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Common Application Personal Essay- Find Your Voice

The college application process is a rite of passage for high school seniors, filled with excitement, anticipation, and, at times, anxiety. Among the numerous components of a college application, one stands out as a unique opportunity for self-expression and storytelling: the Common Application Personal Essay. This essay holds the potential to be your voice, your story, and your chance to connect with college admissions officers on a personal level. 


The Power of Your Voice


Your voice is more than just the words you speak or write, it’s the essence of who you are. In the context of a college application essay, finding your voice means allowing your true self to shine through your words. It’s about revealing your thoughts, values, and experiences in a way that is uniquely you. Your voice is what sets you apart from other applicants with similar academic achievements and extracurricular activities.

 Why is this important? Because colleges aren’t just looking for high achievers, they want to build a diverse and vibrant community of students who will contribute to the campus culture in various ways. Your voice, your perspective, and your experiences can add richness and depth to their student body.

Choosing the Right Prompt


The Common Application offers several essay prompts, each designed to elicit different aspects of your personality, experiences, and character. Before you start writing, take the time to read through the prompts and reflect on which one resonates with you the most. The prompt you choose should align with a story or experience you’re passionate about sharing. Here’s a brief overview of some of the common prompts:

  • 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.
  • The lessons we take from obstacles we encounter can be fundamental to later success. 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. What prompted your thinking? What was the outcome?
  • Describe a problem you’ve solved or a problem you’d like to solve. 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.
  • Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others.
  • Describe a topic, idea, or concept you find so engaging that it makes you lose all track of time. Why does it captivate you? What or who do you turn to when you want to learn more?

The key here is to select a prompt that allows you to share a story that truly matters to you, one that showcases your values, passions, or growth. Remember that the essay is not just about answering the question, it’s about using the question as a springboard to explore and reveal your unique perspective.

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Telling Your Story


Once you’ve chosen the right prompt, it’s time to start telling your story. The most engaging personal essays are often those that focus on a specific moment, experience, or anecdote that captures the essence of who you are or what you’ve learned. Here are some tips for crafting a compelling narrative:

Be authentic: Your essay should reflect your true self, not an idealized version of yourself. Admissions officers appreciate honesty and vulnerability.

Show, don’t tell: Instead of simply stating facts or listing accomplishments, use vivid descriptions and specific details to paint a picture for your readers.

Use dialogue: Dialogue can bring your story to life and make it more engaging. It allows readers to hear the voices of the people involved and adds depth to your narrative. The right dialogue can also serve as a ‘hook‘, which immediately catches the reader’s attention and brings them right in the middle of the story with minimal words.

Reflect on the why: Don’t just narrate events, also explore why they were significant and what they taught you. Reflect on the impact of the experience on your life and personal growth.

Avoid cliches: Admissions officers read countless essays, so it’s essential to avoid common cliches and overused themes. Be original and unique in your storytelling.

Be concise: With a 650-word limit, every word counts. Be concise in your writing and avoid unnecessary repetition or verbosity.


Finding Your Unique Angle


What sets your essay apart from others on the same topic? This is where your unique perspective and voice come into play. Even if you’re writing about a common topic, such as a personal challenge or a meaningful experience, you can make it stand out by approaching it from a fresh angle. Consider what makes your story different and what insights or lessons you’ve gained that others may not have.

For example, if you’re writing about a volunteer experience, think about what you learned about yourself and the world around you during that time. What specific moments or interactions had a profound impact on you? By delving deep into your own experiences and emotions, you can uncover the unique aspects of your story.


Revision and Feedback


Writing a compelling personal Essay often requires multiple drafts and revisions. After you’ve written your initial draft, take a step back, and give yourself some time to reflect. Then, come back to your essay with fresh eyes and look for ways to improve it. 

Here are some revision tips:

Check for clarity and coherence: Ensure that your essay flows smoothly and that each paragraph transitions logically to the next.

Edit for grammar and style: Proofread your essay carefully to eliminate any grammatical errors or awkward phrasing. Pay attention to your use of language and tone.

Seek feedback: Share your essay with trusted friends, family members, or teachers who can provide constructive feedback. They can help you identify areas for improvement and offer suggestions for making your essay stronger.

Revise for conciseness: If you find that your essay is exceeding the word limit, look for opportunities to condense your writing without sacrificing clarity or meaning.


The Common Application Personal Essay is a powerful tool for showcasing your unique voice and perspective to college admissions officers. It’s an opportunity to go beyond the numbers and transcripts and to connect on a personal level. By choosing the right prompt, telling your story authentically, finding your unique angle, and revising diligently, you can craft an essay that leaves a lasting impression and helps you stand out in the competitive college admissions process. Remember, your voice is your most potent weapon in this endeavor, so use it to share your story and find your place in the college of your dreams.


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