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Can I Make More Than One Version of the Common App?

Andrea aronson.

  • August 18, 2023

making an alternate version of your Common App for college admission

I’ve been getting the question often this year: “Can I make more than one version of the Common App?” 

There are lots of reasons why applicants might want to submit more than one version of the Common App.  

However, there are many situations in which you do NOT need to make an entirely new version of the Common Application.  Let’s look at those first.

Don’t make a new version of the Common App because you made a mistake 

If you submit a version of the Common App to one college and then you discover that you made some sort of error on that application, you don’t need to completely start over with a new version.  Rather, you should do two things.  First, email the college to which you sent the mistake and explain what happened and ask–very nicely, without whining, and with great humility–if the admissions officer can simply update your file with the correction. Everyone knows that mistakes can happen, and admissions officers are generally fairly understanding in this sort of circumstances. It’s always better for you to catch your own mistake and alert the admissions office of it.  To leave the admissions office to discover the mistake would leave a question in their minds, especially if the boo-boo was big one.  Once you’ve sent the Common App to a school, you cannot correct it.  But you don’t have to start over with a completely new version of the Common App.

If you want to make changes for different colleges, you don’t need a new version of the Common App

Sometimes you may want to provide slightly different answers to some of the Common App questions for the different schools on your list.  One of the most common is to change the career interest you have identified on the Common App. Another example is changing the order of your activities or honors to present a slightly different strategy from one college to the next. Or, you may want to shift around your answers in the “Additional information” section so as to make it more specific to a particular university, major, or program. However, you don’t need to create an entirely different version of the Common App to make these changes.  Simply make the change, then submit the completed application–with changes–to the next college on your list.  Once it is submitted, you can then go back and change the answers to questions or reorder the lists, as you wish.  

The one thing to keep in mind ,however, is that making multiple versions of the Common App can cause you to make even more mistakes.  If you are making multiple versions, be sure to proofread over and over again–and to use the “preview” function of the Common App–to make sure that you are submitting the appropriate version to each particular school. Recall that the Common App was created in order to submit identical applications to all the schools on your list. By tailoring each application to each school on your list, you are creating headaches for yourself that require you to pay close attention to which version goes to which school.

If you write a new version of your essay, you don’t need a new version

Some students write a complete essay for the Common App, and then decide to completely chuck it out and start over.  This can happen between the time one submits Early Action or Early Decision applications and the deadlines for the regular admission round.  Or they decide to revise it heavily based on feedback they have receive from a teacher, parent, or college essay consultan t.  

Not so long ago, the essay was the one thing you could not change on your Common App once you submitted the application to one college. Now, however, you can send a different version of your Common App essay to each and every school on your list.  But why would you do that?  The whole point of the Common App is to allow you to create a single essay that you send to all the schools on your list.  So we advise that you try to keep it to one version.

However, sometimes we discover new ways to improve the essay–so make those improvements when you can.  And if you decide that your current essay just isn’t a good representation of who you are and you want to go back to the drawing board, do it. You can always submit a new version of your Common App, if you really need to.

can i change my common app essay for different colleges

The 20-College Limit

Over the past two decades, students have gradually been applying to more and more schools.  There are lots of reasons for this–which we won’t go into here–but more and more students are considering applying to more and more schools.

As a result, some are trying to impose some limits.  Some secondary schools will not support more than 10 applications:  the college counselors will not send out more than 10 transcripts. This forces students to make tough decisions.  

The Common App, for its part, limits the number of applications you can submit to 20. But what if you want to apply to more than 20.  You have to make a new version of the Common App!

How do I make a new version of the Common App?

The Common App imposes their limits by making it impossible to have two Common App accounts with the same email address.  So if you want to create an entirely new version of the Common App, you have to create an entirely new account with a different email address.

Easy peasy.

However, as mentioned before, creating lots of different versions of the application leaves greater room for error. Further, you need to be sure that your school counselor will support more than 20 applications and will send all your transcripts and recommendations to however many schools appear on your list. 

The whole point of the common app is that is “common” to all schools. This should be a benefit to most applicants who will not have to make more than version of the Common App before submitting the application to each of the colleges on their list.  However, if you make mistakes or need to make some strategic adjustments to your application, you can do so without making an entirely new version.

However, if you plan to apply to more than 20 colleges, you will need a second version of the Common App that is linked to a different email address.  

But beware the administrative risks in juggling different versions of the application.  While the freedom to make changes puts you in control, you also bear more risk in making some sort of mistake.  So be careful, and good luck in the college application process.

And if you’d like more assistance with how to approach your applications, contact Great College Advice a call and let us help you out.

Andrea Aronson College Advisor Westfield, New Jersey

Andrea Aronson

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College Essays

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If you're applying to more than one or two colleges, there's a good chance you'll have to use the Common Application, and that means you'll probably have to write a Common App essay .

In this guide, I'll cover everything you need to know about the essay. I'll break down every single Common App essay prompt by going over the following:

  • What is the question asking?
  • What do college admissions officers want to hear from you?
  • What topics can you write about effectively?
  • What should you avoid at all costs?

This will be your complete starting guide for Common App essays. After reading this, you should have a lot of ideas for your own essays and directions to write a really strong personal statement .

What Is the Common App Essay? Overview

Before we dig into the nitty-gritty of the individual prompts, let's quickly go over the logistics of the Common App essay and some general tips to keep in mind.

Most—but Not All—Schools Require the Essay

Keep in mind that the Common App essay is optional for some schools.

Here are a few examples of schools that do not require the Common App essay (note that some may require a school-specific writing supplement instead):

  • Arizona State University
  • Clemson University
  • DePaul University
  • Eastern Michigan University
  • Georgia State University
  • Old Dominion University
  • Pratt Institute
  • University of Idaho

If you're applying to more than one or two schools through the Common App, you'll almost certainly need to write a response to the Common App prompts. As such, we recommend sending your essay to schools even if they don't explicitly require it. You're writing it anyways, and it's the best way for the school to get to know you as a person.

It's also worth noting that because of the way this system is set up, you could theoretically send a different essay to each school. However, doing so isn't a good use of your time : if schools want to know something more specific about you, they'll require a supplement. Focus on writing a single great personal statement.

Pay Attention to the Word Limit

The exact word limit for the Common App essay has varied somewhat over the years, but the current range is 250-650 words . You must stay within this length; in fact, the online application won't allow you to submit fewer than 250 words or more than 650.

Some schools will state that if this isn't enough space, you can send them a physical copy of your essay. Don't do this. No matter how tempting it might be, stick to the word limit . Otherwise, you risk seeming self-indulgent.

In general, we advise shooting for an essay between 500 and 650 words long . You want to have enough space to really explore one specific idea, but you don't need to include everything. Editing is an important part of the essay-writing process, after all!

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Don't Stress Too Much About the Question

As you'll see, the Common App prompts are very general and leave a lot of room for interpretation.

Moreover, colleges interpret the questions generously —they're more concerned with learning something interesting about you than with whether your topic perfectly fits the question.

Per a Common App survey from 2015 , 85% of member schools " feel the prompts should be left open to broad interpretation."

You can write about almost anything and make it work, so if you have an idea, don't let the fact that it doesn't fit neatly into one of these categories stop you. Treat these breakdowns as jumping-off points to help you start brainstorming , not the final word in how you need to approach the essay.

Make Sure You Look at This Year's Prompts

The Common App changes its prompts fairly frequently , so make sure you're familiar with the most up-to-date versions of the Common App essay questions . If you have friends or siblings who applied in past years, don't assume that you can take the exact same approaches they did.

This guide will go over the details of all seven current prompts, but first let's talk about some overall advice.

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4 Tips For Finding Your Best Common App Essay Topic

As you're brainstorming and preparing to write your Common App essay, you'll want to keep these tips in mind.

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#1: Make It Personal

The point of a personal statement is to, well, make a personal statement , that is to say, tell the reader something about yourself . As such, your topic needs to be something meaningful to you.

What does it mean for a topic to be "meaningful to you"?

First, it means that you genuinely care about the topic and want to write your college essay on it— no one ever wrote a great essay on a topic that they felt they had to write about .

Second, it means that the topic shows off a quality or trait you want to highlight for the admissions committee . For example, say I wanted to write about my summer job with the Parks Department. It's not enough to simply tell a story about my feud with a raccoon that kept destroying all the progress I made repairing a bench; I would need to make it clear what that experience ;shows about my character (perseverance) and explain what it ;taught me (that there are some things in life you simply can't control).

Remember that the most important thing is that your essay is about you . This advice might sound obvious, but when you're used to writing academic essays, it can be tricky to dive deep into your own perspective.

#2: Take Your Time

Give yourself plenty of time to brainstorm and write so you don't feel rushed into jotting down the first thing you can come up with and sending it right off. We recommend starting the writing process two months in advance of your first college application deadline .

On a similar note, you should take the essay seriously: it's an important part of your application and worth investing the time in to get right. If you just dash something off thoughtlessly, admissions officers will recognize that and consider it evidence that you aren't really interested in their school.

#3: Avoid Repetition

Your essay should illustrate something about you beyond what's in the rest of your application . Try to write about a topic you haven't talked about elsewhere, or take a different angle on it.

A college essay is not a resume —it's the best opportunity to show off your unique personality to admissions committees. Pick your topic accordingly.

#4: Get Specific

The best topics are usually the narrowest ones: essays focused on a single interaction, a single phrase, or a single object. The more specific you can get, the more unique your topic will be to you.

Lots of people have tried out for a school play, for example, but each had their own particular experience of doing so. One student saw trying out for the role of Hamlet as the culmination of many years of study and hard work and was devastated not to get it, while another was simply proud to have overcome her nerves enough to try out for the chorus line in West Side Story . These would make for very different essays, even though they're on basically the same topic.

Another benefit of a specific topic is that it makes coming up with supporting details much easier. Specific, sensory details make the reader feel as if they're seeing the experience through your eyes, giving them a better sense of who you are.

Take a look at this example sentence:

General: I was nervous as I waited for my turn to audition.

Specific: As I waited for my name to be called, I tapped the rhythm of "America" on the hard plastic chair, going through the beats of my audition song over and over in my head.

The first version could be written by almost anyone; the second version has a specific perspective—it's also intriguing and makes you want to know more.

The more specific your essay topic is, the more clearly your unique voice will come through and the more engaging your essay will be.

Breaking Down the 2022-23 Common App Essay Prompts

Now that we've established the basic ideas you need to keep in mind as you brainstorm, let's go through the 2022-23 Common App essay questions one at a time and break down what admissions committees are looking for in responses.

Keep in mind that for each of these questions, there are really two parts . The first is describing something you did or something that happened to you. The second is explaining what that event, action, or activity means to you . No essay is complete without addressing both sides of the topic.

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Common App Essay Prompt 1: A Key Piece of Your Story

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, then please share your story.

What Is It Asking?

This prompt is very broad. Is there something you do or love, or something that happened to you, that isn't reflected elsewhere in your application but that you feel is vital to your personal story ? Then this prompt could be a good one for you.

The key is that whatever you write about needs to be genuinely important to you personally, not just something you think will look good to the admissions committee. You need to clarify why this story is so important that you couldn't leave it off your application.

What Do They Want to Know?

This question is really about showing admissions officers how your background has shaped you . Can you learn and grow from your experiences?

By identifying an experience or trait that is vital to your story, you're also showing what kind of person you see yourself as. Do you value your leadership abilities or your determination to overcome challenges? Your intellectual curiosity or your artistic talent?

Everyone has more than one important trait, but in answering this prompt, you're telling admissions officers what you think is your most significant quality .

What Kinds of Topics Could Work?

You could write about almost anything for this prompt: an unexpected interest, a particularly consuming hobby, a part of your family history, or a life-changing event. Make sure to narrow in on something specific, though. You don't have room to tell your whole life story!

Your topic can be serious or silly, as long as it's important to you. Just remember that it needs to showcase a deeper quality of yours.

For example, if I were writing an essay on this topic, I would probably write about my life-long obsession with books. I'd start with a story about how my parents worried I read too much as a kid, give some specific examples of things I've learned from particular books, and talk about how my enthusiasm for reading was so extreme it sometimes interfered with my actual life (like the time I tripped and fell because I couldn't be bothered to put down my book long enough to walk from my room to the kitchen).

Then I would tie it all together by explaining how my love of reading has taught me to look for ideas in unexpected places.

What Should You Avoid?

You don't want your essay to read like a resume: it shouldn't be a list of accomplishments. Your essay needs to add something to the rest of your application, so it also shouldn't focus on something you've already covered unless you have a really different take on it.

In addition, try to avoid generic and broad topics: you don't want your essay to feel as though it could've been written by any student.

As we touched on above, one way to avoid this problem is to be very  specific —rather than writing generally about your experience as the child of immigrants, you might tell a story about a specific family ritual or meaningful moment.

Common App Essay Prompt 2: Coping With Obstacles

The lessons we take from obstacles we encounter can be fundamental to later success. Recount an incident or time when you faced a challenge, setback, or failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience?

This prompt is pretty straightforward. It's asking you to describe a challenge or obstacle you faced or a time you failed, and how you dealt with it .

The part many students forget is the second half: what lessons did you learn from your challenge or failure ? If you take on this question, you must show how you grew from the experience and, ideally, how you incorporated what you learned into other endeavors.

This question really raises two issues: how you handle difficult situations and whether you're capable of learning from your mistakes.

You'll face a lot of challenges in college, both academic and social. In addressing this prompt, you have the opportunity to show admissions officers that you can deal with hardships without just giving up .

You also need to show that you can learn from challenges and mistakes. Can you find a positive lesson in a negative experience? Colleges want to see an example of how you've done so.

Good topics will be specific and have a clearly explained impact on your perspective . You need to address both parts of the question: the experience of facing the challenge and what you learned from it.

However, almost any kind of obstacle, challenge, or failure—large or small—can work:

  • Doing poorly at a job interview and how that taught you to deal with nerves
  • Failing a class and how retaking it taught you better study skills
  • Directing a school play when the set collapsed and how it taught you to stay cool under pressure and think on your feet

Make sure you pick an actual failure or challenge—don't turn your essay into a humblebrag. How you failed at procrastination because you're just so organized or how you've been challenged by the high expectations of teachers at school because everyone knows you are so smart are not appropriate topics.

Also, don't write about something completely negative . Your response needs to show that you got something out of your challenge or failure and that you've learned skills you can apply to other situations.

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Spilling your coffee is not an appropriate failure, no matter how disastrous it may feel.

Common App Essay Prompt 3: Challenging a Belief

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

There are two ways to approach this question. The first is to talk about a time you questioned a person or group on an idea of theirs. The second is to talk about a time that something caused you to reconsider a belief of your own.

In either case, you need to explain why you decided the belief should be challenged, what you actually did —if your story is just that someone gave you a new piece of information and you changed your mind, you should probably find a different topic— and how you feel about your actions in hindsight .

The obvious question this prompt raises is what your values are and whether you're willing to stand up for what you believe . Whether you've reconsidered your own beliefs or asked others to reconsider theirs, it shows you've put genuine thought into what you value and why.

However, colleges also want to see that you're open minded and able to be fair and kind toward those who have different beliefs than you do. Can you question someone else's beliefs without belittling them? If not, don't choose this prompt.

This prompt is really one where you either have a relevant story or you don't . If there's a belief or idea that's particularly important to you, whether political or personal, this might be a good question for you to address.

The main pitfall with this question is that it lends itself to very abstract answers . It's not that interesting to read about how you used to believe chocolate is the best ice cream flavor but then changed your mind and decided the best flavor is actually strawberry. (Seriously, though, what is wrong with you!?) Make sure there's clear conflict and action in your essay.

Divisive political issues, such as abortion and gun rights, are tricky to write about (although not impossible) because people feel very strongly about them and often have a hard time accepting the opposite viewpoint. In general, I would avoid these kinds of topics unless you have a highly compelling story.

Also, keep in mind that most people who work at colleges are liberal, so if you have a conservative viewpoint, you'll need to tread more carefully. Regardless of what you're writing about, don't assume that the reader shares your views .

Finally, you want to avoid coming off as petty or inflexible , especially if you're writing about a controversial topic. It's great to have strong beliefs, but you also want to show that you're open to listening to other people's perspectives, even if they don't change your mind.

Common App Essay Prompt 4: Gratitude Reflection

Reflect on something that someone had done for you that has made you happy or thankful in a surprising way. How has this gratitude affected or motivated you?

The first part is straightforward: describe a time someone did something positive for you that made you happy or thankful  in a surprising way.  So it can't have been something you expected to happen (i.e. your parents gave you the birthday present you were hoping for).

Next, you need to explain how that surprising gratitude affected or motivated you. So, what was the result of this positive feeling?  How did you keep it going?

This prompt helps admissions officers see both what your expectations are for certain situations and how you react when things go differently than expected. Did you take it in stride when you were pleasantly surprised? Were you too shocked to speak? Why? What about the situation wasn't what you were expecting?  Additionally, it shows them what you personally are grateful for. Gratitude is an important personal characteristic to have. What in life makes you thankful and happy? Your answer will show admissions officers a lot about what you value and how you think.

Finally—and this is the key part—they want to know the larger impact of this gratitude. Did you decide to pay it forward? Use it as motivation to better yourself/your world? When something good happens to you, how do you react?

Because this is a reflection prompt, it's a great way to show admissions officers the kind of person you are and what you value. You'll have a lot of surprising moments, both good and bad, in college, and they want to know how you deal with them and how you spread the happiness you come across.

You can choose any event, even a minor one, as long as your reaction is  unexpected happiness/gratefulness. The "unexpected" part is key. You need to choose a situation where things didn't go the way you expected. So if your uncle, who has always been a great mentor, gives you great advice, that likely won't work because you'd be expecting it.

Next, it had to have had some sort of real impact so you can explain how your gratefulness affected you. This means that, even if the event itself was small, it had to have brought about some sort of lasting change in how you live your life.

To start, brainstorm times when something went better than expected/you were happily surprised by an outcome/you were especially grateful/someone restored your faith in humanity. Remember, this has to be, overall, a positive situation, as you're being asked about an event that made you happy or grateful. This is in contrast to prompts 2 and 3 which focus more on challenges you've faced.

Once you have your list, eliminate any instances that didn't affect or motivate you. The key part of this prompt is explaining the impact of your gratitude, so you need to write about a time when gratitude made you do something you normally wouldn't have done. This could be focusing on self-care/self-improvement, paying it forward by helping someone else, shifting your values, etc. Colleges want to see how you changed because of this event.

For example, say you decide to write about your first time traveling through an airport alone. You're not sure where to go, and all the workers look busy and like they're just waiting for their break. You're wandering around, lost, too shy to ask someone for help, when a gruff-looking employee comes up and asks if you need something. When you admit you don't know how to find your gate, they take the time to walk you to it, show you which screen to watch so you know when to board, and tell you to come get them if you need any more help. It's much more help than you thought anyone would give you.

Because of that person's actions (and this is the key part), you now always keep an eye out for people who look lost or confused and try to help them because you know how intimidating it can be to be out of your depth. You also know that many times people feel embarrassed to ask for help, so you need to make the first move to help them. If you have a specific example of you helping someone in need as a result, including that will make the essay even stronger.

Avoid scenarios where you were the first person to help another. The prompt is asking about a time someone was kind to you, and  then  you reacted in response to that. You need to have the grateful moment first, then the change in behavior.

Additionally, avoid examples where someone treated you badly but you rose above it. This is a situation where someone was kind to you, and you decided to keep that kindness going.

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Look at those dummies, solving a problem!

Common App Essay Prompt 5: Personal Growth and Maturity

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

Like Prompt 1, this one is very general. It's asking you to talk about something you did or something that happened that caused you to grow or mature as a person.

The other key point to remember when addressing this question is that you need to explain how this event changed or enriched your understanding of yourself or other people.

In short: when and how have you grown as a person ? Personal growth and maturity are complicated issues. Your essay might touch on themes such as personal responsibility and your role in the world and your community.

You don't have to explain your whole worldview, but you need to give readers a sense of why this particular event caused significant growth for you as a person.

This prompt can also help you show either your own sense of self-concept or how you relate to others.

Much like Prompt 3, this question likely either appeals to you or doesn't . Nonetheless, here are some potential topics:

  • A time you had to step up in your household
  • A common milestone (such as voting for the first time or getting your driver's license) that was particularly meaningful to you
  • A big change in your life, such as becoming an older sibling or moving to a new place

It's important that your topic describes a transition that led to real positive growth or change in you as a person .

However, personal growth is a gradual process, and you can definitely still approach this topic if you feel you have more maturing to do. (Fun fact: most adults feel they have more maturing to do, too!) Just focus on a specific step in the process of growing up and explain what it meant to you and how you've changed.

Almost any topic could theoretically make a good essay about personal growth, but it's important that the overall message conveys maturity . If the main point of your essay about junior prom is that you learned you look bad in purple and now you know not to wear it, you'll seem like you just haven't had a lot of meaningful growth experiences in your life.

You also want the personal growth and new understanding(s) you describe in your essay to be positive in nature . If the conclusion of your essay is "and that's how I matured and realized that everyone in the world is terrible," that's not going to work very well with admissions committees, as you'll seem pessimistic and unable to cope with challenges.

Common App Essay Prompt 6: Your Passion

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?

This prompt is asking you to describe something you're intellectually passionate about .

But in addition to describing a topic of personal fascination and why you're so interested in it, you need to detail how you have pursued furthering your own knowledge of the topic . Did you undertake extra study? Hole yourself up in the library? Ask your math team coach for more practice problems?

Colleges want to admit students who are intellectually engaged with the world. They want you to show that you have a genuine love for the pursuit of knowledge .

Additionally, by describing how you've learned more about your chosen topic, concept, or idea, you can prove that you are self-motivated and resourceful .

Pretty much any topic you're really interested in and passionate about could make a good essay here, just as long as you can put can put an intellectual spin on it and demonstrate that you've gone out of your way to learn about the topic.

So It's fine to say that the topic that engages you most is football, but talk about what interests you in an academic sense about the sport. Have you learned everything there is to know about the history of the sport? Are you an expert on football statistics? Emphasize how the topic you are writing about engages your brain.

Don't pick something you don't actually care about just because you think it would sound good.

If you say you love black holes but actually hate them and tortured yourself with astronomy books in the library for a weekend to glean enough knowledge to write your essay, your lack of enthusiasm will definitely come through.

Common App Essay Prompt 7: Your Choice

Share an essay on any topic of your choice. It can be one you've already written, one that responds to a different prompt, or one of your own design.

You can write about anything for this one!

Since this is a choose-your-own-adventure prompt, colleges aren't looking for anything specific to this prompt .

However, you'll want to demonstrate some of the same qualities that colleges are looking for in all college essays: things like academic passion, maturity, resourcefulness, and persistence. What are your values? How do you face setbacks? These are all things you can consider touching on in your essay.

If you already have a topic in mind for this one that doesn't really fit with any of the other prompts, go for it!

Avoid essays that aren't really about you as a person. So no submitting your rhetorical close-reading of the poem "Ode on a Grecian Urn" you wrote for AP English!

However, if you want to write about the way that "Ode on a Grecian Urn" made you reconsider your entire approach to life, go ahead.

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The Common App Essay Questions: 5 Key Takeaways

We've covered a lot of ground, but don't panic. I've collected the main ideas you should keep in mind as you plan your Common App essay below.

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#1: A Prompt 1 Topic Must Go Beyond What's in the Rest of Your Application

For prompt 1, it's absolutely vital that your topic be something genuinely meaningful to you . Don't write about something just because you think it's impressive. Big achievements and leadership roles, such as serving as captain of a team or winning a journalism award, can certainly be used as topics, but only if you can explain why they mattered to you beyond that it was cool to be in charge or that you liked winning.

It's better if you can pick out something smaller and more individual , like helping your team rally after a particularly rough loss or laboring over a specific article to make sure you got every detail right.

#2: Prompts 2, 4, and 6 Are Generally the Simplest Options

Most students have an experience or interest that will work for either Prompt 2, Prompt 4, or Prompt 6. If you're uncertain what you want to write about, think about challenges you've faced, a time you were grateful, or your major intellectual passions.

These prompts are slightly easier to approach than the others because they lend themselves to very specific and concrete topics that show clear growth. Describing a failure and what you learned from it is much simpler than trying to clarify why an event is a vital part of your identity.

#3: Prompts 3 and 5 Can Be Trickier—but You Don't Need to Avoid Them

These questions ask about specific types of experiences that not every high school student has had. If they don't speak to you, don't feel compelled to answer them.

If you do want to take on Prompt 3 or 5, however, remember to clearly explain your perspective to the reader , even if it seems obvious to you.

For Prompt 3, you have to establish not just what you believe but why you believe it and why that belief matters to you, too. For prompt 5, you need to clarify how you moved from childhood to adulthood and what that means to both you and others.

These prompts elicit some of the most personal responses , which can make for great essays but also feel too revealing to many students. Trust your instincts and don't pick a topic you're not comfortable writing about.

At the same time, don't hesitate to take on a difficult or controversial topic if you're excited about it and think you can treat it with the necessary nuance.

#4: Make Sure to Explain What Your Experience Taught You

I've tried to emphasize this idea throughout this guide: it's not enough to simply describe what you did—you also have to explain what it meant to you .

Pushing past the surface level while avoiding clichés and generalizations is a big challenge, but it's ultimately what will make your essay stand out. Make sure you know what personal quality you want to emphasize before you start and keep it in mind as you write.

Try to avoid boring generalizations in favor of more specific and personal insights.

Bad: Solving a Rubik's cube for the first time taught me a lot.

Better: Solving a Rubik's cube for the first time taught me that I love puzzles and made me wonder what other problems I could solve.

Best: When I finally twisted the last piece of the Rubik's cube into place after months of work, I was almost disappointed. I'd solved the puzzle; what would I do now? But then I started to wonder if I could use what I'd learned to do the whole thing faster. Upon solving one problem, I had immediately moved onto the next one, as I do with most things in life.

As you go back through your essay to edit, every step of the way ask yourself, "So what?" Why does the reader need to know this? What does it show about me? How can I go one step deeper?

#5: Don't Worry About What You Think You're Supposed to Write

There is no single right answer to these prompts , and if you try to find one, you'll end up doing yourself a disservice. What's important is to tell your story—and no one can tell you what that means because it's unique to you.

Many students believe that they should write about resume-padding activities that look especially impressive, such as volunteering abroad. These essays are often boring and derivative because the writer doesn't really have anything to say on the topic and assumes it'll speak for itself.

But the point of a personal statement isn't to explain what you've done; it's to show who you are .

Take the time to brainstorm and figure out what you want to show colleges about yourself and what story or interest best exemplifies that quality.

What's Next?

For more background on college essays and tips for crafting a great one, check out our complete explanation of the basics of the personal statement .

Make sure you're prepared for the rest of the college application process as well with our guides to asking for recommendations , writing about extracurriculars , taking the SAT , and researching colleges .

Want to improve your SAT score by 160 ;points or your ACT score by 4 points? We've written a guide for each test about the top 5 strategies you must be using to have a shot at improving your score. Download it for free now:

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Alex is an experienced tutor and writer. Over the past five years, she has worked with almost a hundred students and written about pop culture for a wide range of publications. She graduated with honors from University of Chicago, receiving a BA in English and Anthropology, and then went on to earn an MA at NYU in Cultural Reporting and Criticism. In high school, she was a National Merit Scholar, took 12 AP tests and scored 99 percentile scores on the SAT and ACT.

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can i change my common app essay for different colleges

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Changing Common App Essay: All you Need to Know

  • by Judy Jeni
  • January 16, 2024

Editing your essay

In many colleges, your personal statement is considered an essential document in your application. It is an integral part of your college application process.

The above dictates, you should be keen on your statement. Some people advise that before submitting your application, let two people read it. First, a person who knows how to write and proofread, and second, a person who knows you well.

The essay requires between 250-650 words.

It is essential to know how to edit your common app essay. In this article, let’s discuss making changes to your personal statement.

Can you Change Your Common App Essay for Different Schools

writing college application

Yes, you can change.

Nonetheless, be careful when doing so. Don’t mess when applying what was meant for college A goes to college B.

Remember, in your essay; you are sharing your passions, interests, strengths, and experiences.

Whereas there are no rules on style or how you can tell your story, ensure your statement is in line with the prompt you have chosen.

Correspondingly, most colleges have unique requirements for personal essays, deadlines, application fees, writing supplements, portfolios, courses and grades, and recommendations.

You are permitted limitless editing to your essay after you submit your first application. Submit the correct essay to the right college by clicking the “my college” section.

To make changes in your essay, get back to the Common App tab and click on the writing section. Proceed to click on the text box and make the changes you want. To save your changes, click “continue.”

Reasons one can Change Common App Essay

Although it is possible to change the content in your common app essay, why would you like to change it?

The following are some of the reasons you can change your common app essay;

  • When facing indecision- you might find yourself having written two or more versions of your personal statements ready to submit. However, you only need to apply with one. The question now becomes which one to use and which one not to.
  • College requirements- as discussed earlier, some colleges have different requirements in their applications. To adhere to them, you will change your common app essay to fit and increase your chances of being selected for admission.

When you are making changes to your Common App essay, tackle the mistakes you want to edit. If you feel you want to write something new entirely, start from scratch.

Read also on College application tips to get more ideas and insights. Also, you can read about our common app application guide to learn more.

Examples of Common App Essay Prompts

college admission

The following are the common App essay prompts for this year;

  • 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, then 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?
  • Reflect on something that someone has done for you that has made you happy or thankful in a surprising way. How has this gratitude affected or motivated you?
  • 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?
  • Share an essay on any topic of your choice. It can be one you’ve already written, one that responds to a different prompt, or one of your designs.

The above prompts are the same topics discussed last year except for number four. The new prompt talks about kindness and gratitude. It intends to invite joy during the college application experience.

On the same note, the question on Covid-19 is still on the Additional Information section, and it’s optional. The question seeks to know how the pandemic has affected students.

Frequently Asked Question

Can you use the same essay for different colleges applications.

Yes.  You can use the same essay for different colleges. Keep in mind your statement is discussing the prompt you’ve picked.

Can You Use Your School Essay for Common App

Yes, you can use your school essay. Your school essay is one of the prompts you can discuss as your topic on the Common Application.

How to Change Deadline on Common App Essay

The Common Application new edition opens on 1 st August every year. Students applying for the early decision should apply in November. Similarly, those applying for the regular decision should have applied by December as the deadline is usually 1 st January. Different colleges have different deadline dates.

Judy Jeni

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Common App Transfer Essay Examples

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Common App Transfer Essay — Introduction

If you’re considering transferring colleges , you’ve likely started thinking about your college transfer essay. At CollegeAdvisor, we’re here to fill you in on the Common App transfer essay, as well as the overall transfer application process. 

In this guide, we’ll walk you through everything you need to know about the college transfer essay. We’ll also provide you with some Common App transfer essay examples and other transfer essay tips. 

Additionally, we’ll go over:

  • What a college transfer essay is
  • How to craft a strong Common App transfer essay
  • College transfer requirements at top schools
  • Other transfer essay tips

Understanding the College Transfer Essay

The college transfer essay process differs a bit from the essay process you likely went through as a first-year applicant. Instead of writing one Common App transfer essay that you’ll send to every school, each college transfer essay is school-specific. In fact, some colleges don’t even include a college transfer essay in their application requirements—though most selective institutions do. 

To help you prepare, we’ve gathered a variety of sample transfer essays from top schools nationwide. We hope these Common App transfer essay examples help you feel confident as you begin crafting your own college transfer essays. 

In our guide, we’ll look at transfer essays that worked from the following colleges:

  • Emory University
  • Wesleyan University
  • University of Southern California (USC)
  • University of Miami

But before we look at a sample transfer essay, let’s get back to basics: what is a college transfer essay? 

What is a college transfer essay?

can i change my common app essay for different colleges

Put simply, a college transfer essay is an essay you’ll write as part of the college transfer process. At their core, most Common App transfer essay prompts will ask a similar question: why do you want to transfer to our school? 

This prompt is similar to the “why school” essays you likely encountered as a first-year applicant. However, with transfer students, colleges may look for a bit more detail. 

Your Common App transfer essays should try to address the following: 

  • Why do you want to transfer to this particular school? What programs and offerings attract you to this institution?
  • What makes you unique, and why will you enrich the campus community at your new college? 
  • Why was your former college not the right fit for you, and why is this college a better place for you to pursue your goals?

Of course, you should never outright speak negatively about your current college in your Common App transfer essays. However, your college transfer essays should clarify why you and why your next school will be a better fit than your current one. 

Later, we’ll look at some Common App transfer essay examples in more detail. Keep the questions above in mind as you read our sample transfer essays. While there’s no universal Common App transfer essay prompt, there are many similarities in the transfer college essays for different colleges. Reading different college essays that worked and sample transfer essays can prepare you for any Common App transfer essay prompts you encounter. 

Common App Transfer Essay Requirements

Unlike in the first-year application process, transfer students using the Common App won’t submit a single personal statement to every school. Instead, students will use the Common App for transfer—that is, the version of the Common App designed for transfer students. Each school specifies application requirements within the Common App for transfer; that’s where you’ll find any Common App transfer essay requirements. It’s also where you can select specific programs within your desired schools.

Moreover, not every college will have a standard transfer essay format. Rather, you might find different prompts, word counts, and other requirements for different transfer applications. With that said, you can likely repurpose a certain amount of information from your college transfer essays for different schools. 

Additionally, note that not every college where you may want to transfer will use the Common App. While the Common App has over 1,000 member institutions at the first-year level, around 600 colleges use the Common App for transfer. So, you should always check each college’s application requirements. Some schools may also use the Coalition Application. Schools like UIUC , UMiami , and USC will all have their own transfer essay requirements. 

Next, let’s take a closer look at transfer application requirements. Then, we’ll look at some sample transfer essays and discuss different college essays that worked. 

Understanding Transfer Application Requirements

common app transfer essay

In general, most colleges will ask for a similar set of transfer application requirements. These include: 

  • The Common App transfer application  
  • A writing supplement, including your college transfer essay(s)
  • Standardized test scores, though some colleges remain test-optional
  • Official college transcript
  • Dean’s/College’s/Registrar’s Report
  • College instructor recommendations (2)
  • Official high school transcript

As you begin the transfer application process, make sure you’re prepared for these requirements. Additionally, while you may or may not submit a full resume when you apply to college, it’s good to have one on hand. 

Staying Engaged on Campus

Note that as a transfer student, colleges will pay attention to how you’ve used your time on your original college campus. So, to increase your admissions odds at top schools, you should earn high grades and engage in various extracurricular activities. Even if you don’t want to complete your college experience at your current school, you should still make the most of your time there. 

On some of your college transfer essays, you might be asked to discuss an extracurricular activity or engagement. You won’t see this kind of prompt in most of our transfer essay examples. However, you should be prepared to discuss your involvement on campus in your college transfer essays. Colleges want to see that you’re an engaged member of your community. 

Common App Transfer Essay Prompts

can i change my common app essay for different colleges

Next, let’s take a look at some Common App transfer essay prompts and review some transfer essays that worked. 

As we’ve discussed, students won’t all answer one Common App transfer essay prompt. Instead, you’ll respond to a different Common App transfer essay prompt for each school. However, as you’ll notice from our collection of transfer essays that worked, college transfer essay prompts tend to be similar. 

Comparing Some Common App Transfer Essay Prompts

To begin, let’s look at the Common App transfer essay prompts from Harvard University: 

  • Briefly, please indicate the most influential factors in your decision to attend your present college (for example, location, cost, size of student body, only option, special program offered, Early Decision plan, etc.) 
  • What alternatives to transferring to Harvard are you considering?
  • Please indicate your field of specialization and briefly outline your academic plans at Harvard College.
  • What are your current postgraduate/career plans?
  • Briefly discuss one book that has strongly influenced you.

As you can see, if you apply to Harvard as a transfer student, you’ll have to write several college transfer essays. In our college transfer essays that worked, successful students make the most of every Common App transfer essay prompt. 

Notre Dame transfer essay prompt

Remember, each of your college transfer essays offers the admissions team a chance to learn more about you. So, you should make the most of every one of your Common App transfer essays. Regardless of the college transfer essay format, view each college transfer essay as a chance to teach your reader something new. 

While we won’t see Common App transfer essay examples from Harvard here, we’ll read sample transfer essays from other competitive colleges. You can apply these transfer essay tips to any college transfer essay. 

Let’s take a look at another Common App transfer essay prompt—this time, from Notre Dame.

Unlike Harvard, Notre Dame does not ask students to complete a collection of Common App transfer essay prompts. Instead, when it comes to college transfer essays, Notre Dame just asks for one thing :

“a well-crafted personal statement explaining your interest in Notre Dame, your academic and professional goals, and how transferring to Notre Dame can help you achieve them.”

Clarifying your academic goals.

You might notice one similarity between the Common App transfer essay prompts for Notre Dame and Harvard. Both schools ask you to have a clear sense of your academic and professional goals. 

As a first-year applicant, your choice of college major matters less than it does as a transfer applicant. In fact, in some cases, the major you indicate will have little to no bearing on your admissions odds. However, as a transfer student, colleges expect you to have some sense of your future goals. In light of that, you should be able to articulate your future college major in your college transfer essays. 

When you read our Common App transfer essay examples, you’ll notice the authors clearly explain their academic and future goals. This allows the writers of our sample transfer essays to clarify why a given school meets their academic needs. 

Look for these strategies in our UMiami essay examples, USC transfer essay examples, Emory essay examples, and other college essays that worked. Now, let’s dig into some targeted transfer essay tips and read some great Common App transfer essays. 

College Transfer Essay — Emory Essay Examples

common app transfer essay

Let’s start by reviewing Emory essay examples from accepted transfer students. By reading these Common App transfer essay examples, you can learn more about how to approach the college transfer essay process. 

Here’s our Emory transfer essay example: 

Emory Transfer Essay Example

My time at Texas Christian University has been an orienting and insightful experience. Despite the brevity of my stay, I grasped a better understanding of the type of qualities that I desire from a college. In addition, I gained new perspectives, forged relationships, and made memories that I’ll cherish for life. The decision to apply to Emory was made with careful consideration, but ultimately with confidence. While I will always be grateful for my experience at TCU, I’ve concluded that Emory is where I can thrive academically and socially.

I took a medley of courses during my first semester at TCU to ensure that I chose my path with confidence. Comparative Literature was the major I was searching for. It allows me to channel my desires for a diversified education, and pairs well with my ardor for foreign languages.  Unfortunately, despite the enthusiasm, it isn’t offered at TCU, but it is at Emory. However, the ability to pursue Comparative Literature may have drawn me to Emory, but it was the breadth of the academic curriculum and resources that helped me to conclude that it was the right school for me.

The breadth of the curriculum itself covers a broad range of topics ranging from Post-Colonial Literature to “Love & Sex in the Italian Renaissance.” I would truly be able to get a diversified education through a host of interesting topics. Attending Emory would allow me to supplement my education with curriculum outside the classroom, allowing me to enrich my educational experience. Through the thesis during senior year I could gain insight from conducting intense exploration on a subject I deeply care about.

As a research assistant I conducted research on Horace Walpole’s influence in early British Parliament. Through this, I learned how to organize and structure knowledge, how to communicate and how to be a more attentive and critical interpreter of history. Those are the kind of skills I want to amplify and Emory’s focus on Undergraduate Research would give me support for that in spades. I could also have fun attending poetry readings, symposiums, and film screenings. In terms of my major, the depth of the classes and the sheer possibilities enabled by Emory’s academic resources would truly allow me to make the most of my education at Emory.

What stands out about Emory for me and makes it so desirable is the intimate approach in the faculty-to-student relationship. Engaged professors who genuinely care for the wellbeing of the student is the type of setting fostered at Emory and would allow me to flourish as a student.

Diversity, not just in race, but in socioeconomic status, sexual orientation and most importantly, perspective, both academically and socially, is the type of variation fostered at Emory. This is the type of college experience I want as I’ve learned that only through differences can intellectual curiosity truly be fostered.

Emory’s location would allow me the amenities of Atlanta without having to forego a traditional college experience. I could try authentic Persian food one night and go karaoke the next. Art is a personal hobby of mine and I can foresee many art crawls given Atlanta’s vibrant art scene. Of course, a visit to Emory’s own Michael C. Carlos museum would be due first.

Beyond the city, Georgia is host to a myriad of beautiful landscapes. I could hike at Tallulah Gorge or enjoy the scenic view at Amicalola. Emory’s active campus life would also mean weekends filled with prominent guest-speakers and exploring new hobbies. What I appreciate about Emory is the balance between academics and social life because while college is a place to learn, it is also a place to make memories.

I’ve never regretted my time here. I simply exhausted all the available resources and it’s my responsibility to go where I can flourish as a student in every sense, and this place for me, is Emory University.  

Why This Essay Worked

Successful Emory essay examples will specify what makes Emory the right place for an applicant. This essay does just that. Moreover, it offers a great example of a common college transfer essay format. Namely, it describes why the student wishes to transfer while detailing what makes Emory the perfect fit for them. 

As one of our Emory essay examples, the writer of this sample transfer essay makes it clear why Emory is the right fit for them. First, the writer describes how they’ve used their time at TCU to gain a sense of their academic interests and goals. They then clarify how, in this journey of self-discovery, they have realized why TCU isn’t the right place for them. 

This sample transfer essay then uses specific examples of why Emory would be a better fit. They mention specific courses, programs, and other offerings. This sample transfer essay also highlights why Atlanta would be a better college setting for this student than Fort Worth. Strong Emory essay examples will be specific—that is, they’ll discuss particular programs and offerings only found at Emory. 

Overall, this transfer essay example excels at describing who this student is, why they wish to transfer, and how they’d leverage Emory’s resources. 

Next, let’s look at some more transfer essays that worked—namely, a successful Wesleyan essay. 

Wesleyan Essay — Transfer Essays That Worked

common app transfer essay

Next, let’s dig into another one of our Common App transfer essay examples. Like the first of our Common App transfer essay examples, the essay below includes detailed and specific information about how the writer will thrive at their new institution. 

Our next transfer essay example is for Wesleyan . Let’s take a look at the essay and explore why it stood out to Wesleyan admissions:

Wesleyan Transfer Essay Example

My need for academic diversity marks the first reason behind my desire to transfer. The reality is that there is a disproportionate emphasis placed on business and natural sciences at my current college. While these majors deserve merit, the situation here translates to a lack of the same quality of opportunities and resources for the humanities. I realized that I need a setting where every academic field is equally regarded because it is in these types of environments that intellectual curiosity is truly fostered.

While I spent my initial months as a pre-major, I took a medley of courses to ensure that I chose a path I was genuinely passionate about. I am unable to pursue my academic desires here, but at Wesleyan, I can. My first year of college helped me to narrow down my want for a cosmopolitan education. During a class, I was introduced to literary and post-colonial theory and discovered a new passion. I want to pursue certification in Social, Cultural, and Critical Theory for a diversified education, and with the interdisciplinary coursework at Wesleyan, I could do so. With intense courses and guidance from caring faculty, Wesleyan would allow me the strong and intimate academic foundation that I desire.

Wesleyan has what I am looking for and am unfortunately unable to find at my current school: enthusiasm for languages. I possess a passion for foreign languages and with Wesleyan’s orientation intense curricula for foreign languages, I would have a supportive environment. While I am currently taking 2 languages, I hope to pursue Arabic language and culture, and in addition, live in the Turath Program House. Foreign languages are usually regarded as a side-study but with the open curriculum and programming at Wesleyan, I could allow foreign languages the space in my academic schedule that it deserves. 

My first year made me realize how I took diversity for granted. Diversity, not just in ethnicity, but in socioeconomic background, sexual orientation, and most importantly, perspective, is the type of representation I want on a campus. Wesleyan truly reflects the concept of equal opportunity in every sense. Coming from a background where food stamps were normalized and then moving to a school where most of the student body comes from the upper socioeconomic trend has been eye-opening.

The notion that there is a disparity in resources and experiences between polar financial levels is swept under the rug here. I appreciate that Wesleyan not only acknowledges but acts towards lessening the gap by providing resources and opportunities to low-income/first-gen families. It’s this type of effort that will allow those without equal access to have the stability for their academic merits to shine through.

Wesleyan’s location also offers me the scenic nature-based and intimate small-town vibe that I desire. While I love Fort Worth, the climate, people, and attractions in Middletown would fit me better. Whether I’m hiking at Cockaponset or attending a play by ArtFarm with my friends, I would get the college experience that I desire without foregoing an intimate college community. 

Why this essay worked

While this Common App transfer essay prompt isn’t in use anymore, this Wesleyan essay answers a standard question: why do you wish to transfer, and why Wesleyan? 

Once again, the writer of this transfer essay example gives reasons why their current school isn’t the right fit. They express their desire for more academic, cultural, racial, and social diversity than is available on their current college campus. Many college essays that worked discuss diversity and inclusion; this Wesleyan essay writer showcases how they’ll enrich their future campus community. In doing so, it gives Wesleyan admissions officers a strong sense of the student’s values. 

Additionally, this Wesleyan essay uses specific details to show what makes Wesleyan the right fit for this student. In particular, this sample transfer essay describes in detail the writer’s passion for studying languages. The writer details how they would use Wesleyan’s resources to explore this passion. 

In reading this essay, the Wesleyan admissions team can see clearly how the student would make use of Wesleyan’s resources. 

Like our other Common App transfer essay examples, this Wesleyan essay illustrates why the writer wishes to transfer. At the same time, it emphasizes how they would make the most of their new institution. 

USC Transfer Essay Examples

common app transfer essay

Let’s move on to more college transfer essay examples and take a look at some USC transfer essay examples. We hope these Common App transfer essay examples help you prepare to craft your own essays. 

In the 2021 admissions cycle, the USC transfer acceptance rate was about 26% according to the USC admissions office. While USC does not widely publicize the USC transfer acceptance rate, it’s generally reported as around 24-26%. In other words, you can assume that the USC transfer acceptance rate is relatively low. That means you should do all you can to prepare your transfer application ahead of the USC transfer deadline. Note that the USC transfer deadline is February 15th for most programs. 

Overall, the USC transfer requirements are similar to those for other schools. They include the Common Application, your high school transcript, and your college transcript. Some academic programs require additional letters of recommendation, portfolio materials, and other supplements. You’ll complete the USC college transfer essays through the Common App. 

USC Transfer Essay Examples — Long Answer

The USC transfer requirements will vary by major. However, regardless of additional USC transfer requirements for certain programs, you’ll need USC college transfer essays.

Unlike the rest of our transfer essay examples, the USC transfer essay examples also include short answer responses. So, in addition to the main USC college transfer essay, you’ll find some short-form USC transfer essay examples below. 

Let’s start with the main USC transfer essay: 

USC Transfer Essay Example

The feature that appeals the most to me about USC is the zeal that the English department displays. It was the amount of English-oriented events that hooked me and the quality of them that finally reeled me into USC’s shore. Numerous poetry readings, prominent guest speakers, and enthusiastic organizations geared towards English would help immensely with supplementing my learning experience. The cherry on top is the study abroad program entwined with English, allowing for total immersion into the culture and subject.

These types of academic opportunities are integral to making the most of my studies. Furthermore, I would be remiss to not acknowledge the world-class faculty at USC’s English department. What USC presents is an academic environment where the ardor I have for English is matched. It’s a community where college isn’t viewed as a method of job placement but a place to foster intellectual curiosity.

Socially, my current school has been full of learning experiences as I navigated a social scene that starkly contrasted against the ones I grew up with. However, I knew this was a common experience and stayed optimistic. I dabbled in clubs, finding some that piqued my interest, and rushed a sorority before discovering what I wanted to direct my time and effort towards.

While I opted out of Greek life, I did find organizations and people on campus that I enjoyed, such as Spectrum (LGBTQ+) and Hall Crew, an organization geared towards dorm-community bonding. However, some contemplation allowed me to recognize that the people I had gravitated towards drew me in due to a recurring sentiment: my desire for a more diverse setting.

When the word “diversity” is mentioned, people naturally assume ethnicity. While this factor is an important component in the multi-faceted topic of diversity, it isn’t all-encompassing. My current school has helped me realize that diversity, not just in race, but in sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, and most importantly, perspective, is a necessary aspect of a college environment. Attending USC would give me a chance to experience the kind of diversity I crave; a campus comprised of students from all over the globe would ensure this. 

The first of our USC transfer essay examples indicates exactly what attracts this applicant to USC. In this sample transfer essay, the writer describes their interest in USC’s English program and why it would fit them. As you read this transfer essay example, you can imagine this student thriving on USC’s campus. 

Once again, like other transfer essays that worked, this transfer essay example shows why the writer was dissatisfied with their college. However, it doesn’t dwell on the negatives—instead, this sample transfer essay looks forward to the writer’s goals at USC. 

To make the most of your USC essays, make sure you draft them well ahead of the USC transfer deadline. This gives you enough time to polish your essays and make sure they highlight your strengths. Transfer essays that worked are often initially written well before the deadline and revised several times.

USC Transfer Essay Examples — Short Answer

Next, let’s take a look at more Common App transfer essay examples—namely, the short answer USC transfer essay examples: 

1. What is the most fun you’ve had lately?

On the Fourth of July, I braved the scorching heat at Six Flags over Atlanta, my favorite childhood vacation spot. I got drenched on Thunder River, lost my voice on Goliath, and won a giant stuffed Pokemon in a ball toss game. As the sun set, I admired the fireworks while devouring two plates of food at the all-you-can-eat buffet.  

2. If you had to give yourself a nickname, what would it be?

After joining the middle school swim team, I discovered that I was a terrible diver and would always painfully belly flop into the water. I begged my parents to let me volunteer at the library instead. While watching the librarian’s favorite movie, “Ella Enchanted,” she affectionately shortened my name to Ella. I moved the next summer, so the nickname always evokes nostalgia for my hometown. 

3. What are three things you don’t care about at all?

The difference between white and yellow onions (I use them interchangeably in my recipes.)

The iOS versus Android debate (I have a Galaxy phone and a Macbook.) 

The correct way to hang toilet paper (I keep the rolls in a cabinet to hide them from my two mischievous cats.) 

4. Describe a situation in which you didn’t get something you felt you deserved.

With plans to diversify the fundraisers and collaborate with community partners, I campaigned to be UNICEF Club president my junior year of high school. I was excited to be more involved in the organization I had volunteered with for years. Unfortunately, I had to miss the election day to receive my green card and was ultimately not selected.

5. What do you see as the physician’s role in Public Health? Please answer the question in 150 words or less.

Especially in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, I see physicians as educators and advocates for their communities. While conducting research and volunteering at my local food pantry, I saw how the pandemic led to rising medical misinformation and mistrust and exacerbated barriers to accessing healthcare. When unemployment soared in March 2020, I noted the strain on clients at the local food bank, who struggled to afford groceries, utilities, and medical bills. I believe that physicians should advocate for increasing access to affordable healthcare, from expanding subsidized coverage to lowering surprise medical bills.

As a Research Assistant, I discovered that a quarter of the rural patients with HIV in our study believed that COVID-19 vaccinations were dangerous or linked to autism. Through creating trusting relationships and supportive environments, I believe physicians can guide patients to make informed health decisions that optimize their clinical outcomes. 

Why these essays worked

Like any college essays that worked, these USC transfer essay examples showcase what makes the writer unique. The best Common App transfer essay examples clearly demonstrate the writer’s personality and how they’ll enrich their next college campus. 

Remember, every college transfer essay gives you the chance to tell the admissions team something new about you. Certainly, these short answer responses follow a different college transfer essay format than our longer Emory essay examples or the Wesleyan essay. However, they manage to include a lot of valuable information in a limited number of words. 

Let’s look at the last of our transfer essays that worked—our UMiami essay examples. 

UMiami Essay Examples — College Transfer Essay

common app transfer essay

Next, we’ll dig into UMiami essay examples to get a better understanding of college essays that worked. 

Here’s one of our UMiami essay examples from an admitted transfer student:

UMiami Transfer Essay Example

I took a medley of classes to ensure that I chose my major with confidence, which led to my decision to apply as an English major and Modern Language and Literature minor to UMiami. I hope to study Japanese and Arabic, along with French if my schedule permits. Beyond the depth, rigor, and range of the courses themselves, the sheer breadth of the programming would allow me to supplement my education with a curriculum outside the classroom. Both the English and the MLL department have enthusiastic programming ranging from lectures given by prominent guest-speakers, friendly gatherings, and study abroad programs that would really allow me to make the most of my education.

I fully intend to pursue research as well, as my time as a research assistant has fostered my passion for knowledge and discovery in the humanities. The experience will also help me while I pursue the Departmental Honors Program in English Literature. Beyond purely academic resources, the intimate approach to advising and the close faculty-to student ratio is what drew me to UMiami. The dedication to providing students with resources like research grants, internships, and career connections is the type of care that I want. I learned that while the right academic environment is important, support is essential to thrive not only as a student, but as a person.

Socially, UMiami leaves nothing left to be desired. I could take a stroll on the beach or finally get to try the famous Cafecito. The active campus itself would mean opportunities to discover new hobbies or make new memories with friends. I want to be able to look back fondly at the memories I made in college and UMiami would allow me to do that. I would also love to start a Dream Outside the Box chapter at UMiami as my experience with this organization geared towards better access to education has been profound and I am a staunch believer in bettering local communities first.

In the last of our Common App transfer essay examples, the writer includes specific details about why UMiami is the right place for them. 

Once again, the writer of this sample transfer essay delineates what UMiami offers that their current college does not. Successful UMiami essay examples will be specific to the school. So, as you read UMiami essay examples like this one, look for ways to link your interests to the school’s offerings.

In this transfer essay example, the writer outlines the specific programs, foreign languages, and offerings that they plan to pursue at UMiami. They also include specific details about the college’s location and culture. These details make obvious their interest in the institution and the time they’ve taken to research their (prospective) future home.

Understanding the UMiami Transfer Acceptance Rate

In general, transfer acceptance rates are not widely published online—the UMiami transfer acceptance rate is no different. While it’s generally reported to be around 50%, students should still assume that the UMiami transfer acceptance rate is relatively competitive . To put it another way, don’t take the UMiami essay for granted. After all, UMiami is one of the best colleges in Florida, so admission is never guaranteed. 

By now, we’ve read UMiami essay examples, Wesleyan essays, and other transfer essays that worked. We hope you now have a better understanding of what makes a successful college transfer essay. Next, let’s dig into some more transfer essay tips to help you succeed. 

How is a college transfer essay different?

common app transfer essay

Overall, the transfer application process is slightly different from the first-year application process. As you’ve likely noticed in our successful transfer essay examples, most transfer essays look rather different from standard personal statements. 

When applying as a transfer student, admissions officers want to know why you’ve decided to transfer and what interests you about their school. They also want to learn about your educational plans (including your choice of major) and your career goals. 

Similar to our transfer essays that worked, college transfer essays often revolve around an applicant’s character as a student and future professional. Compare this to a Common App personal statement, which usually focuses on who you are as a person. Clearly, your academic and career pathways matter a bit more as a transfer student. 

Of course, you should take every opportunity to show the admissions committee what makes you unique. However, you should also ensure you include specific details about what makes your future academic program a better fit. 

College Transfer Essay Format

In general, most schools use a similar college transfer essay format. The Common App transfer essay prompts you’ll find will also often have some similarities. Most schools will ask students to state their reasons for transferring and explain why they’ve chosen to apply. 

As you approach this type of prompt, think about:

  • The major you’d like to pursue
  • Academic programs that are not available at your current school
  • Important differences between your current campus community and the school where you’re applying

Word counts will vary by school, so always check each institution’s requirements. You should also read each Common App transfer essay prompt carefully to ensure you follow the right format. 

You can also write an initial college transfer essay and adapt different sections to suit different prompts. However, you should always include specific details about how you plan to spend your time at your next college. 

Additional Transfer Essay Tips

We’ve looked at some successful Common App transfer essay examples. Next, let’s review three transfer essay tips to help your essays shine:

  • Be specific. Tailor each college transfer essay to your chosen school, even if you start with the same basic details about yourself. Make sure you indicate specific things that school offers that you can’t find at your current institution.
  • Keep it positive. As a transfer student, it might be tempting to write negatively about your current school. However, focus instead on what your current school has taught you about yourself and prepared you to succeed elsewhere.  
  • Be thorough. Your college transfer essays are one of the few chances you get to address the admissions committee on your own terms. Make the most of the word count to highlight who you are and how you’d enrich their campus. 

We hope these transfer essay tips give you confidence as you approach the college transfer essay process. 

Other CollegeAdvisor Essay Resources to Explore

As we’ve discussed, while there are some key differences, writing a college transfer essay is relatively similar to writing a first-year admissions essay. For more transfer essay tips, check out some of our other resources below:

  • AO Advice: How to Write Great Supplemental Essays That Stand Out — In this webinar, our former Admissions Officers share how to write supplemental essays that shine. 
  • Columbia Essay Examples — This guide includes several successful essays from Columbia University and explains what made them work. 
  • Editing Your Supplemental Essays —  This webinar walks you through the process of editing your Common App transfer essays to make them strong, clear, and concise. 
  • How to Write a Personal Statement — Read more college essays that worked and learn expert tips to make yours unique. 

For more guidance, you can also check out Carnegie Mellon’s tips on writing strong Common App transfer essays. Amherst also offers useful tips, including a successful Common App transfer essay. Finally, Moorpark College has a great slide deck featuring some advice on the UC transfer process. 

If you’re certain about transferring but unsure about where you want to go, we can help. Our three-part College Finder series covers the college search process, making a college list , and comparing colleges . Although many of our free articles are aimed at first-year applicants, their advice is broadly applicable. They can help you figure out how to frame your college transfer essays or research where you want to go.

College Transfer Essay — Final Thoughts

In this article, we walked you through different sample transfer essays and Common App transfer essay prompt responses. Additionally, we offered some transfer essay tips to help you write the strongest college transfer essays you can. We hope our Common App transfer essay examples help you feel more confident as you navigate the transfer application process. 

If you want more support as you complete your Common App transfer essays, we’re here to help. Click here to schedule a consultation with our Admissions Specialists. We’ll help you learn more about how CollegeAdvisor can help you maximize your admissions odds.

common app transfer essay

This article was written by Abbie Sage. Looking for more admissions support? Click here to schedule a free meeting with one of our Admissions Specialists. During your meeting, our team will discuss your profile and help you find targeted ways to increase your admissions odds at top schools. We’ll also answer any questions and discuss how CollegeAdvisor.com can support you in the college application process.

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Common App Essays | 7 Strong Examples with Commentary

Published on November 19, 2021 by Kirsten Courault . Revised on May 31, 2023.

If you’re applying for college via the Common App , you’ll have to write an essay in response to one of seven prompts.

Table of contents

What is the common application essay, prompt 1: background, identity, interest, or talent, prompt 2: overcoming challenges, prompt 3: questioning a belief or idea, prompt 4: appreciating an influential person, prompt 5: transformative event, prompt 6: interest or hobby that inspires learning, prompt 7: free topic, other interesting articles, frequently asked questions about college application essays.

The Common Application, or Common App , is a college application portal that is accepted by more than 900 schools.

Within the Common App is your main essay, a primary writing sample that all your prospective schools will read to evaluate your critical thinking skills and value as a student. Since this essay is read by many colleges, avoid mentioning any college names or programs. Instead, save tailored answers for the supplementary school-specific essays within the Common App.

Regardless of your prompt choice, admissions officers will look for an ability to clearly and creatively communicate your ideas based on the selected prompt.

We’ve provided seven essay examples, one for each of the Common App prompts. After each essay, we’ve provided a table with commentary on the essay’s narrative, writing style and tone, demonstrated traits, and self-reflection.

Prevent plagiarism. Run a free check.

This essay explores the student’s emotional journey toward overcoming her father’s neglect through gymnastics discipline.

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, then please share your story.

When “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” began to play, it was my signal to lay out a winning floor routine. Round off. Back handspring. Double back layout. Stick!

Instead, I jolted off the floor, landing out of bounds. Over the past week, I hadn’t landed that pass once, and regionals were only seven days away. I heaved a heavy sigh and stomped over to the bench.

Coach Farkas saw my consternation. “Mona, get out of your head. You’re way too preoccupied with your tumbling passes. You could do them in your sleep!”

That was the problem. I was dreaming of tumbling and missing my landings, waking up in a cold sweat. The stress felt overwhelming.

“Stretch out. You’re done for tonight.”

I walked home from the gym that had been my second home since fourth grade. Yet my anxiety was increasing every time I practiced.

I startled my mom. “You’re home early! Wait! You walked? Mona, what’s going on?!”

I slumped down at the kitchen table. “Don’t know.”

She sat down across from me. “Does it have anything to do with your father texting you a couple of weeks ago about coming to see you at regionals?”

“So what?! Why does it matter anymore?” He walked out when I was 10 and never looked back. Still, dear ol’ Dad always had a way of resurfacing when I least expected him.

“It still matters because when you hear from him, you tend to crumble. Or have you not noticed?” She offered a knowing wink and a compassionate smile.

I started gymnastics right after Dad left. The coaches said I was a natural: short, muscular, and flexible. All I knew was that the more I improved, the more confident I felt. Gymnastics made me feel powerful, so I gave it my full energy and dedication.

The floor routine became my specialty, and my performances were soon elevating our team score. The mat, solid and stable, became a place to explore and express my internal struggles. Over the years, no matter how angry I felt, the floor mat was there to absorb my frustration.

The bars, beam, and vault were less forgiving because I knew I could fall. My performances in those events were respectable. But, the floor? Sometimes, I had wildly creative and beautiful routines, while other times were disastrous. Sadly, my floor routine had never been consistent.

That Saturday afternoon, I slipped into the empty gym and walked over to the mat. I sat down and touched its carpeted surface. After a few minutes, my cheeks were wet with the bitter disappointment of a dad who only showed up when it was convenient for him. I ruminated on the years of practices and meets where I had channeled my resentment into acrobatics and dance moves, resolved to rise higher than his indifference.

I saw then that my deepest wounds were inextricably entangled with my greatest passion. They needed to be permanently separated. While my anger had first served to launch me into gymnastics, before long, I had started serving my anger.

Anger is a cruel master. It corrupts everything it touches, even something as beautiful as a well-choreographed floor routine.

I changed my music days before regionals. “The Devil” no longer had a place in my routine. Instead, I chose an energetic cyberpunk soundtrack that inspired me to perform with passion and laser focus. Dad made an obligatory appearance at regionals, but he left before I could talk to him.

It didn’t matter this time. I stuck every landing in my routine. Anger no longer controlled me. I was finally free.

Word count: 601

This essay shows how the challenges the student faced in caring for her sister with autism resulted in an unexpected path forward in her education.

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?

I never had a choice.

My baby sister was born severely autistic, which meant that every detail of our home life was repeatedly adjusted to manage her condition. I couldn’t go to bed without fearing that Mindy would wake up screaming with that hoarse little voice of hers. I couldn’t have friends over on weekends because we never knew if our entire family would need to shift into crisis mode to help Mindy regain control.

We couldn’t take a family vacation because Mindy would start hitting us during a long car ride when she didn’t want to sit there anymore. We couldn’t even celebrate Christmas like a normal family because Mindy would shriek and run away when we tried to give her presents.

I was five years old when Mindy was born. For the first ten years, I did everything I could to help my mom with Mindy. But Mom was depressed and would often stare out the window, as if transfixed by the view. Dad was no help either. He used his job as an excuse to be away from home. So, I tried to make up for both of them and rescue Mindy however I could whenever she needed it.

However, one day, when I was slowly driving Mindy around with the windows down, trying to lull her into a calmer state, we passed two of my former classmates from middle school. They heard Mindy growling her disapproval as the ride was getting long for her. One of them turned to the other and announced, “Oh my God! Marabeth brought her pet monster out for a drive!” They laughed hysterically and ran down the street.

After that day, I defied my parents at every turn. I also ignored Mindy. I even stopped doing homework. I purposely “got in with the wrong crowd” and did whatever they did.

My high school counselor Ms. Martinez saw through it all. She knew my family’s situation well. It didn’t take her long to guess what had probably happened.

“Marabeth, I get it. My brother has Down syndrome. It was really hard growing up with him as a brother. The other kids were pretty mean about it, especially in high school.”

I doubted she understood. “Yeah. So?”

“I’m guessing something happened that hurt or embarrassed you.”

“I’m so sorry. I can only imagine how you must have felt.”

It must have been the way she said it because I suddenly found myself sobbing into my trembling, cupped hands.

Ms. Martinez and I met every Friday after that for the rest of the year. Her stories of how she struggled to embrace living with and loving her brother created a bridge to my pain and then my healing. She explained that her challenges led her to pursue a degree in counseling so that she could offer other people what no one had given her.

I thought that Mindy was the end of my life, but, because of Ms. Martinez’s example and kindness, I can now see that Mindy is a gift, pointing me toward my future.

Now, I’m applying to study psychology so that I can go on to earn my master’s degree in counseling. I’m learning to forgive my parents for their mistakes, and I’m back in Mindy’s life again, but this time as a sister, not a savior. My choice.

Word Count: 553

This essay illustrates a student’s courage in challenging his culture’s constructs of manhood and changing his course while positively affecting his father in the process.

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

“No son of mine is gonna march around a football field wearing tail feathers while all the real men are playing football!”

I took a step backward and tried not to appear as off-balance as I felt. In my excitement, I had blurted out more information than my father could handle:

“Dad! I made the marching band as a freshman! Nobody does that—I mean nobody!”

As soon as I had said it, I wished I could recall those words. How could I forget that 26 years earlier, he had been the starting wide receiver for the state-champion Tigers on the same field?!

Still, when I opened the email on that scorching hot August afternoon, I was thrilled that five months of practicing every possible major and harmonic minor scale—two octaves up and two octaves down—had made the difference. I had busted reed after reed, trying not to puff my cheeks while moving my fingers in a precise cadence.

I knew he had heard me continually practicing in my room, yet he seemed to ignore all the parts of me that were incongruous with his vision of manhood:

Ford F-150 4x4s. Pheasant hunting. The Nebraska Cornhuskers.

I never had to wonder what he valued. For years, I genuinely shared his interests. But, in the fall of eighth grade, I heard Kyle Wheeling play a saxophone solo during the homecoming marching band halftime show. My dad took me to every football game to teach me the plays, but that night, all I could think about was Kyle’s bluesy improv at halftime.

During Thanksgiving break, I got my mom to drive me into Omaha to rent my instrument at Dietze Music, and, soon after, I started private lessons with Mr. Ken. Before long, I was spending hours in my room, exploring each nuance of my shiny Yamaha alto sax, anticipating my audition for the Marching Tigers at the end of the spring semester.

During those months of practice, I realized that I couldn’t hide my newfound interest forever, especially not from the football players who were going to endlessly taunt me. But not all the guys played football. Some were in choir and theater. Quite a few guys were in the marching band. In fact, the Marching Tigers had won the grand prize in their division at last year’s state showdown in Lincoln.

I was excited! They were the champions, and I was about to become a part of their legacy.

Yet, that afternoon, a sense of anxiety brewed in my belly. I knew I had to talk to him.

He was sweeping the grass clippings off of the sidewalk. He nodded.

“I need to tell you something.”

He looked up.

“I know that you know about my sax because you hear me practicing. I like it a lot, and I’m becoming pretty good at it. I still care about what you like, but I’m starting to like some other things more. I hope you’ll be proud of me whatever I choose.”

He studied the cracks in the driveway. “I am proud of you. I just figured you’d play football.”

We never talked about it again, but that fall, he was in the stands when our marching band won the state championship in Lincoln for the second time. In fact, for the next four years, he never left the stands during halftime until the marching band had performed. He was even in the audience for every performance of “Our Town” at the end of my junior year. I played the Stage Manager who reveals the show’s theme: everything changes gradually.

I know it’s true. Things do change over time, even out here in central Nebraska. I know because I’ve changed, and my dad has changed, too. I just needed the courage to go first.

Word count: 626

The student demonstrates how his teacher giving him an unexpected bad grade was the catalyst for his becoming a better writer.

Reflect on something that someone has done for you that has made you happy or thankful in a surprising way. How has this gratitude affected or motivated you?

I stared in disbelief at the big red letter at the top of my paper: D. 

Never in my entire high school career had I seen that letter at the top of any paper, unless it was at the beginning of my first name. 

I had a 4.796 GPA. I had taken every pre-AP and AP course offered. My teachers had praised my writing skills! However, Mr. Trimble didn’t think so, and he let me know it:

“Darwin, in the future, I believe you can do better if you fully apply yourself.” 

I furiously scanned the paper for corrections. Not even one! Grammar and syntax? Perfect. Spelling? Impeccable. Sentence and paragraph structure? Precise and indisputable, as always. 

Was he trying to ruin my GPA? Cooper was clearly his favorite, and we were neck and neck for valedictorian, which was only one year away. Maybe they were conspiring to take me down. 

Thankfully, AP Composition was my last class. I fled the room and ran to my car. Defiant tears stained my cheeks as I screeched my tires and roared out of the parking lot. When I got home, I shoved in my AirPods, flopped on my bed, and buried my head under the pillow. 

I awoke to my sister, Daria, gently shaking my arm. “I know what happened, D. Trimble stopped me in the hall after school.”

“I’m sure he did. He’s trying to ruin my life.”

“That’s not what he told me. You should talk to him, D.”

The next day, although I tried to avoid Mr. Trimble at all costs, I almost tripped over him as I was coming out of the bathroom.

“Darwin, can we talk?” 

He walked me down the hall to his room. “Do you know that you’re one of the best writers I’ve ever had in AP Comp?” 

“Then why’d you do it?” 

“Because you’re better than you know, Darwin. You impress with your perfect presentations, and your teachers reward you with A’s and praise. I do frequent the teacher’s lounge, you know.” 

“So I know you’re not trying.”

I locked eyes with him and glared. 

“You’ve never had to try because you have a gift. And, in the midst of the acclaim, you’ve never pushed yourself to discover your true capabilities.”

“So you give me a D?!”

“It got your attention.”

“You’re not going to leave it, are you?”

“Oh, the D stands. You didn’t apply yourself. You’ll have to earn your way out with your other papers.” 

I gained a new understanding of the meaning of ambivalence. Part of me was furious at the injustice of the situation, but I also felt strangely challenged and intrigued. I joined a local writer’s co-op and studied K. M. Weiland’s artistic writing techniques. 

Multiple drafts, track changes, and constructive criticism became my new world. I stopped taking Mr. Trimble’s criticism personally and began to see it as a precious tool to bolster me, not break me down. 

Last week, the New York Public Library notified me that I was named one of five finalists for the Young Lions Fiction Award. They described my collection of short stories as “fresh, imaginative, and captivating.” 

I never thought I could be grateful for a D, but Mr. Trimble’s insightful courage was the catalyst that transformed my writing and my character. Just because other people applaud you for being the best doesn’t mean you’re doing your best . 

AP Composition is now recorded as an A on my high school transcript, and Cooper and I are still locked in a tight race for the finish line. But, thanks to Mr. Trimble, I have developed a different paradigm for evaluation: my best. And the more I apply myself, the better my best becomes. 

Word Count: 627

This student narrates how she initially went to church for a boy but instead ended up confronting her selfishness by helping others.

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

Originally, I went to church not because I was searching for Jesus but because I liked a boy.

Isaac Ono wasn’t the most athletic boy in our class, nor was he the cutest. But I was amazed by his unusual kindness toward everyone. If someone was alone or left out, he’d walk up to them and say hello or invite them to hang out with him and his friends.

I started waking up at 7:30 a.m. every Sunday morning to attend Grace Hills Presbyterian, where Isaac’s father was the pastor. I would strategically sit in a pew not too close but close enough to Isaac that when the entire congregation was instructed to say “Peace be with you,” I could “happen” to shake Isaac’s hand and make small talk.

One service, as I was staring at the back of Isaac’s head, pondering what to say to him, my hearing suddenly tuned in to his father’s sermon.

“There’s no such thing as a good or bad person.”

My eyes snapped onto Pastor Marcus.

“I used to think I was a good person who came from a respectable family and did nice things. But people aren’t inherently good or bad. They just make good or bad choices.”

My mind raced through a mental checklist of whether my past actions fell mostly into the former or latter category.

“As it says in Deuteronomy 30:15, ‘I have set before you today life and good, death and evil.’ Follow in the footsteps of Jesus and do good.”

I glanced to my left and saw Margaret, underlining passages in her study Bible and taking copious notes.

Months earlier, I had befriended Margaret. We had fourth-period Spanish together but hadn’t interacted much. She was friends with Isaac, so I started hanging out with her to get closer to him. But eventually, the two of us were spending hours in the Starbucks parking lot having intense discussions about religion, boys, and our futures until we had to return home before curfew.

After hearing the pastor’s sermon, I realized that what I had admired about Isaac was also present in Margaret and other people at church: a welcoming spirit. I’m pretty sure Margaret knew of my ulterior motives for befriending her, but she never called me out on it.

After that day, I started paying more attention to Pastor Marcus’s sermons and less attention to Isaac. One year, our youth group served Christmas Eve dinner to the homeless and ate with them. I sat across from a woman named Lila who told me how child services had taken away her four-year-old daughter because of her financial and living situation.

A few days later, as I sat curled up reading the book of James, my heart suddenly felt heavy.

“If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and filled,’ without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that?”

I thought back to Pastor Marcus’s sermon on good and bad actions, Lila and her daughter, and the times I had passed people in need without even saying hello.

I decided to put my faith into action. The next week, I started volunteering at the front desk of a women’s shelter, helping women fill out forms or watching their kids while they talked with social workers.

From working for the past year at the women’s shelter, I now know I want to major in social work, caring for others instead of focusing on myself. I may not be a good person (or a bad one), but I can make good choices, helping others with every opportunity God gives me.

Word count: 622

This essay shows how a student’s natural affinity for solving a Rubik’s cube developed her self-understanding, academic achievement, and inspiration for her future career.

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 worst part about writing is putting down my Rubik’s cube so that I can use my hands to type. That’s usually the worst part of tackling my to-do list: setting aside my Rubik’s cube. My parents call it an obsession. But, for me, solving a Rubik’s cube challenges my brain as nothing else can.

It started on my ninth birthday. I invited three friends for a sleepover party, and I waited to open my presents right before bed. Wrapping paper, ribbons, and bows flew through the air as I oohed and aahed over each delightful gift! However, it was the last gift—a 3 x 3 x 3 cube of little squares covered in red, green, blue, yellow, white, and orange—that intrigued me.

I was horrified when Bekka ripped it out of my hands and messed it all up! I had no idea how to make all the sides match again. I waited until my friends were fast asleep. Then, I grabbed that cube and studied it under my blanket with a flashlight, determined to figure out how to restore it to its former pristine state.

Within a few weeks, I had discovered the secret. To practice, I’d take my cube with me to recess and let the other kids time me while I solved it in front of them. The better I became, the more they gathered around. But I soon realized that their attention didn’t matter all that much. I loved solving cubes for hours wherever I was: at lunch, riding in the car, or alone in my room.

Cross. White corners. Middle-layer edges. Yellow cross. Sune and anitsune. 

The sequential algorithms became second nature, and with the assistance of a little black digital timer, I strove to solve the cube faster , each time attempting to beat my previous record. I watched speed solvers on YouTube, like Australia’s Feliks Zemdegs and Max Park from Massachusetts, but I wasn’t motivated to compete as they did. I watched their videos to learn how to improve my time. I liked finding new, more efficient ways of mastering the essential 78 separate cube-solving algorithms.

Now, I understand why my passion for my Rubik’s cube has never waned. Learning and applying the various algorithms soothes my brain and centers my emotions, especially when I feel overwhelmed from being around other people. Don’t get me wrong: I like other people—just in doses.

While some people get recharged by spending time with others, I can finally breathe when I’m alone with my cube. Our psychology teacher says the difference between an extrovert and an introvert is the situations that trigger their brains to produce dopamine. For me, it’s time away, alone, flipping through cube patterns to set a new personal best.

Sometimes, the world doesn’t cooperate with introverts, requiring them to interact with many people throughout the day. That’s why you’ll often find me in the stairwell or a library corner attempting to master another one of the 42 quintillion ways to solve a cube. My parents tease me that when I’ve “had enough” of anything, my fingers get a Rubik’s itch, and I suddenly disappear. I’m usually occupied for a while, but when I finally emerge, I feel centered, prepared to tackle my next task.

Secretly, I credit my cube with helping me earn top marks in AP Calculus, Chemistry, and Physics. It’s also responsible for my interest in computer engineering. It seems I just can’t get enough of those algorithms, which is why I want to study the design and implementation of cybersecurity software—all thanks to my Rubik’s cube.

Just don’t tell my parents! It would ruin all the fun!

Word count: 607

In this free topic essay, the student uses a montage structure inspired by the TV show Iron Chef America to demonstrate his best leadership moments.

Share an essay on any topic of your choice. It can be one you’ve already written, one that responds to a different prompt, or one of your own design.

Iron Chef America: College Essay Edition

The time has come to answer college’s most difficult question: Whose story shows glory?

This is … Iron Chef America: College Essay Edition!

Welcome to Kitchen Stadium! Today we have Chef Brett Lowell. Chef Brett will be put to the test to prove he has what it takes to attend university next fall.

And the secret ingredient is … leadership! He must include leadership in each of his dishes, which will later be evaluated by a panel of admissions judges.

So now, America, with a creative mind and empty paper, I say unto you in the words of my teacher: “Let’s write!”

Appetizer: My first leadership experience

A mountain of mismatched socks, wrinkled jeans, and my dad’s unironed dress shirts sat in front of me. Laundry was just one of many chores that welcomed me home once I returned from my after-school job at Baskin Robbins, a gig I had taken last year to help Dad pay the rent. A few years earlier, I wasn’t prepared to cook dinners, pay utility bills, or pick up and drop off my brothers. I thought those jobs were reserved for parents. However, when my father was working double shifts at the power plant and my mom was living in Tucson with her new husband, Bill, I stepped up and took care of the house and my two younger brothers.

Main course: My best leadership experience

Between waiting for the pasta water to boil and for the next laundry cycle to be finished, I squeezed in solving a few practice precalculus problems to prepare for the following week’s mathletics competition. I liked how the equations always had clear, clean answers, which calmed me among the mounting responsibilities of home life. After leading my team to the Minnesota State Finals for two years in a row, I was voted team captain. Although my home responsibilities often competed with my mathlete duties, I tried to be as productive as possible in my free time. On the bus ride home, I would often tackle 10 to 20 functions or budget the following week’s meals and corresponding grocery list. My junior year was rough, but both my home and my mathlete team needed me.

Dessert: My future leadership hopes 

The first thing I ever baked was a chocolate cake in middle school. This was around the time that Mom had just moved out and I was struggling with algebra. Troubles aside, one day my younger brother Simon needed a contribution for his school’s annual bake sale, and the PTA moms wouldn’t accept anything store-bought. So I carefully measured out the teaspoons and cups of various flours, powders, and oils, which resulted in a drooping, too-salty disaster.

Four years later, after a bakery’s worth of confections and many hours of study, I’ve perfected my German chocolate cake and am on my way to mastering Calculus AB. I’ve also thrown out the bitter-tasting parts of my past such as my resentment and anger toward my mom. I still miss having her at home, but whenever I have a baking question or want to update her on my mathlete team’s success, I call her or chat with her over text.

Whether in school or life, I see problems as opportunities, not obstacles, to find a better way to solve them more efficiently. I hope to continue improving my problem-solving skills next fall by majoring in mathematics and statistics.

Time’s up! 

We hope you’ve enjoyed this tasting of Chef Lowell’s leadership experiences. Next fall, tune in to see him craft new leadership adventures in college. He’s open to refining his technique and discovering new recipes.

Word count: 612

If you want to know more about academic writing , effective communication , or parts of speech , make sure to check out some of our other articles with explanations and examples.

Academic writing

  • Writing process
  • Transition words
  • Passive voice
  • Paraphrasing

 Communication

  • How to end an email
  • Ms, mrs, miss
  • How to start an email
  • I hope this email finds you well
  • Hope you are doing well

 Parts of speech

  • Personal pronouns
  • Conjunctions

The Common App essay is your primary writing sample within the Common Application, a college application portal accepted by more than 900 schools. All your prospective schools that accept the Common App will read this essay to understand your character, background, and value as a potential student.

Since this essay is read by many colleges, avoid mentioning any college names or programs; instead, save tailored answers for the supplementary school-specific essays within the Common App.

When writing your Common App essay , choose a prompt that sparks your interest and that you can connect to a unique personal story.

No matter which prompt you choose, admissions officers are more interested in your ability to demonstrate personal development , insight, or motivation for a certain area of study.

To decide on a good college essay topic , spend time thoughtfully answering brainstorming questions. If you still have trouble identifying topics, try the following two strategies:

  • Identify your qualities → Brainstorm stories that demonstrate these qualities
  • Identify memorable stories → Connect your qualities to these stories

You can also ask family, friends, or mentors to help you brainstorm topics, give feedback on your potential essay topics, or recall key stories that showcase your qualities.

A standout college essay has several key ingredients:

  • A unique, personally meaningful topic
  • A memorable introduction with vivid imagery or an intriguing hook
  • Specific stories and language that show instead of telling
  • Vulnerability that’s authentic but not aimed at soliciting sympathy
  • Clear writing in an appropriate style and tone
  • A conclusion that offers deep insight or a creative ending

Cite this Scribbr article

If you want to cite this source, you can copy and paste the citation or click the “Cite this Scribbr article” button to automatically add the citation to our free Citation Generator.

Courault, K. (2023, May 31). Common App Essays | 7 Strong Examples with Commentary. Scribbr. Retrieved February 22, 2024, from https://www.scribbr.com/college-essay/common-app-examples/

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can i change my common app essay for different colleges

A User’s Guide to the Common App for Transfer Students

What’s covered:, what is the common app for transfer students.

  • Steps to Completing the Common App for Transfer Students

Where to Get Feedback on Your College Essays

Looking to transfer colleges? The Common App is making it easier than ever with the new Common App for Transfer Students. All required materials are now in one place, so you don’t have to worry about staying on top of multiple applications and websites during an already stressful time in your life.

In this article, you’ll find tips and step-by-step instructions on how to fill out your transfer application and feel great about what you submit.

The Common Application, or Common App, is a platform used by many schools for the college application process. Since schools typically ask for the same data when it comes to personal information and a general essay, the Common App provides a singular place where applicants can enter their information. The platform then allows your selected schools access to your application. Some colleges may have individual supplemental essays that you’ll need to write, but your personal information and Common App essay are only entered once.

In the past, transfer students would have to fill out applications through each school’s transfer applications. However, the Common App now has a program available for students who are looking to transfer, making the application process that much easier.

Step 1: Creating and Logging into your account

When you go to the Common App website and click “Create an Account,” it will ask you whether you are a first-year or transfer student.

can i change my common app essay for different colleges

Choose “Transfer Student.” You will be asked to provide personal information to create your account.

can i change my common app essay for different colleges

Step 2: Navigating the Dashboard

Once you’ve created your account, a page will appear where you can add programs that you would like to apply to, arranged in alphabetical order.

can i change my common app essay for different colleges

You can either add directly from this list by clicking on the plus sign or search for a school using the search bar at the top of the page. Once you choose programs, you will be given the chance to review your choices and proceed to your application dashboard. If you click “Skip for Now,” you will be taken directly to your application dashboard. 

can i change my common app essay for different colleges

Step 3: Filling out the Common App for Transfers

Personal information.

Clicking on “Personal Information” will open this menu. 

can i change my common app essay for different colleges

To fill out each section, just click on the individual headers. You will need to provide communication preferences, demographics, and contact information for yourself and your parents/guardians. The Common App also offers options for financial support through the “Common App Fee Waiver” section.

Academic History

In this section, you will need to fill out your past academic information. This includes any high schools and colleges you attended; coursework you completed at your past colleges; your GPA(s); standardized test scores such as the SAT Subject Test, AP or IB tests, College Level Examination Program exams, or Senior Secondary Leaving Examinations; and Continuing Education Courses you’ve taken.

can i change my common app essay for different colleges

Supporting Information

This section is where you can take the opportunity to include anything that is specific to you that will help you stand out during the application process.

can i change my common app essay for different colleges

Things to list under “Experiences” include community engagement, extracurricular activities, family responsibilities, hobbies, volunteering, work, internships, research, and other meaningful experiences. “Achievements” can be both academic and professional. For “Documents,” this will differ based on the school. Typically, you can upload a resume, military transcript, or visa documentation if needed, and schools will list on their website whether they require any additional documents. Finally, the “Affirmation Statements” section is simply a list of statements affirming that the information you have provided is your own and that you will take responsibility for your own application process.

Program Materials

In this section, you will be provided with information about any individual application requirements for each college you are applying to.

can i change my common app essay for different colleges

Clicking on the button for a college will take you to its page in the Common App. “Home” houses contact information for the school, while “Questions” is a list of demographic questions compiled by the college itself. You will have to fill these out in addition to the “Personal Information” section of the Common App, as these questions are specific to each school. “Documents” is where you can upload any documentation, while “Recommendations” is where you can include any academic, personal, or professional letters of recommendation.

Step 4: Submitting the Common App for Transfer Students

While there are less sections for transfer students than for first-year applicants, the typical requirements are the same. In addition to personal information, students are still asked to provide essays, letters of recommendation, and information about extracurricular activities. Ensure that you leave time to thoroughly review your application. The Common App notifies you about any unfinished sections, but it’s best to look over everything yourself as well.

Registration for the 2021-2022 Common App for transfer students closes on July 29 at 5pm ET, so you must create your account before then. Deadlines for individual school applications differ, so be sure to consider deadlines that may have already passed when looking at schools.

After you’ve reviewed your application and have made sure you are ready to submit, go to “Submit Application.” 

can i change my common app essay for different colleges

Your progress bar should be completely filled. When you reach this point, click the “Submit” button. The following steps will only become visible to you once you’ve completed your application; if anything is missing, the button will be grayed out, like in the screenshot above.

Once you click “Submit,” you will be able to review your application for the last time, so take the time to thoroughly go over each section. After that, you will be directed to the payment portal for the college to which you are applying. If you have requested a Common App fee waiver, you will not be required to make a payment at this point.

Once your application fee is submitted, sign and date your application and click “Submit” on your Common App. 

Writing college essays is a daunting task. Sometimes it can feel like you’re not even sure where to begin . Luckily, CollegeVine provides peer and expert essay review to make sure that you feel like you’re putting your best foot forward.

Related CollegeVine Blog Posts

can i change my common app essay for different colleges

Can you change your Common App essay after sending in an EA application?

<p>I had originally planned on applying to UVA and Harvard early.</p>

<p>However, I’m having qualms about my Common App essay and I don’t want it sent to Harvard yet. My Harvard supplement essay is pretty awesome, but I don’t know if I can finish editing the CA Essay in the next two weeks and I would much rather have a couple more months to work on it.</p>

<p>Then again, I would love to have a decision over 4 months earlier. Hmmm. Tough choices.</p>

<p>Anyway, my question is: If I send my Common App to UVA this month, will I be able to go back and edit the CA essay? I have heard that you can create versions of the Common App essay. Should I do this before or after submitting? Thanks for the help</p>

<p>all i read was the title.</p>

<p>answer is no</p>

<p>^ Please don’t answer if you don’t know what you’re talking about.</p>

<p>You can definitely create versions and thus modify your essay, update your ECs, etc. I think you have to submit to at least one school before creating a second version, but I’m not completely sure about that. I’d recommend submitting first, as then you won’t have to remember to make changes to both versions if you update your application between creating a second version and submitting.</p>

<p>I don’t recall where the instructions are. They’re somewhere on the Common App website, though. Might need to poke around a bit.</p>

<p>^ you didn’t even answer the question.</p>

<p>Yes. You can create another version of your common app and change the essay or replace the essay with another. best of luck!</p>

<p>Go here for info you need: <a href=“ https://www.commonapp.org/CommonApp/Docs/AlternateVersionTechnologyFAQ.pdf[/url] ”> https://www.commonapp.org/CommonApp/Docs/AlternateVersionTechnologyFAQ.pdf&lt;/a&gt;&lt;/p&gt ;

<p>Wow. Thanks for the link with the answer to the question. This helps tremendously. My child wanted to tailor their essay to one school and the common ap says you shouldn’t do that. This information explains how to do it and that it’s OK to do it.</p>

<p>I love this forum.</p>

<p>Yes, but in case it isn’t obvious, you can’t send the new app to a school that you already submitted the original app to. Once you have submitted the app to a college, that’s it, you can’t send another.</p>

<p>Do you really need a couple more months to edit the common app essay…? Just focus on that for now until you finish.</p>

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Education for Changes

Bringing Change with Education

  • Studying Guide

Can I change my Common App essay for different colleges?

by William Christie · August 26, 2023

The toughest choice that a student needs to make is to select the college to which they want to go. Visiting various online portals of each college takes a lot of effort and time. Now think what if you can do everything, from checking their regulations to sending them the application can be done on a single platform? Yes, you can do it through an online platform known as Common App. 

Quick Takeaways Common app is an online non-profit platform where you can send an online application to multiple colleges with a single application.  Once you’ve submitted your application, you can make as many changes as you like to your Common App essay.  You must remember that the changes you have made will only be reflected in the applications which you have sent to the colleges after. 

However, you must read till the end so that you get a better understanding of if you can change the essay on the common app for different colleges.

Can I change my Common App essay for different colleges?

Table of Contents

What is the common app?

It is one of the online non-profit platforms where you can send an online application to multiple colleges with a single application. You can send your same application to more than 950 colleges from a single platform. Almost 1 million students register on this application every year. This platform is also helpful for students who need financial help . As they can find various financial aid services to help them.

Also, you will get colleges that do not ask for any application fees. A key point to remember here is that common apps do not charge any kind of fee from you. You only need to give the admission application fee if applicable. You need to complete your application by creating your account, by following the steps on your screen. When you create the account, you can choose the colleges where you want to go. 

Once you’ve submitted your application, you can make as many changes as you like to your Common App essay. However, these modifications will only be shown in applications that will be sent in the future. This means that they won’t be reflected in applications that have already been submitted. You must contact the admissions office of the colleges and the universities where you want to make modifications. You must only do this if there is a serious issue with your essay. 

Can I change my Common App essay for different colleges?

Can you use the same essay for multiple applications?

The main motive of the common app is to help save time for sending the same application to multiple colleges. So of course you can use the same essay for various colleges in most colleges. Though for some colleges the answer may not be the same. This is because they may have different policies, and you may need to add a new essay depending on the requirement.  

How important is the common app essay?

Many colleges stress the essays submitted by the student for their selection. According to various studies, almost 55% of colleges select applications based on the essays submitted by the students. You must agree that this number is big. This means that almost half of the universities use essays for selecting students for their colleges. Therefore, you must take care while writing an essay. Also if you have low grades, you can compensate by giving them the best essay. 

Tips for writing the common app essay

Here are some tips that you must follow while writing the common app essay: 

1. Choosing the topic

One common mistake that all students make is selecting the topic while writing. Most of the students choose tough and rare topics on which rarely students have written. Although selecting the topic could be a hard choice, you should only choose which one you relate to the most.

Now suppose you want to become an economist, then you must write an essay related to the economy. There is nothing wrong with repeating the topics on which the students have already written. Don’t write on topics that do not go on with you.  

2. Take time

You must take the time while writing your common app essay. Take time to research more. This is your chance to get selected. You do not want to miss your chance of getting selected just because of some silly mistakes. Take your time when you are writing.

Can I change my Common App essay for different colleges?

3. Stay away from distractions

Distractions are the main reason for losing your focus. Staying away from them helps you to stay focused on writing . It will not only save you time but will help in getting a better essay. 

4. Adding up related information

You must add all the related facts in your essay. Start with the introduction , give a brief history, add the relevant information and conclude it. You must add up subheadings in your essay and keep each paragraph short. This will look more engaging to the admission head. Also, remember that you are sending this for academic purposes. So you must set your tone in that manner only.

5. Proofreading

In the last step, you must proofread it. Colleges do not want students who do not take care of silly mistakes. Having mistakes in your essay will reduce your chances of getting selected . Therefore, remember that there are no mistakes from your end.

Is there any limit to changing the essay?

As mentioned you can edit your application once you have submitted it. But the question arises how many times can you edit it? As of now, there are no specific rules for editing your application. You can change it at any and multiple times you want. To edit it you need to go back to the Common App and start changing the information you want. Make sure to save the things when you are done.   

What is a common app due date?

Every year common apps update the new regulations of each college and add all the new colleges on the 1st of August. You can start reviewing and selecting the schools to which you want to go. The last date for regular submission is on 1st January and for early submission date is 1st November . Although, you should take care of the regulations of each school, as some colleges may have different submission dates. 

The common app is a platform that is almost used by 1 million students every year. This is an online nonprofit platform that is designed for helping students with their application process. You can create an account on it and send the same application to multiple colleges. Also, you can edit your application and your essay whenever after submitting your application. However, the changes will only reflect on the applications that you will send after changing your application. 

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2023-2024 Common App essay prompts

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We are pleased to announce that the Common App essay prompts will remain the same for 2023-2024.

It’s not just for the sake of consistency that we have chosen to keep the essay prompts the same for the upcoming application year. Our past research has shown that overall satisfaction with the prompts exceeded 95% across our constituent groups - students, counselors, advisors, teachers, and member colleges. Moving forward, we want to learn more about who is choosing certain prompts to see if there are any noteworthy differences among student populations.

We know some schools are beginning to have conversations with juniors and transfer students about their college options. As we’ve always said, this is not a call for students to begin writing. We hope that by sharing the prompts now, students will have the time they need to reflect on their own personal stories and begin thinking about what they want to share with colleges. As you assist students with their planning, feel free to share our Common App Ready resource on approaching the essay (in English and Spanish ). You can also visit our YouTube channel to view our breakdown of all 7 Common App essay prompts . 

"Moving forward, we want to learn more about who is choosing certain prompts to see if there are any noteworthy differences among student populations." Meredith Lombardi, Director, Education and Training, Common App

Students who are ready to start exploring the application can create their Common App account prior to August 1. With account rollover , we will retain any responses to questions on the Common App tab, including the personal essay.

Below is the full set of essay prompts for 2023-2024.

  • 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, then 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?
  • Reflect on something that someone has done for you that has made you happy or thankful in a surprising way. How has this gratitude affected or motivated you?
  • 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?
  • Share an essay on any topic of your choice. It can be one you've already written, one that responds to a different prompt, or one of your own design.

We will retain the optional community disruption question within the Writing section. 

News and updates

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2023 reflections: shooting for the moon together

Higher Education: Common App makes applying to college less stressful, streamlines process

can i change my common app essay for different colleges

Data from the Social Security administration shows that attaining a college degree still increases one’s median lifetime earnings .

Income is one thing. Debt is another. The Education Data Initiative last put out a report on college loan debt in May . The New York Times (NYT) has documented people’s regrets about higher education . To its credit, NYT developed the Build Your Own College Rankings tool aimed at helping young people better analyze college options.

College may not be the answer for every person coming out of high school. Some choose to enlist in the military. Others may pursue employment opportunities (which can stem from high school co-ops such as Savannah's Groves High School Aviation Program with Gulfstream ). For those high schoolers considering college, however, exploring the Common App can be an effective starting place.

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Why the Common App?

More than 1000 colleges now subscribe to the Common App. Consolidating the application for 20 schools at once can aid time-strapped high school students.

The Common App website offers many resources on how to plan for college. The site has a free student dashboard and essay prompts. Students can track recommendations from teachers and other outstanding items, as well.

According to Princeton Review , there are three key benefits of the Common App:

  • Reduces senior year stress
  • Students write and submit one essay. (Certain schools may require supplemental essays and other materials)

While the Common App does not eliminate application fees altogether, it does offer potential fee waivers. Students should confer with their academic counselors to determine if they are eligible.

Tell your story, chart your path

The Common App launches annually on Aug. 1 and closes the following Jan. 1. High school seniors still have time to compile their materials and work on their essays. Arvin Vohra specializes in Ivy League and top 100 university admissions and is the founder of Vohra Method, a college admissions consultancy based in Washington D.C. He and his co-author for Invitation to the Ivies , Chelsey Snyder, assert that building effective personal narratives with a unique value add will strengthen applicants' chances for success.

Snyder, managing director of Vohra Method and a seasoned counselor with 10 years of SAT tutoring and Ivy League admissions strategy experience, starts prospective college students out with writing activities. She said that the focus should not be on cramming as much as possible onto a resume. “Students don’t have to be the everything. They have to be something really specific. They don’t need to have extraneous club experiences. We work on what story can be built, over a couple of years, that will be unique to them.”

Kimberly McGuire, the director of counseling services for Savannah-Chatham County Public Schools (SCCPSS), offered similar advice about building personal stories. “If you tell me this chemistry class was difficult, and here's what I had to do to overcome that difficulty and…earn the grade. It could even be a funny story, or about how you had to collaborate with peers. Those type of stories really draw [admissions representatives] in.” She also suggested that students have trusted advisors review their stories before they submit them.

Part of a student’s story should contain some unique aspect that distinguishes them from their peers. Vorha said, “Anything that anyone has done before adds no strategic value to a college.” He advises students that no matter how small, “If it's uncharted, it's going to add value and grab attention.”

Douglas Simmons, school counselor at Savannah Early College High School (SECHS), tells students, “When they apply to elite schools, all applicants are going to have the grades and the test scores now. So, each student needs to know what they bring that is to each college’s benefit.”

Top tips for Common App success

Start the application process early in high school years.

All the counselors interviewed for this article agreed that starting early matters the most. The application deadline for early decision for Fall 2024 is Dec. 1. Late consideration deadline is Feb. 1, 2024.

The remaining tips are seen as exponentially beneficial if started prior to junior and senior years of high school. High school seniors still have time to put in college applications, but with the deadline only 80 days away, pulling a resume, references and an essay together with time for review and adjustments may be the difference between a definitive yes or a wait list. Many teachers and counselors are already busy with the new school year and hard to pin down for recommendations. For those students who are starting now, reach out to high school college counselors immediately.

Build a resource library and network

Resources can include books, articles, online tools, and people. Establishing a digital or physical toolbox of resources can be integral to college application success. Counselors, coaches, mentors, bosses, and other people in students’ lives can provide many of the resources if asked.

Simmons said that he has been invited to many counselor-only events for colleges. He cited Georgia Tech University specifically. “They provided sample essays and we [counselors] were able to read them and to see if they were sound or not.” He also was able to share some of those essays with his students. He also noted that SCCPSS encourages students to collaborate with English teachers on their essays.

“The focus is on tapping into a network rather than 25 students going to one teacher or counselor for recommendations and help,” added SCCPSS's McGiure.

Also, events such as the Peach State Tour allow students to engage with college representatives. Peach State features Augusta University, Georgia State University, Georgia Tech and the University of Georgia. “At some of the college fairs,” McGuire said, “those are the reps that are actually going to read your application.”

She encouraged students to take advantage of opportunities to connect. Another networking opportunity she mentioned was MegaGenesis , which offers a college fair and career workshops locally.

Snyder and Vorha recommend even going so far as to cold email college professors at desired schools.

Snyder said, “It can be scary but occasionally students hear back and get connected with a grad student or the professor shares insights.”

Vorha was quick to caution that outreaching professors needs to be “an authentic communication about what they're doing and what you're doing. Don't email them ‘can you help me get in?’” The implication, again, is for students to do the research.

Practice writing essays as early as freshman year to build your narrative

Snyder said, “Almost every college’s essays stay the same. University of Chicago is a notable exception.”

Vohra mentioned that the Common App has had a question for the last 20 years or so about forming your own essay question. “Even as a freshman, you can see what questions are on the app, which are really personality tests to see if you are the type of person to explore uncharted territory.”

Snyder and Vohra suggested drafting potential essays freshman year and then revisiting them each year. “Revising your story over time can strengthen those essays when it is time to submit the app,” said Snyder.

Joseph Schwartzburt is the education and workforce development reporter for Savannah Morning News. You can reach him at [email protected].

IMAGES

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  2. Common App Essay Examples

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  3. College Applications

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  4. HOW TO WRITE THE COMMON APP ESSAY

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  5. How I Got Into Harvard (Reading My Common App Essay)

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  6. How to Write the Common App Essay Prompt #1 (2020)

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COMMENTS

  1. Can You Submit Different Common App Essays to Different Schools?

    August 2, 2023 By AdmissionSight Can You Submit Different Common App Essays to Different Schools? Can you submit varied Common App essays to multiple schools? The Common App is indeed adaptable. So, to answer the question: you can certainly change the essay, submit it to one school, and then modify it before submitting it to another.

  2. Can You Change Your Common App Essay After Submitting?

    Can You Change Your Common App Essay After Submitting? The essay is a vital part of your college application. It's not only a place to showcase your writing skills, but also demonstrate your personality — the qualities you can't reveal through your grades and test scores.

  3. Can I tailor my Common App essays for different schools?

    Hey there! Great question - I can totally understand wanting to personalize your essay for each college. However, the Common Application allows you to submit one version of your main essay to all the schools to which you're applying. It might seem like a one-size-fits-all situation, but there's a bit of a silver lining. This setup actually challenges you to write a compelling and broad ...

  4. Can I Make More Than One Version of the Common App?

    Not so long ago, the essay was the one thing you could not change on your Common App once you submitted the application to one college. Now, however, you can send a different version of your Common App essay to each and every school on your list. But why would you do that?

  5. Submitting Common App multiple times with different information

    I want to give myself a diverse chance and change up some of the essays a little, but I don't know if I will have the possibility of doing so online. ... <p>My D used common app and submitted different essays to different colleges online. You can edit each time before you send it out to a particular college. Read the common app FAQs .</p>

  6. Can I modify my Common App essay for different schools after initial

    Good news: You can indeed modify your Common App essay for different schools! Each time you submit your application to a new school, you'll have the option to edit your essay before it gets sent off.

  7. Can I Submit More Than One Version of My Common App Essay to Different

    So yes, you can absolutely change the essay, submit it to a school, change it, and submit it again. But why on earth would you do that? You're Equals. Act Like It Often times, when someone wants to write different Common App essays for different schools, it's because they think they need to tailor their application to each specific school.

  8. Can You Use the Same Essay for Different College Applications?

    The short answer is "It depends." The long answer is a bit more complex. Below are some of the different scenarios for reusing college essays and best practices for each. Can You Reuse Your Common App or Coalition Application Essay? Yes! It's perfectly okay to use the same essay for both the Common App and Coalition Application.

  9. Complete Strategies: Common App Essay Prompts (2023-24)

    Clemson University DePaul University Eastern Michigan University Georgia State University Old Dominion University Pratt Institute University of Idaho If you're applying to more than one or two schools through the Common App, you'll almost certainly need to write a response to the Common App prompts.

  10. Can I make a change to a submitted application?

    Once an application or writing supplement has been submitted to any institution, you cannot make any changes to that application (just as if you had dropped it in the mail), and we are not permitted to make changes on your behalf.

  11. How to Write the Common Application Essays 2023-2024 ...

    Since your Common App essay will be seen by numerous colleges, you will want to paint a portrait of yourself that is accessible to a breadth of institutions and admissions officers (for example, if you are only applying to engineering programs at some schools, don't focus your Common App on STEM at the expense of your other applications — save t...

  12. Article Detail

    A student is permitted to edit their Common App for other colleges to which they have not yet submitted. However, please know that once submitted to your college, any changes they then make later to their Common App will not reflect in your records.

  13. 7 Expert Common App Essay Tips

    By Hannah Muniz Updated on March 22, 2022 Learn more about our editorial process The Common App college essay is required by most Common App schools. This personal essay plays a critical role in many institutions' admission decisions. Admissions experts' biggest tips include writing how you speak and focusing on details.

  14. Changing Common App Essay: All you Need to Know

    Learning In many colleges, your personal statement is considered an essential document in your application. It is an integral part of your college application process. The above dictates, you should be keen on your statement. Some people advise that before submitting your application, let two people read it.

  15. Application guide for transfer students

    1:28 What is Common App for transfer? Common App for transfer is an online application that makes applying to college faster and easier. Through a single platform, you'll be able to search for and apply to any one of the more than 600 colleges that accept Common App for transfer.

  16. Common App Transfer Essay

    Keep the questions above in mind as you read our sample transfer essays. While there's no universal Common App transfer essay prompt, there are many similarities in the transfer college essays for different colleges. Reading different college essays that worked and sample transfer essays can prepare you for any Common App transfer essay ...

  17. Common App Essays

    What is the Common Application essay? The Common Application, or Common App, is a college application portal that is accepted by more than 900 schools.. Within the Common App is your main essay, a primary writing sample that all your prospective schools will read to evaluate your critical thinking skills and value as a student. Since this essay is read by many colleges, avoid mentioning any ...

  18. Is the Personal Essay required?

    Each college that you apply to can either require a response or leave it as an optional writing prompt for you. Once you have added schools to your My Colleges list, navigate to the Personal Essay section in the Writing screen to see which schools require the essay and which schools leave it as an optional writing prompt.

  19. A User's Guide to the Common App for Transfer Students

    Step 1: Creating and Logging into your account. When you go to the Common App website and click "Create an Account," it will ask you whether you are a first-year or transfer student. Choose "Transfer Student.". You will be asked to provide personal information to create your account.

  20. Can you change your Common App essay after sending in an EA application

    <p>Yes. You can create another version of your common app and change the essay or replace the essay with another. best of luck!</p> drusba October 22, 2012, 11:33pm 6

  21. Can I change my Common App essay for different colleges?

    Yes, you can do it through an online platform known as Common App. Quick Takeaways Common app is an online non-profit platform where you can send an online application to multiple colleges with a single application. Once you've submitted your application, you can make as many changes as you like to your Common App essay.

  22. 2023-2024 Common App essay prompts

    Common App essay prompts for 2023-2024 will remain unchanged as last year's prompts received a satisfaction rating of over 95% from students, counselors, advisors, teachers, and colleges. Find a college Plan for college. Why college matters Paying for college Your path to college ... one that responds to a different prompt, or one of your own ...

  23. Prospective college students: Common App makes applying less stressful

    Tell your story, chart your path. The Common App launches annually on Aug. 1 and closes the following Jan. 1. High school seniors still have time to compile their materials and work on their essays.

  24. The Ultimate Guide to Supplemental College Application Essays (Examples

    Go through your materials from your Common App essay pre-writing phase, including the list of topics you made originally, and choose the one that almost made the cut for your personal statement. Outline it with the same rigor and attention that you gave the Common App! This means you're using your traditional five-paragraph essay tools.