How to write a common app essay

Writing a common app essay can be an important part of your college application process. This type of essay allows you to showcase your personality, experiences, and perspective in a way that goes beyond your academic achievements and test scores.

Here is a step-by-step guide on how to write an effective common app essay:

Understand the essay prompt

Understanding the common app essay prompts is important since they guide you in choosing the right topic to write about. They help you focus your essay on meaningful experiences or reflections.

If you understand the prompt well, you will be able to: 

Here is some prompt examples for common app essay:

Common app essay prompts

  1. Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, please share your story.

  2. Reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea. What prompted your thinking? What was the outcome?

  3. Describe a problem you've solved. It can be an intellectual challenge, a research query, an ethical dilemma—anything that is of personal importance, no matter the scale. Explain its significance to you and what steps you took or could be taken to identify a solution.

Now that we understand the prompt, we need an outline to write effectively.

Create an outline

Powerful essay outline is an essential step in organizing your thoughts and ideas before you start writing your essay. It helps you ensure that your essay has a clear structure, a logical flow, and effectively addresses the chosen prompt. When preparing your outline: 

Now let’s have at an 3-paragraph common app outline example below. 

Common app essay outline example

  1. Introduction
    1. Hook sentence
    2. Personal memory
    3. Thesis statement

  2. Body paragraph
    1. Topic sentence
    2. Personal Exploration/Experience
    3. Applying to academic interest

  3. Conclusion
    1. Rephrased thesis statement
    2. Future application
    3. Closing sentence

When it comes to choosing between you and another similar candidate, you should make sure the admissions officer easily remembers your unique story. 

So now it’s time to start writing our introduction paragraph. 

Write a compelling introduction

You may feel confused and lost as you start writing your introduction. But don’t worry, this part will assist you to get started.

Let’s have a look at a introduction paragraph example.

Common app essay introduction example


Life has an intrinsic rhythm, a set pattern that is both mesmerizing and mysterious. Hook sentence As a child, I was captivated by the puzzle-like patterns on my grandmother's antique carpet, the seemingly random yet interconnected web of lines and colors. Personal memory That early fascination evolved into a thesis: there are deeper truths embedded within patterns, be it in art, nature, or human behavior, and understanding them can help us decipher the complexities of the world around us. Thesis statement

After a good introduction, you need to use body paragraphs appropriately to tell the story clearly.

Tell your story with body paragraphs

In the body paragraphs, elaborate on your chosen topic. You should quickly and deeply reveal the insights of your experiences. It is highly important to: 

Now, you picked yourself up and can continue writing. As you tell your story, reflect on its significance.

Common app essay body paragraph example

Growing up, I began to seek patterns everywhere. Topic sentence During summer nights, I mapped constellations, appreciating the celestial tales they whispered across millennia. In school, while my peers saw math problems as mere numbers and equations, I envisioned them as intricate designs, revealing a grander scheme of logic and order. This pattern-centric perspective was more than just a hobby; it transformed challenges into engaging puzzles. When faced with disagreements among friends, I looked for behavioral patterns to understand underlying emotions and resolve conflicts. Highlight:Personal exploration/experience By recognizing patterns, I became a mediator, a problem solver, and a curious learner, diving deeper into the intricacies of life's design. Applying to academic interest

Write a memorable conclusion

Wrap up your essay with a conclusion that reinforces your main message. Your conclusion should reflect the overall importance of your story and leave a lasting impression on the reader.

Common app essay conclusion example

As I stand at the threshold of my college journey, I am convinced that understanding patterns is the key to unveiling life's mysteries. Rephrased thesis statement Whether in the architecture of ancient civilizations or the DNA sequences that blueprint life, patterns offer insights into the cosmos's grand narrative. Highlight & Summary With a heart full of curiosity and a mind eager to decipher, I aim to continue my quest, exploring and unraveling the myriad patterns life presents, hoping to contribute a stitch or two to the vast tapestry of knowledge. Future application

After completing the body paragraphs and writing the conclusion, we have one last step left.

Revise and proofread your essay

Frequently asked questions

Which common app essay prompt should I choose?

When crafting your common app essay, opt for a prompt that interests you and that you can connect to your personal story. Regardless of the prompt you choose, admissions officers will primarily be concerned with your capacity to demonstrate personal growth and motivation.

How can I reach or reduce the wordcount for my common app essay?

If your essay exceeds the word limit, remove sentences that contain irrelevant or unnecessary information from the main point. If your essay does not meet the word count, add extra personal stories or express your feelings and thoughts to make it richer and more original.

Which font is most suitable for a common app essay?

You should use a standard font such as Times New Roman or Arial. These are best suited to prevent the reader from being distracted by the content of your essay.

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Duygu Demiröz
Content writer, editor and translator. Passionate for words and the outer world. Always ready to conquer both realm of language and glittering streets.