - you! – behind your statistics and demographics. How to communicate with the Admissions Committee as an individual and as a potential member of the campus community. As more people apply to college each year, admissions officers know they have a choice among bright and committed students. In addition to seeing your talents and accomplishments on paper, you need to be able to imagine what it would be like as a walking, talking person.

Many students and parents wonder what role essays play in college admissions decisions. While the importance of college essays, written over a period of a few weeks, or ideally a few months, varies from school to school, most experts estimate that they account for 10 to 30 percent of college decisions! admission!

In other words, your four years of schoolwork, AP, IB, ACT, and SAT exams, community service, volunteer work, etc., only make up 70 to 90 percent. These estimates are not provided to scare you, but rather to emphasize how important it is for you to spend at least as much time on your college essays as on any other high school activity.

Hopefully, in this guide we'll cover all aspects of his personal testimony and reflect on some of the lessons we've learned over nearly 20 years of mentoring students through the college application process and the path to schools. Of your dreams.

What are these mystical college essays anyway?

Let's define our terms:

  • Personal Statement (PD):When people refer to the personal statement, they are talking about the 650-word Common Application essay that all schools using the Common Application will see. Your personal statement is your best opportunity to articulate qualitative aspects of yourself to the admissions committee and the best opportunity for the admissions committee to get to know you as a person. In this guide, "General Application Essay", "General Application Statement" and "Personal Statement" are used interchangeably.

  • Secondary or Complementary Tests:These are the essays that schools can choose for you to write on the essence of the essay of general application. They may invite you to talk more about an extracurricular activity on your resume, reflect on a quote from a famous college grad, or share your thoughts on various general topics.

Common Applications for Writing Applications 2022-2023

Here you are2022–2023 Common Requests to Write Requests- The seven notices are exactly the same as last year. We'll cover how to think about them shortly, so just feed them into your brain.

  1. Some students have such a significant background, identity, interest, or talent that they believe their application would not be complete without them. If this sounds like you, please share your story.

  2. The lessons we learn from the obstacles we encounter can be critical to later success. Talk about a time when you faced a challenge, setback, or failure. How did it affect you and what did you learn from the experience?

  3. Think of a time when you questioned or questioned a belief or idea. What made you think? Which it was the result?

  4. Think of something someone did for you that made you happy or grateful in an amazing way. How has that gratitude influenced or motivated you?

  5. Discuss an accomplishment, event, or accomplishment that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others.

  6. Describe a theme, idea, or concept that you find so captivating that you lose track of time. Why does it fascinate you? Who or what do you contact if you want to know more?

  7. Share an essay on any topic of your choice. It could be one you've already written, one that responds to another ad, or one that you've written yourself.

wide right? You have 650 free words to articulate what moves you, what turns you on, what encourages you or what explains you.

This means that your essays are not a place where you can repeat what is already on your resume, resume orApplication General Activity Section. Nor are they a place to show that you had a great epiphany at eighteen, changed the world, or saw the truth of reality. They can, but they do not have to be, in any way, about a major traumatic experience. You may, but are not required to, talk about family, identity, race, gender, or class.

Rather, they are a place for the admissions committee to see you, who your friends, classmates, teachers, teammates, and family know. We watched students talk about the New England Patriots, John Keats' poetry, his grandparents' town, his obsession with keeping too many Google Chrome tabs open, how grilling meat was a rite of passage, and many others. They have written topics that range from the super serious to the lighthearted, yet meaningful.

The Common App Essay prompts are diverse enough to write about just about anything. As such, we recommend brainstorming your best stories first andSoThink about what question you have to answer. Admissions committees have no preference for the message you choose. Also, we encourage you to check out othercollege essay examples.

Also remember that theCommon section with additional information about the applicationcontains an optional space of 250 words to be describedHow has COVID-19 affected you?. So you don't need to use your common application essay to provide that context. However, it's also okay to write or touch COVID-19 -conThe pandemic is a backdrop that allows you to shed light on what is unique and interesting about you in the ways outlined above.

Let's meet our students

In this guide, we refer to some common application testing examples. These examples are based on essays we've worked on with students over the past two decades—students who have successfully met their admissions goals, including admission to several Ivy League and other major universities.

Now we are going to meet our students.

Student #1: Ramaya:Ramya wants to graduate from college, but she's not sure if she wants to study biology or something else entirely. She spent her school years participating in a variety of activities. She played soccer, but she wasn't the star. She was active in student government, performed as a dancer in cultural shows, and gave public speaking events.

What's not on Ramya's resume? She is a die-hard fan of the New England Patriots, despite having lived in California for most of her life. And she is very close to her father and has a very close circle of friends.

Student #2: Anita:Anita has a talent for English and history. She likes to write, but she neither appears in the school newspaper nor has she published any works of fiction or poetry, which makes her nervous about calling herself a writer. She spends a lot of time on mock trials—in fact, she's competitive on a national level—and a lot of people say she's a great lawyer. But she doesn't think she wants to study political science or philosophy; She may not even want to do anything related to a bogus college process.

What's not on your resume? She loves the outdoors, though she doesn't have anything concrete outside of the curriculum to show for it: She's never been a camp counselor or Girl Scout.

Student #3: Jose:Josh isn't sure what he wants to study. He is a solid student, although no subject in particular makes his pulse rise. In his spare time, he draws comics and has displayed some of them at various community events in his town. He plays basketball and piano.

What is not on your CV? Josh has a complicated relationship with the piano: his parents pushed him and he wants to give it up as soon as possible. And he's very close with his older brother, who recently went to college. He also has a little sister who he has never been intimate with.

Student #4: Michael:Michael lives in a small seaside town and attends a large public school. After school he works as an ice pick and although he is not supposed to contribute to the family income, he has little time for clubs or sports, which are not very important at his school. Usually he likes the chemistry, but he's not sure what to make of it. He doesn't want any prior medical treatment and can't imagine becoming a chemist, so he doesn't know what to do.

What is not on your CV? Michael isn't a great surfer by competitive standards, but he learned to stand up on a board at an early age because his grandfather, who is from Hawaii, taught him how. His grandfather passed away recently.


Part 2: Prescription of your essay of general application

How to Write an Amazing General Application Essay (2022-2023) - Examples Included - Shemmassian Academic Consulting (2)

Of course, the scary part about starting a new piece of writing, whether you're a seasoned professional writer or a high school student, is that eerie glow of the blank page, that blinking cursor that just won't seem to budge on you. .

One of the biggest challenges many students face when applying to college is knowing that they are full of passion and potential energy that has not yet been converted to kinetic energy. This can make trying to communicate who you are and who you expect a daunting task. You may be worried about sounding generic, or not sounding like yourself, or not sounding "smart" or "wise" enough.

The best antidote to all of these concerns, from writer's block to finding your voice, is to prepare yourself emotionally and creatively before you sit down to write your personal statement.

This is how you can attack your Common Application Personal Statement and Supplemental Essays if you have a few months left before they are due. We are big advocates of an early start, preferably in June.

Why so early? You may not be thrilled with the prospect of spending the summer before your senior year applying to college. But starting in June after freshman year and committing to some exercise over the summer will be like spring training for summer athletes. By August, when you have finished writing your General Application Essay and Supplementary Essays, you will be ready and much of the hard work, that is, thinking and figuring out what to say, will be ready for you. .

Starting early also gives you time to send a good draft of your essay to the professors you want to apply to.University recommendation letter. If your referrers know what you're saying about yourself, they can help tell the same story about you, but from a different perspective. This is crucial as your app provides the opportunity to provide not only data about yourself, but also a narrative about yourself: an insight into who you are, how you move through the world, and what you aspire to become. This means that each component of your application: your personal Common Application Statement, yoursupplementary college essays, the recommendations of your professors and the courses you have taken, it is like an episode of your history.

However, we also offer some simplified hours below in case you don't have all summer to work.

Brainstorm common topics for writing resumes and working with prompts (2-3 weeks)

Review the commonly used prompts and identify which ones get your juices flowing. You can also use our advanced prompts provided in the points below to help you brainstorm and write freely over the summer. We'll start with Common Application Essay Message 7 because it's a broad and general question. Then we'll come back and review prompts 1-6.

Tip 7: Share an essay on any topic of your choice. It could be one you've already written, one that responds to another ad, or one that you've written yourself.

  • Make a list of topics and general themes that are important to you. What do you and your friends and family spend a lot of time thinking or talking about? (Note: this is not the same as asking for your list of extracurricular activities.) Tell the story of an important day or event related to one of these themes.

  • Who is a family member who lives with you and is important to you? Think of a specific time when you were helped with something. Tell the story. What was an important conversation you had with them? Tell the story

  • Think of anyone (family member, friend, teacher, etc.) that you care about. When did you meet her? Tell the story. When did you have a pivotal, significant, or important conversation with them? Tell the story

  • Make a list of experiences that were important to you. They don't have to be dramatic, tragic, traumatic, or show that you changed the world, although they could be any of them. Perhaps one summer was particularly important? Or an experience with a friend or relative that marked you; It could be a specific day you spent with them, or a weekend, a summer, or a year.

Remember that certain anecdotes are your friends as you write your personal statement for the Common Application. Try to think of a story you often tell people that shows something about you. One of the best tips we can give you, and something that will be reflected in all the instructions that follow, is to base things on anecdotes or stories as much as possible.

Tip 1: Some students have such a significant background, identity, interest, or talent that they feel their application would not be complete without them. If this sounds like you, please share your story.

  • Where you grew up? Describe your neighborhood, city or town. Big or small? What makes it different from other parts of the world? How did it affect you? What images are important to someone who has never been to your city/neighborhood/community? For example, is there farmland around you, grain elevators, cows? A Chick-fil-A on every block?

  • Where is your parents' house? Does your house affect your daily life? Describe the first time you saw their house in story form.

  • Did you grow up thinking about being somewhere other than where you currently live? Tell the story of your first visit or the first visit you remember. Was there a specific time, a summer or a year, when this place became important? Tell this story.

  • What is the most memorable thing about you? Why do people in your community or school know about you? Tell the story of when you first did this. Tell the story of the most important moment you did this: it could be when you won a game, for example, but it could also be when you lost a game or when you left the team.

  • How did you spend your summers in high school? In the childhood? It tells the story of an unforgettable day in an unforgettable summer. Where were you? Why does that matter? What happened that day affects you today? As?

Proposition 2: The lessons we learn from the obstacles we encounter can be critical to subsequent success. Talk about a time when you faced a challenge, setback, or failure. How did it affect you and what did you learn from the experience?

  • What were the main changes you went through? One step? Change of school? Losing a loved one or a friend? (Avoid writing about romantic relationships and breakups in your essays, but feel free to explore them in your free writing.) Tell the story of the day the move happened: the day you moved, the first day at the new school or the last day at the old school, the day you received bad news from a family member or friend, etc.

  • Have you ever quit an extracurricular activity or a job? Because? It tells the story of the day it happened and the day you decided to give up.

  • What class was the hardest for you in high school? Because? Tell the story of a specific class assignment that was difficult. Now tell the story of a specific lesson that gave you a breakthrough or changed your mind about something.

  • Have you ever been forced to try something you weren't good at? As was? Tell the story of the day you tried. Who encouraged you? Where were you?

  • Did you have a disability, physical or mental health problem, or other significant challenge during high school? Think of a day when you were proud of how you handled or acted on that challenge. (Recommendations:How to write effectively about a disability in a college essay)

Tip 3: Think of a time when you questioned or questioned a belief or idea. What made you think? Which it was the result?

  • What values ​​did you grow up with? Are they the same as today? Tell the story of the first time she learned those values, say, one morning in Sunday school or while she was talking to the grandparents. If they have changed, tell (as best you can) the story of when they changed, for example, in a classroom, in a conversation with a friend, etc.

  • Is there a dominant belief in your family or community that you disagree with? How did you come to disagree? Tell a story of a discussion, cordial or not, you had with someone about this topic. Tell the story of a time when you were proud of how you handled the conflict around that disagreement.

  • When have you been wrong about something? Tell the story of how you found out you were wrong. Who helped you with this?

Tip 4: Think of something someone did for you that made you happy or grateful in a surprising way. How has that gratitude influenced or motivated you?

  • Have you ever had an interaction with a stranger or someone you didn't know well that left a deep impression on you?

  • How has your relationship with gratitude changed over time, lately or earlier in your life? What events led to this change?

  • Have you ever received an unexpected gift or favor that inspired you to “pay it forward” and help someone you didn't expect?

  • What are you thankful for in your life right now? Make a list of things, people, or circumstances you are grateful for, no matter how big or small. You can even do this exercise daily over a period of days or weeks, similar to a gratitude journal.

Tip 5: Discuss an achievement, event, or realization that triggered a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others.

  • They say that a story is about a moment after which nothing is the same. Have you ever experienced one of these moments? What was that? Tell me how you would write a story.

  • Eureka! Have you ever had a moment where everything just *clicked*? Tell the story of that realization: set the scene, each frame, who was in the room and who was not.

  • Forget medals, wins, grades – what intangible quality outside of your resume or moment in your life are you most proud of? Tell the story of the day it happened.

Tip 6: Describe a theme, idea, or concept that you find so captivating that you lose track of time. Why does it fascinate you? Who or what do you contact if you want to know more?

  • Let's say you're home alone for a whole weekend. What do you want to do? Tell the story of a moment that happened, or imagine on the page what it would be like. Set the scene: What rooms are you in your house or are you in your house? Where are you going? what do you bring

  • What activities did you start on your own, that is, what did you do without anyone telling you? Tell the story of the first day you started.

  • What do your friends come to ask you for help with? Tell the story of a time when you thought he did a great job helping someone else. Now, to make sure you stay humble, tell the story of when that person helped you.

By the end of this brainstorming exercise, our students Ramya, Anita, Josh, and Michael will have discovered even more things that aren't on their resumes that can add to anything they can write.

Free writing (3-4 weeks)

When you start this early, your job is not to start writing your design right away, or even to choose which general application application to choose. First, write freely using the directions above as a guide: choose the ones you like or print them out, cut them out, and put them in a hat. Every day, shake your hat and pick one at random!

Freewriting is one of the fun parts, so the more you can do, the better.

There are many ways to approach freewriting, and they all aim to keep it flexible, loose, and free. You want to sound authentic in your essay, which means you don't stiffen under pressure, try to sound formal or more stereotypically "mature" or "polite" like many students do. The more like yourself when you write freely, the stronger you will be when writing the personal statement.

  1. Buy some composition books:Those $1 things, available at Walmart or something. Work on these for the summer. No need to get expensive - no fancy Moleskines here, no laptops or tablets, unless you're physically incapable of handwriting.

    Because? These are the wise words of the cartoonist Lynda Barry: “There is a type of story that gets out of control. Writing, which differs from a keyboard-style story. For one, there's no delete button, which immediately makes the experience more realistic. You can't let go of the things you feel insecure about, and therefore the things you feel insecure about have a much better chance of existing long enough to reveal themselves."

  2. Set aside six minutes of free writing time every morning or a few times a week.Six minutes, that's all! Start the timer, put pen to paper, and don't stop writing until the timer goes off. When you run out of things to write, write: "I don't know, I'm bored, I don't know, help, help, I hate writing!" until new words come. What will you write about in these six minutes? You might try thinking about Common App's compose prompts - they're comprehensive enough to let you in somehow. Think: What is my obstacle, my identity, what do I love?

    Note that Anita doesn't sit down to write her dissertation on "how my life as a moot court advocate prepares me for law school." Instead, what might come out when you write by hand is: "I remember the rush when I first got up in a mock tryout tournament. I was wearing a blazer and my mom's heels and they were so uncomfortable. The room was overheated and I drank too much Mountain Dew. But why did I love playing this lawyer role? Was it theater? A chance to finally argue without getting into trouble at the table?

    If six minutes doesn't work for you, or if you feel like you're not getting in the zone in that amount of time, try writing three pages in your notebook. Please write in capital letters and double space. Let your hand roam free.

  3. Do not show anyone what you have written. And don't read it again.Save everything you've written so you're not tempted to edit it right away. Because? If you allow your writing to take your breath away, you may save yourself from committing one of the deadly sins of writing personal statements, but that's all writing! - trying to force the story to be what you think it should be instead of what it is.

    To be more specific, let's say that Michael wrote about his grandfather, who taught him to surf, in response to several of these suggestions (about a pivotal summer and a person he cared about). But now he is so excited that he wants to make it his design right away from him. As he writes he is confident and thinks why do I write about surfing if I'm not a competitive surfer and it's something I do occasionally? Or suppose Michael shows it to an English teacher who is distracted by the quality of Michael's prose, which should be free and unedited, and tells him to pick another topic because it isn't 'sung' yet. He respects your process and lets these things go.

To have that kind of time freedom, you have to start early. And if you spend the summer warming up and training for the main event, you can start rereading your free-writing body in late July.

Essay Writing Deadlines: How To Write Your General Application Essay When You're Six Months, Three Months, One Month Or Even Less

(Recommendations:The Ideal College Application Plan)

(Video) How Students Can Appeal College Rejections, Episode 250 with Dr. Shirag Shemmassian

In an ideal world, you could start writing and planning your college essays the summer before your senior year. But many students have prior commitments that make it difficult to stick to a six-month (June-December) schedule. So here are some streamlined schedules that may allow you to enjoy the freewriting and brainstorming process, even if you don't have the full six-month window.

Six months - June to December (ideal if you are applyingearly action or early decisiongeneral):

  • June: Brainstorm and work with prompts, 2-3 weeks

  • July: free writing, 3-4 weeks

  • End of July/beginning of August: first complete draft of the common application personal statement

  • Second week of August: Second full draft (this is where the main proofing work comes in)

  • Weeks 3-4 August: completion of the third and fourth drafts

  • Early September: If you haven't already, get feedback from an admissions advisor, English teacher, or other trusted adviser

  • End of September: full final version

You now have October to complete your secondary essays. November is usually when early action/decision deadlines are reached. By the end of October you will have completed your application for the place you wish to study. You can now use the last weeks of November to complete the remaining secondary essays for schools with December or January deadlines (more regular decision deadlines).

Three months, from August to October (in case of strict compliance with the application/early decision deadline):

  • First two weeks of August: brainstorming and working with directions

  • Second half of August: Freewrite

  • First week of September: First full draft of the Common App personal statement

  • Second week of September: Second full draft (this is where the extensive proofreading work comes in)

  • Weeks 3-4 September: completion of the third and fourth drafts

  • Early October: If you haven't already, get feedback from an admissions advisor, English teacher, or other trusted adviser

  • Second week of October: Complete final version

You now have the second two weeks of October to complete your high school essays for each spot you are applying in advance with a November deadline, and the rest of November to complete your remaining school high school essays with December and January deadlines. (more regular decision periods).

One month - October through November (for regular decision schools):

  • First week of October: brainstorming and working with directions

  • Second week of October: Freewrite

  • Third week of October: First full draft of the Common App personal statement

  • Last week of October: Second full draft (this is where major revisions come in)

  • First two weeks of November: Complete the third and fourth drafts

  • Mid-November, before Thanksgiving: If you haven't already, get feedback from a trusted admissions advisor, English teacher, or other adviser

  • Last week of November: Complete final version

You now have December to complete the remaining secondary essays for schools with December and January due dates (more regular decision deadlines).

Mega Crisis Time: Starting in November (if you are starting your application very late and have less than a month, use the calendar below):

  • 2-4 days: Brainstorming and working with prompts

  • 2–3 Label: Freewriting

  • 48 hours after the end of the free writing: complete the first draft of the personal statement of the common application

  • 72 hours after first draft: second draft done (this is where the main revision work comes in). Also, if you haven't already, get feedback between your second and third drafts from an admissions advisor, English teacher, or other trusted advisor.

  • 48 hours after receiving feedback: Complete the third draft

  • 48 hours after the third draft, if time permits: completion of the fourth and final draft

Note: Some elite public universities, like UC Berkeley and UCLA, have application deadlines in November, so be sure to keep yours in mindlist of universities, with terms and conditions, until the end of September so that nothing is missing.

(Related reading:How to Write Great UC Essays)


Part 3: Choose Your General Application Essay Topic

How to Write an Amazing General Application Essay (2022-2023) - Examples Included - Shemmassian Academic Consulting (3)

With all this freely written material in hand, it's time to pick the right topic. What grades do you want your essay to reach? Here are some features that a good common application essay topic will contain:

1. Anecdote and peculiarity.

As you saw in the instructions above, we're big advocates of starting with a specific story or anecdote. That's allNOthe only way to start an essay, but it's a classic. Journalists call this a "lede": it's a hook that leads the reader into a larger topic. His essay will always go beyond the anecdote, but an anecdote gives the reader a fluid and easy way to insert his personal testimony.

A good common application essay topic can be tied as closely as possible to a specific anecdote, story, or even scene. Let's say Josh wrote about his siblings: his older brother, who just got out of college, and his little sister, who he's spent most of the time with since his sister left. Your essay should not start with "I love my little sister" but with "I remember the first time my little sister and I got together. It was July and our older brother had just gotten out of college leaving us home alone for the first time." .

A good essay starts at a specific time and revolves around a specific event. An essay without a specific anecdote or story is an essay.him, without rehearsal. So take it out of his free writing: where did she find herself writing about a specific event, story, anecdote, or point in time?

Another way to think about it is: Does your potential subject include a person (other than you), a setting, and a beginning/middle/end? It gives you a character, a setting, and a plot, all crucial elements of an essay.

An important note is that you do not have to start with the anecdote, it does not have to be your "guide". This can stereotype you. But you'll need one to work with to anchor the piece at some point.

2. Tension, conflict and opportunity to show growth.

Josh can write a good reflection on how close he and his brother were or how much he cares for his little sister, but it doesn't cause much trouble for the admissions committee. Because? Because his subject needs to demonstrate his ability to grow and change over time. If Josh has always had a perfect relationship with his sister, well, first of all, no one will believe it, and second of all, Josh doesn't really tell a story.

So when you find the right anecdote for your essay, make sure you have a sticking point, a point that makes readers wonder if everything will be okay. For Josh, that might mean starting with a time before he and his sister were close, like when all the brothers are home and the two don't have a lot of time to bond. So Josh told us what had changed after his brother left, and there he could find an opening story.

3. A broader relevance or "lesson."

Your essay doesn't have to show that you went through a major metamorphosis or epiphany as a child or teen, but does your potential topic have a lesson to work on? You're looking for something to save and carry into the future, and in a great ideal world, something that will make the reader of the essay say, "Wow, I like that way of thinking, and might even have one again." day."

Another way to think about it is: your essay is about how your past affects your future or how you think now. Michael decided that his grandfather taught him to surf. This is a fertile theme, not only because it has two characters (Michael and his grandfather), but also because it has a place (the sea or, say, a surf shop), a plot (Michael didn't know how to surf at first, he learned it in the middle, now at the end Michael can surf and tell us about it), but also because the ending contains a lesson and an opportunity to move on, perhaps talk about it as the sport taught Michael hat Stay calm and collected under pressure.

4. A connection between your past, your present and your future.

It is common for a student to pick out an important past experience, recount it nicely, but then forget to connect it to the present. Even before you start writing, think about whether her potential topic is influencing the way he thinks about the present, and especially the future. Take Michael again. He writes beautifully about his grandpa teaching him about the waves, but he's not a professional surfer and might even go to college across the country. This is important? Not while he tells us how surfing influences him, as he did, learning a larger lesson.

You may be afraid of choosing that mythical "wrong topic," let's say, the one thing every admissions officer is secretly tired of reading about, but no one will tell you. Students often ask us: Shouldn't I be writing about a dying grandfather? Standing out? About the meaning of my name? About politics?

Here's a secret: the success of your topic almost always depends on delivery, so unless you're writing about something overtly offensive, violent, or irresponsible, it's unlikely you'll come across a rumor that admissions officers can't stomach. .

It's good to be afraid of stereotypes, but one of the truisms about stereotypes is that they become mundane because they repeat feelings that we've all had. It also means that underneath many clichés lies a personal, authentic and private relationship that you have with your subject. If you're working on your statement with a teacher, therapist, or counselor, they can help you identify if you're entering cliché territory or have shifted it into more fertile territory.

But wait. There is a great rule. be humble. Don't try so hard to look grown up or past your age that you end up looking like a know-it-all. The best thing is to show the admissions committee that you can find and understand your experiences as a young person, however small or limited they may seem to you. Let's get philosophical for a moment: this ability to extract something meaningful that isn't pompous or dramatic, and to do it without going overboard, is the raw material of great art. So you're in good tradition if you stay humble and approach your essays conscientiously and honestly.

5. Make a list of everything that seems like a fruitful topic.

From the questions and suggestions, you should realize that you have 3-5 strong themes and stories, things that made you think and feel that produced what Hemingway called the "honest sentences" that make for good writing. Start with the one that excites you the most, that's your personal statement, but keep all the others as fodder for your second graders or as backup material in case someone you trust tells you that for some reason you shouldn't change the subject.

(Note: things that don't always tie into an anecdote or story, but are important to you, can often be useful for secondary ones.)

Let's find out what our sample students wrote about.

Essay #1: Ramya on the Patriots

Ramya could try to write something about medicine. Or she could write about soccer, dance, or languages. But none of these things seem to tell the admissions committee what they already wouldn't know just by reading your list of extracurricular activities.

(Video) A Strategy I Used to Write My Secondary Applications for Medical Schools

So we decided that Ramya would write about the Patriots. The question is how he will demonstrate, through his love of soccer, that he is a mature and caring person who will make a good member of any college community. An ode to Brady won't do here, but what suffices is Ramya's careful reflection on how the time she spent watching the Patriots with her father in a sports bar every Sunday gave her a relationship with her father that most of her friends never had They enjoyed with their families.

Essay #2: Anita on nature and poetry

The obvious thing, and what most teachers and counselors have told Anita, is to write about a mock trial. It would be a good opportunity to give the admissions committee some insight into the psychology behind your success. However, she tried freewriting a few times and it didn't flow.

Instead, Anita decides to write about a wild solo she did on a school trip in North Carolina and how it affected her relationship with poetry.

Essay #3: Josh at the piano and mistakes

We've talked a lot about whether Josh should avoid writing about the piano - it's the main thing on his CV and sometimes it can be good to cut things off the CV like Ramya and Anita plan. Josh has written about his relationship with his sister and his brother and that could find a home in side essays. But it's clear that Josh has an obsessive, if not always positive, relationship with the piano, so there's something to it.

But how do you write "on the piano"?

We examined the themes that came up during Josh's reflection. He found himself writing a lot about mistakes, anxiety about appearing in public, and the pressure to do a good job. Josh thought of a specific piece that helped him overcome performance anxiety, so he's going to write about learning that piece and overcoming fear.

Essay #4: Michael on surfing

We've mentioned Michael's essay several times, but he will be writing about his grandfather who taught him to surf and the lessons surfing gave him off the board and off the waves.

You'll see us come back to these students' ideas as we work on the sketches.


Part 4: Write your joint application essay

How to Write an Amazing General Application Essay (2022-2023) - Examples Included - Shemmassian Academic Consulting (4)

If you've spent the summer freewriting and have carefully chosen the right writing topic, you're now in a good place to start writing, ideally late July or early August. (Remember that if you are applying for Early Action or Early Decision for Schools, your application deadline is in early November, while regular decision applications typically have December and January deadlines.)

We cannot stress enough the importance of this organized prep work: it is incredibly frustrating for a student to write a full draft only to find out that it just "talks", "doesn't sound like it" or "is cliché". .” ” However, by using the criteria already established, you can avoid the feeling of fear that you have done too much work that needs to be stopped.

What kind of essay do you need to write? (a list of narrative strategies)

It is important to remember that there are as many narrative strategies as there are television shows, books, movies, plays, and poetry. We can't go over all, or even most, exhaustively, but we can give you some "modules" to play with.

At 650 words, each is best understood as a five-paragraph essay, so the basic structure remains the same, but the way things begin and end hasn't.

1. The specific test of experience:This module is one of the most flexible and powerful test types. It begins with a scene, memory, or anecdote and then tells us what that scene, memory, or anecdote means to the author later on. It is a classic and should not be underestimated. Michael's essay on learning to surf with his grandpa will use this structure, but so will Anita's essay on a wild solo. Anita will use a slightly more subtle version of this, but both essays begin with a scene: "I was eight years old when my grandfather first took me to the water," "The happiest two hours I've ever spent were on a rock entering a stream in North Carolina.

Solving the specific experience essay requires the student to point out some type of achievement obtained as a result of the experience. It doesn't have to be a big eureka! or epiphany and may actually come later. Michael's reflection on the experience of learning to surf with his grandfather comes more than a decade after he first hit the waves. Anita arrives two years later during an English class when she reads the poetry of John Keats and William Wordsworth for the first time and realizes that these authors have faced exactly what she experienced during her solitary desert.

The trick Michael and Anita do is to carry on with the experience so that it means something for the rest of their lives. Michael writes about how he understands the meditative headspace from being in the frame with his grandfather for all those hours, and how his grandfather's legacy will always be with him. Anita is small in her reflection: she talks about how she learned to see art and artistic experiences in her everyday life and in small quiet moments (this is especially good for Anita because it takes her away from hyper-intense competitive power that plays with judgments). she can appear).

2. The standardized/iterative test:This module is a bit more advanced. Consider Josh's essay on playing the piano. You might want to start with a scene of him playing the piano on stage, but that's too obvious. The essay that he is going to write is really about practicing and learning to stop making mistakes. So what if he started each paragraph with a different mini-moment of him playing the piano and making a mistake?

  • Paragraph 1: My first mistakes on stage: I'm six years old and I play chopsticks. Then introduce the topic of the essay.

  • Paragraph 2: I was wrong the second time: I am thirteen years old and... etc.

So the natural place where Josh ends up is that moment where he almost fails but doesn't, showing us how he's grown over time.

3. The circle test:In this essay, the author begins with a scene, image, or concept and then returns to that scene, image, or concept before the end of the essay to make sense of the opening. This essay builds suspense. Let's take Anita's essay as an example, which could begin like this: “I lost my happiest moments and spent them alone in the desert. How did I get here? To understand you need to understand X, Y, Z about me..." and this could end: "...this is how I found myself, at the age of sixteen, lost - but totally at home in the desert. "

4. The mini odyssey rehearsal:The last classic and powerful module is the good old problem-oriented essay. In this type of essay, our hero (you, the author) is faced with a challenge in the first paragraph, and then the essay shows us how to solve it. Let's say Michael didn't want to write about how he learned to surf with his grandfather, but about how his grandfather was diagnosed with terminal cancer.

There's a lot of narrative Michael will need to tell us about the loss of his grandfather; is too much to fit in the first paragraph. So Michael can lay out the narrative chronologically, show us the bad news first (the problem), then walk away to think about it, then show us how he handled it (overcome the challenge), probably didn't address it correctly, and refine the first one once and then address it successfully (the solution).

These are just a few more narrative ways to structure your essay. Let's focus on Ramyas for now.


After picking up your chosen theme, it's time to outline it. Outlining works great as a pre-writing tactic for some people, and we always recommend it. For others, it may be more difficult than just starting to write. If you're really having trouble with the outline and would rather just follow the pen for a first draft, that's fine, but do yourself a favor and sketch out your second draft. Everyone needs a schematic at some point, but it's up to you to decide when to do it. Let's move on to Ramya's essay on the Patriots. The template we will use for this essay is a five paragraph anecdotal essay.

By the way, here's the message that helped Ramya pick the Patriots:Describe a place or environment in which you are completely satisfied. What are you doing or experiencing there and why is it important to you?Although not one of the current notices for general application testing, this, or any other notice, can be used to generate a test that falls under the umbrella of Open Notice, Notice 7.

With that in mind, Ramya will write about the sports bar where she watches her team play every Sunday during soccer season.

1. Introduction:Ramya has a funny note in her essay: It's unexpected. The whole thing takes place in a sports bar, and on paper she may seem like an unlikely football fan to the admissions committee. So we start at the bar and Ramya narrates the scene with an anecdote:

It had been a rough week in school—drama with my group of friends, tough tests, orchestra practice, grueling soccer practice—but I knew where a Sunday belonged. At Dee's Sports Bar in San Jose with my dad watching our team...

She also tells us about Dee herself, taking the opportunity to show the admissions committee that she's got storytelling chops when it comes to simply noticing things:

By the end of football season, the team knew what we were looking for...we were loyal to Dee's just like we had to be loyal to the Patriots, even when it seemed like they were failing us.

By telling this as a story, Ramya gave the admissions committee a human being to relate to early on.

2. Billboard/Nutgraph/Thesis Paragraph:In the world of magazines, the second paragraph of an article is called a "poster paragraph" because it conveys what the article is about as powerfully as a billboard. Newspapers call the same graph nuts, and academic papers may refer to it as their thesis. All of these terms point to one thing: here you yell: HEY! THAT'S WHAT MY ESSAY IS ABOUT! This is where you relate the scene and characters from paragraph 1 to the thematic concerns you will address in the rest of the essay.

For Ramya, it goes something like this:

At Dee's I learned loyalty, to my team, to Patriots across the country, but also to my father, my friends, and myself.

Ramya's essay will focus on loyalty: a big topic that would sound terribly weak if presented in the first line or even paragraph, but it's surprising and interesting here because it sets it against a unique and seemingly light background. Fare: working out at a bar (Ramya assured the admissions committee at one point that she doesn't drink at that bar!)

3. Body paragraph #1:In this section, Ramya will tell us a bit more about loyalty and why it's important. He will add context. She then separates from Dee and tells us that during high school he noticed that many of his friends were involved in social dramas, competing with each other, and arguing over romantic situations; Against all of this, plus bullying, depression, and the other tough aspects of high school, Ramya's loyalty to the Patriots and Dee served as a refuge, one of the things that kept her sane.

Now, it is important to note that this is not enough for Ramya to write an essay. "Here's something I care about/valuable/meaningful" is sometimes where students stop. Ramya needs to amplify this, tell us something that shows maturity, a capacity for reflection and introspection that will be useful in college and into adulthood...

4. Paragraph #2 of the she uses her next paragraph to make a more important point: What other kinds of loyalty make her think of being with Dee on a Sunday?

5. Conclusion:Now Ramya will move everything forward and direct our eyes to that "lesson" - the thing to keep in your pocket and which will serve as a kind of talisman for life.

Writing and proofreading: common mistakes

Most people don't draw. And even after tracking, many people can't follow their outline. It's natural to want to deviate here and there and deviate more or less from the original plan, but here are a fewCommon mistakespeople do when they are not drawing or abandoning the guiding hand of their outlines. As we go through some of these errors, we'll also list a few.general tips and tricksto tackle some of the tougher parts of your essay, including time, scene, reveal, change, character, and more.

Here's an abbreviated version of how Ramya's essay got started:

As a 5'1.75" Asian girl, few people would expect her to spend every Sunday in a bar watching football.

I want to thank Dee's Sports Bar for teaching me life lessons that I will carry with me for the rest of my life. Thank you for showing me the importance of loyalty, relationships and laughter.

I have always been loyal to the Patriots.

It's not a bad start, but it leads us towards it.Common Mistake #1: Start your writing by introducing yourself instead of presenting the story, i.e. being too broad.Ramya begins by trying to tell us who she is in a broad, introductory, and revealing way, rather than following a specific path of who she is. It's okay that she's short, but there's a lot here that we don't need: we don't need her height, nor do we need to know if she used to get the games one way or another. We just need to know that she's at the bar.

It's only 650 words. which brings us toTip #1: Take refuge in the anecdote, the specific, the special.Everything is easier when you choose something specific. Many writers (university publishers and other outlets) get stressed out because they feel they need to fully express themselves in an essay. This is simply not possible in the space capsule, which is your personal common application statement. And ironically, it will do the opposite, making your essay look bulky and meandering and saying very little about you.

Instead, using a single story as a stand-in for something bigger or something else turns your essay into a sort of parable or lesson that educates your reader about you and hopefully a part of the world they once knew. never considered.

Now think about the first declarative sentence Ramya makes in that early draft: "I've always been loyal to the Patriots."Tip #2: Having trouble defining your thesis statement? Look for your first statement!Ramya's essay can't be about her undying loyalty to the Patriots, it won't do. But the fact that his prose naturally builds on how his short, crisp first sentence tells us he's making a statement, you probably believe. Loyalty is becoming a really important issue.

Common Mistake #2: Hide or bury your thesis statement too deep.Knowing that loyalty will have something to do with Ramya's thesis, we now know that we want her to arrive at the end of the first paragraph or the beginning of the first paragraph.

This is how Ramya's essay began at the end of 3-4 rounds of edits and revisions:

Just before 5 p.m. m. on Sunday, October 13, 2013, I sat in a bar and clung to a rapidly fading sense of optimism. But wait: it's not what you think it is. I didn't drink again; I turned to the TV screen. The result was 27-23 and the Patriots wasted many opportunities. With just over a minute to go in the game, my father, the man responsible for taking me, a 15-year-old boy, to a bar, dejectedly asked if we should leave. I reminded him that a true sports fan never gives up on his team, no matter the situation. And after a miraculous run, capped off with an unforgettable pass from my idol Tom Brady to the corner of the end zone, followed by a flurry of euphoric applause and cheers from the fans in the bar, regardless of whether we'd already met. . Loyalty brought us together.

OthersCommon mistake (#3!)It was Ramya tat, war:Mix the feeling of accomplishment with the billboard heel.His second paragraph in the original essay read, "I want to thank Dee's Sports Bar for teaching me life lessons that I will carry with me for the rest of my life. Thank you for showing me the importance of loyalty, relationships, and laughter." That's a feeling, not a theory. And that feeling is fine, it might have a place at the end of the essay, but it doesn't belong in the second paragraph because it doesn't guide us as we read the rest of the essay. It's still not strong and meaningful.

(Video) how i got into UT after getting CAPPED! appeals tips & tricks

This was the paragraph from the poster that Ramya achieved after a few rounds of editing:

There are different types of loyalty. Loyalty to a team, to a company, to other people, even to yourself. Sitting in this bar last year, I feel like I've seen them all.

There is a lot of work to be done here! It is short, clear and leads us toTip #3: Define your terms.Ramya wants to talk about an abstract concept: loyalty. Many young writers want to think about things like charity, service, leadership, loyalty, friendship, kindness, morality, etc. These are great topics. But Ramya isn't just talking about loyalty, a word that can mean many different things to many different people. She defined loyalty for the purposes of this essay, which means that we are now playing in her house.

As Ramya's original first draft progressed, she came across aCommon mistake #4: The strange case of missing a lesson.Initially, Ramya's penultimate paragraph was something of an ode to Dees, instead of showing the admissions committee that she had a bigger life to make of the time she spent supporting her team; the “Thank you Dee's” take the place that should have been reserved for a poster paragraph. Going back to the sketch or drawing in the middle would help.

But don't stress if your first sketch seems to be slipping away.Tip #4: Try an inverted outline.Once you've written a draft of your essay, print it out. (By the way:Tip #5: Print things out!Don't get sucked into a never-ending spiral of copy-paste—when you print your draft, you can keep a draft next to you and open a new document so you can retype entire paragraphs or delete sections entirely.)

Then take your printout and in the margin write what each paragraph means. It can be a bit difficult, right? When you answer the question "What is the purpose of this paragraph?" I can't answer or "What do I want readers to learn from this paragraph?" then you are probably missing oneMain clause.

Everything we talk about here (writing, noticing mistakes, correcting them) will require at least three and even five or six drafts to get right. So,Tip #6: Don't treat your first few drafts as something that is nearing completion.This means that you have to get used to putting the idea down on paper and cutting out entire paragraphs or "points" within the essay. You have probably never written anything like the Personal Statement, and you must promise to repeat it. Otherwise, you'll be left with a weaker version of the attachment.

test while iteratingTip #7: Read your drafts out loudso you can tell when things feel stiff or weak; that must sound like you. Reading aloud can help you pick up things likeCommon Mistake #5: Tonal Mistakes: Sounding too formal or too shallow/casual.Ramya never suffered from any of these problems; he resembled her even in early drafts of her.

But many students feel they have to sound formal rather than boring ("One Sunday afternoon, my dad picked me up from my room and walked me to the kitchen, where we went to Dee's Sports Bar...") or "so young." even disrespecting the reader ("My dad likes Sunday, we go to Dee's Sports Bar and I'm fine, so I come downstairs and we leave..."). When you click the blinking cursor looking until your eyes meet, it can be easy to fall into one of these traps and type in a voice that isn't your own, if you read it out loud you can pick it up.

Tip #8: The correct voice sample is the most polished version of your speaking voice.It shouldn't sound like you've swallowed a thesaurus, but it should sound a bit more formal than your texting to your friends.


Part 5: General Application Test Example

This is how Ramya's essay ended:

Just before 5 p.m. m. on Sunday, October 13, 2013, I sat in a bar and clung to a rapidly fading sense of optimism. But wait, it's not what you think it is. I did not drink again, I turned to the TV screen. The result was 27-23 and the Patriots wasted many opportunities. With just over a minute to go in the game, my father, the man responsible for taking me, a 15-year-old boy, to a bar, dejectedly asked if we should leave. I reminded him that a true sports fan never gives up on his team, no matter the situation. And after a miraculous run, capped off with an unforgettable pass from my idol Tom Brady to the corner of the end zone, followed by a flurry of euphoric applause and cheers from the fans in the bar, regardless of whether we'd already met. . Loyalty brought us together.

There are different types of loyalty. Loyalty to a team, to a company, to other people, even to yourself. Sitting in this bar last year, I feel like I've seen them all. As a girl born in Boston, my loyalty to the Patriots seems natural, although it's not that common for a Californian-American-Indian teenager to be as addicted to sports as I am. But I've seen that loyalty put to the test time and time again. I am totally invested in the Pats; I have been known to get dizzy when they win and cry when they lose. However, finding a real home to watch Patriots games in California isn't easy. So I owe a surprising amount to Dee's Sports Bar. By the end of the season, the staff knew what we wanted to eat and where we wanted to sit, making the sports bar feel like a home away from home.

My father and I have a typical father-daughter relationship; He annoys me when he doesn't let me out, he annoys me when I neglect responsibility. But in the year since we started setting the bar, we've come much closer. On the trips there and back we talk about everything from school to politics to pop culture. And we talk about sport at eye level. My best friend once told me that neither she nor her father are willing to go the extra mile to find common ground. And I realized how lucky I was: sport offers me and my father an inexhaustible subject that we can turn to again and again.

The bar also helped me discover a different kind of loyalty: to myself. Freshman year was an exciting year, filled with academic struggles and the inevitable social drama that comes with high school. The bar showed me that I needed to find something comfortable, a place with no drama, no strings attached, and a shared goal…or at least a shared desperate desire to win. At the bar, no one cared what I got on the last math test or which guy asked my friend to prom. What matters is the game. This perception is not just limited to sports; I found that I need a place where I can be myself with my team and my dad. Part of that was deciding that I only wanted to be friends with people who had a positive impact on my life. These were such simple revelations, but they made all the difference.

I have always been loyal to the New England Patriots. From my childhood sitting mesmerized in front of the screen to today analyzing every stat I can get my hands on, I love every aspect of the team. But all those visits to the sports bar have taught me important lessons that go beyond football. And for that I am grateful.

General application test analysis

Ultimately, what lessons can we learn from Ramya's essay? Here are some aspects of the essay that are most successful:

  • Ramya applies tip #1 above (retreat to anecdotes and details) to great effect. You can feel the excitement in the game, not to mention the investment made by Ramya and his father. The result is a memorable and unique opening that will compel you to keep reading.

  • Ramya's thesis statement ("Loyalty brought us together") outlines what the essay will be about and allows her to make a natural transition from sports fanaticism to the kind of loyalties she has.the truth isshe wants to show the admission committees: her relations with her father and with herself.

  • By talking about loyalty to oneself, Ramya demonstrates maturity, independence, and the ability to grow and absorb lessons. Reflections like: "This included deciding that I only want to be friends with people who have a positive impact on my life." Help us see her as a whole person who can think for herself. Therefore, it is easy to think of her as a student who will make valuable contributions to a college campus.

  • While we've already noted that Ramya never bothered to hit the right note in this essay, it's worth noting the balance of polish and nonchalance she strikes. The result is an easy-to-read essay that is nonetheless mature and, most importantly, authentic in his own voice.


Part 6: FAQ

How to Write an Amazing General Application Essay (2022-2023) - Examples Included - Shemmassian Academic Consulting (5)

Applying to college involves more than we can cover here, including your grades, standardized test scores, and letters of recommendation, but your essays are some of the most important material. They form the cornerstone of the qualitative side of your application. If you do this correctly, your entire application will start strong. Good luck!

What books can you recommend for writing essays like this and others?

by William Zinsserabout writing wellit is the foundation for the basics of nonfiction writing. Strunk and whitesstyle elementsIt's a very small volume that will help you make sure you've dotted all your i's and crossed out all your t's when it comes to grammar and syntax rules.

Who should read my essays? Are there so many readers? Very little? The wrong readers?

Think quality, not quantity. It's best not to hand your essay over to anyone who gets in your way, no matter how many brilliant teachers, friends, and classmates you have at your disposal. Too much feedback can confuse your sense of mission.

So how do you know who to submit your essay to? The right editor or writing guide is someone who knows something about you, but isn't your best friend or parent, and someone you know can push you with storytelling and language.

There are many readers, so we recommend asking no more than one to three people for a review: an editor, consultant, professor, or adviser should help you with most of your essays; At some point, a friend or parent may hear you read aloud or read it without picking up the Ren pen (i.e., they're there to make sure you sound like you, rather than stepping in and writing for you). Parents who worry too much about their children's essays may be doing them a disservice; it becomes apparent when someone who is not 18 years old served as the driving force in the writing process.

Students often want to know how to deal with comments they disagree with. If it's coming from someone you respect, think about it seriously, but remember that this is your voice. It's okay to text the person or tell them you value their opinion, but you'll find the essay is more like you if you leave it as is.

Does my essay have to be about something that happened in high school? How far can I go?

Your essay can be based on anything that moves you, no matter when the obscene anecdote, event, or incident you are writing about occurred. The most important thing in terms of the timeline, however, is that you show your readers how the event not only affects you now, but will continue to affect the way you think about yourself and the world for years to come.

I feel like I don't have enough space to write everything I want. That I have to do?

This is completely normal! But feeling like you have more to say than you can take in is often the result of clipping, which means you probably didn't select the right specific message to fit your personal statement into a small, specific area.

Here's the key: find the right question to answer using all the tips, tricks, and prescription exercises we've outlined here. With the right question, you can use your common application essay as a window into who you are instead of being weighed down by the belief that you need to communicate your "whole self" in your application. You can't shut up and give your soul to the admissions committee, but you can give them a glimpse of some of the most important parts of you in these 650 words.

What is the word limit for general applications essays?

The word limit for the common application essay is 650 words. We strongly recommend using all 650 words, although you are not required to do so. If you are well below that threshold, you must be wondering why your personal statement is so short. Compare to the contours we worked on in this post. Did you use your five paragraph essay in its entirety? Has your essay shown changes over time or personal growth? Maybe you told a story but forgot to think about it.

The important thing is to ensure that you have fully inhabited each "item" of the successful common application essay as described in this guide. This gets you closer to the sensible word limit.

Should I explain the bad grades on my essays?

Many students have an instinct to explain themselves, including any perceived flaws or shortcomings, when writing their applications. There are many ways to give the admissions committee context for something you think "went wrong" in high school, whether it's bad grades, imperfect attendance, or something else.

Your referrers may have the opportunity to write something about it in their letter if they can see it during or after the difficult time. You can also write about something bad in your personal statement if you have the narrative energy; That is, if it would be a good essay regardless of whether or not it explains an error, write about it.

An example might be an essay looking at a student's personal life, for example, their parents' difficult divorce during their first year. If the student has something introspective to say about the divorce, she might add a line or two explaining that her grades took a hit during the incident, but she wants to conclude the essay by not only showing how she did things in the years to come, but also how what you learned during the difficult time will influence you in the future.

It's important not to make your weaknesses sound defensive in your app. If you have something that you feel doesn't make you an ideal candidate, make it his strength by explaining what you learned from it.

oCommon section with additional information about the applicationprovides an opportunity to provide context about difficulties you may have faced during high school. This is another place where you could explain the bad ratings or something. Again, it's important not to just say, "I got bad grades, but I got better." A better explanation provides context and explains what specifically helped you turn things around. For example:

During my freshman year, when my parents were going through a difficult divorce, I became distracted and stressed, which caused my grades to drop. However, after my freshman year I was able to work with my teachers in the summer and attended summer school to make up for poor performance. My family also recovered after a few years and time in family therapy. While I'm sorry for my poor grades in ninth grade, I'm proud that I was able to improve so quickly in sophomore year and that I developed stronger study habits and tactics to deal with emotional distress as a result.

The second answer is specific and also shows the maturity gained through a difficult time.

How to Write an Amazing General Application Essay (2022-2023) - Examples Included - Shemmassian Academic Consulting (6)

About the Author

Dra. Shirag Shemmassianis the founder of Shemmassian Academic Consulting and one of the world's leading academic admissions experts. Over the past 15 years, he and his team have used his unique approach to help thousands of students gain acceptance to top programs like Harvard, Stanford, and MIT.


What do admissions counselors look for in essays? ›

In your application essay, admissions officers are looking for particular features: they want to see context on your background, positive traits that you could bring to campus, and examples of you demonstrating those qualities.

What is the topic for 2022 college applications essay? ›

All 2022-23 Common App Essay Prompts

Recount a time when you faced a challenge, setback, or failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience? Reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea.

How do you start an application essay? ›

Start with an attention grabber. The very first sentence of your essay should be the “hook” or “grabber.” This sentence “hooks” readers or “grabs” their attention, making them want to read more. This first sentence should provide rich details, engage a reader's curiosity, or otherwise stand out from the rest.

How do I make my Common App essay stand out? ›

A standout college essay has several key ingredients:
  1. A unique, personally meaningful topic.
  2. A memorable introduction with vivid imagery or an intriguing hook.
  3. Specific stories and language that show instead of telling.
  4. Vulnerability that's authentic but not aimed at soliciting sympathy.
Oct 25, 2021

What are at least three things colleges look for in an application essay? ›

Colleges look for three things in your admission essay: a unique perspective, strong writing, and an authentic voice. People in admissions often say that a great essay is one where it feels like the student is right there in the room, talking authentically to the admissions committee!

What should you not do in a college essay? ›

What Not to Do in College Essay
  • Don't list your accomplishments. ...
  • Don't try to cram too many themes or subjects into an essay. ...
  • Don't try to write something you think colleges will like. ...
  • Don't tell your story to an admissions officer! ...
  • Don't “go for laughs” because you heard it helps (which it can).
Jul 4, 2022

What are 3 good topics for an essay? ›

Essays Topics About Yourself
  • My Family.
  • My Best Friend.
  • My Hobby.
  • My Mother.
  • My Father.
  • My Favourite Teacher.
  • My Aim In Life.
  • My Favourite Game – Badminton.

What are the best things to write about in college application essay? ›

You could open with an anecdote or an interesting story that will show some of the best parts of your personality and character, offering an insight that will help the admission officers get to know who you are.

What is a good introduction for an essay? ›

A good introduction should identify your topic, provide essential context, and indicate your particular focus in the essay. It also needs to engage your readers' interest.

What are the words to start an essay? ›

Below is a list of possible sentence starters, transitional and other words that may be useful. This essay discusses … … is explored … … is defined … The definition of … will be given … is briefly outlined … … is explored … The issue focused on …. … is demonstrated ... … is included …

What is the easiest way to start an essay? ›

Writing the introduction
  1. Hook your reader. The first sentence of the introduction should pique your reader's interest and curiosity. ...
  2. Provide background on your topic. Next, it's important to give context that will help your reader understand your argument. ...
  3. Present the thesis statement. ...
  4. Map the structure.

What should you avoid on the Common App essay? ›

Don't worry about being the next Ernest Hemingway or Jane Austen; however, do avoid these common essay topics:
  • A Litany of Your Academic and/or Extracurricular Achievements. ...
  • Your Hero. ...
  • Experimental or Creative Writing. ...
  • A Sports-Related Challenge or Success. ...
  • Service Trips. ...
  • Tragedy. ...
  • Controversial or Polarizing Subjects.
Jun 14, 2022

How do you make yourself stand out in college applications? ›

Here are six tips from admissions staff on ways to set yourself apart from other college applicants:
  1. Have a diverse list of extracurricular activities.
  2. Challenge yourself.
  3. Go beyond the norm in a college essay.
  4. Show grades trending up.
  5. Demonstrate interest in the college.
  6. Schedule an interview if possible.
Oct 27, 2022

How do you start a college essay about yourself? ›

Start your essay with a creative introduction that will make the readers want to continue reading your essay. You may choose to start with a personal story or experience. Avoid using cliches such as “from a young age” or “for as long as I can remember.” Also, avoid using quotes.

What are three big mistakes commonly made on college application essays? ›

3 Common College Application Essay Mistakes
  • Not Providing Any New Information. Every component of your application should add new information to the picture. ...
  • Stifling Your Voice and Personality. Students often ask if a particular talent or activity will make them stand out. ...
  • Not Tailoring Essays.

What looks impressive on college applications? ›

A high GPA (relative to what admitted students have) and a rigorous curriculum. Strong test scores (relative to what admitted students have) A specific, honest, and well-written personal statement and/or essays. A unique extracurricular interest or passion (a "spike," as we like to call it)

What are 5 common popular college essay topics? ›

Tackling the Common App Essay Prompts
  • Prompt #1: Share your story.
  • Prompt #2: Learning from obstacles.
  • Prompt #3: Challenging a belief.
  • Prompt #4: Solving a problem.
  • Prompt #5: Personal growth.
  • Prompt #6: What captivates you?
  • Prompt #7: Topic of your choice.
  • Describe a person you admire.

Which of these should be avoided in essay writing? ›

3. Which of these should be avoided in a good essay? Explanation: A good essay must have a dignified and literary style. It cannot have slang, colloquial terms and free constructions.

What are the most common college essay mistakes? ›

The Four Worst College Application Essay Mistakes
  • Mistake #1: Writing About a Cliched Topic. Don't write about a cliched or overused topic. ...
  • Mistake #2: Writing a List of Accomplishments. Don't write a list essay. ...
  • Mistake #3: Writing in an Impersonal Way. ...
  • Mistake #4: Writing a Five-Paragraph Essay.

What are the 5 things in a essay? ›

As a result, such a paper has 5 parts of an essay: the introduction, writer's arguments, counter arguments, refutation, and conclusion.

What are the 5 points in an essay? ›

The Five point (also known as five paragraph) essay is simply that—an, essay which completes its goal (defending its thesis) in five points.
  • 1 Introduction.
  • 2 Summarize Argument.
  • 3 Argue Your Position.
  • 4 Counter Argument And Response.
  • 5 Conclusion.

What are 4 most important parts of an essay? ›

Argumentative essays test your ability to research and present your own position on a topic.
Argumentative essays
  • The introduction provides your topic and thesis statement.
  • The body presents your evidence and arguments.
  • The conclusion summarizes your argument and emphasizes its importance.
Sep 4, 2020

What is a good attention grabbers for college essays? ›

The attention grabber, also known as a “hook”, is the first sentence that the reader will see, and its purpose is to grab the reader's attention. A few common attention grabbers are: - A short, meaningful quote that relates to your topic. - Think of a quote that interested you during your research.

What point of view should I write my college essay in? ›

Don't write about yourself in the third person.

As a best practice, write your essay in the first person. After all, the essay is about you, so make sure it stays close to your personal perspective.

What format should a college application essay be in? ›

Generally, essays for college admission follow a simple format that includes an opening paragraph, a lengthier body section, and a closing paragraph. You don't need to include a title, which will only take up extra space. Keep in mind that the exact format can vary from one college application to the next.

What are 3 things you can put on your college application that might make you stand out amongst other people applying? ›

If you want to make your college application stand out memorably, take a look at these 16 tips.
  • Choose Your High School Classes With Intention. ...
  • Strive for Good Grades. ...
  • Tell the Story of Who You Are. ...
  • Participate in Extracurricular Activities. ...
  • Volunteer. ...
  • Keep Accurate Records. ...
  • Manage Your Social Media Presence.

What is the best word to start a introduction? ›

So, to get you started on polishing your own essay writing ability, try using the words in this list as an inspirational starting point.
  • Words to use in your introduction. ...
  • Firstly, secondly, thirdly. ...
  • In view of; in light of; considering. ...
  • According to X; X stated that; referring to the views of X. ...
  • Adding information and flow.
Jan 7, 2019

How do you start a powerful introduction? ›

Use a stat or fact to convey importance.
  1. Keep your first sentence short. ...
  2. Say something unusual. ...
  3. Don't repeat the title. ...
  4. Keep the introduction brief. ...
  5. Use the word “you” at least once. ...
  6. Dedicate 1-2 sentences to articulating what the article covers. ...
  7. Dedicate 1-2 sentences to explaining why the article is important.
Jul 30, 2019

What are some good introductions? ›

Introduce Yourself
  • Start with a quotation.
  • Open with a relevant stat or fun fact.
  • Start with a fascinating story.
  • Ask your readers an intriguing question.
  • Set the scene.
Sep 8, 2017

What not to start a sentence with? ›

Never begin a sentence—or a clause—with also. Teach the elimination of but, so, and, because, at the beginning of a sentence. A sentence should not commence with the conjunctions and, for, or however....

What are the best words to use in an essay? ›

General explaining
  • Significantly. ...
  • Notably. ...
  • Importantly. ...
  • In conclusion. ...
  • Above all. ...
  • Persuasive. Usage: This is a useful word to use when summarising which argument you find most convincing. ...
  • Compelling. Usage: Use in the same way as “persuasive” above. ...
  • All things considered. Usage: This means “taking everything into account”.
Nov 27, 2021

What should I write in my admissions essay? ›

Telling Your Story to Colleges

The best way to tell your story is to write a personal, thoughtful essay about something that has meaning for you. Be honest and genuine, and your unique qualities will shine through. Admissions officers have to read an unbelievable number of college essays, most of which are forgettable.

Do admissions counselors read essays? ›

Yes, every college essay is read if the college has asked for it (and often even if they did not ask for it). The number of readers depends on the college's review process. It will be anywhere from one reader to four readers.

What should I write my admissions essay about? ›

Whatever subject you choose, make sure it's something that's genuinely important to you and not a subject you've chosen just to impress. You can write about a specific experience, hobby, or personality quirk that illustrates your strengths, but also feel free to write about your weaknesses.

Do admissions officers actually read essays? ›

Admissions officers do read for writing quality. Application essays should be error-free examples of the student's best work. The consensus among admissions officers is that most students don't spend enough time on their essays to make a real impact.


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