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  • Karen Luo

College Applications

From the end of 11th grade to the middle of December, the only thing high school students are thinking about are college essays. Common Apps, “Why our school?” prompts, and word counts. The most important part of the college application, , other than grades are the essays.

The most important essay that high schoolers have to write would be the Common Application Essay. The Common App is one essay that will be sent to the majority of schools that people apply to.

So what is the Common App? The Common App is a 650 word essay that responds to one of six prompts. The prompts vary every year but have one common trait: they all focus on the writer. It is called the Common App because Nearly 700 colleges accept The Common Application, making it easier to apply to multiple schools with just one form.

Essentially, Common App essays are a way for colleges to get to know you and who you are rather than just look at a transcript. They should be a narrative essay that helps connect what you have done the past four years and what major you think of going into in your life and how you got there. The essay should be short and sweet- a peek into your life and who you are.

However, not all colleges accept the Common Application. The UC system, for example, doesn't accept college applications and instead have their applicants write a Personal Statement.

What is a Personal Statement? A Personal Statement is often used as the term to describe something like the Common App essay, but not. The UC system relies on it’s own format for the personal statement which is four 250 words essays chosen from eight given prompts.

Other universities who accept the Common App might require an additional mandatory essay, or personal statement to include with the one you write up for the Common App.

Note that the Common App, Although is an important part of your application, is not the only Essay that you will have to write. Far from it, actually. Each college will give different essay prompts that you will have to choose from and the essays will vary from school to school.

There are three main parts to an essay that you should focus on when writing your common app or personal statement: a strong first sentence, a vivid, detailed story that illustrates your eventual insight, and an insightful pivot toward the greater point you're making in your essay.

It's well known that the first sentence of any essay or article is the most important. It has to captivate your readers while giving insight to what your essay is talking about. Make sure that the hook grabs your readers' attention and excites them for your story.

Unlike other essays, what makes the common application stand out is its unique structure in the way that you are supposed to write it. The common app should tell a narrative about yourself and how you came to enjoy what you are doing. In addition, to make up for how short your story will be, you must insert effective sensory information to immerse the reader.

Remember that a common app is vital as it connects the short story part to the part where you explain what the experience has taught you about yourself, how you've matured, and how it has ultimately shaped you as a person.

Although the essays seem vastly different, one thing that these essays have in common is a word limit. Each essay has a word limit, varying based on the college. Some schools require you to have the essay exactly on the dot while others are more lenient.

Many schools will give a boundary of how long your essay should be. Think within 50 words as the lower bound, with the word limit as the upper bound. So for a 500-word limit essay, try to get to somewhere between 450-500 words. If they give you a range, stay within that range. Note that the shortest word limits for college essays are usually around 200 words

The word limit, however, is not something that you have to worry too much about. You should focus on the content of your essays and their appeal rather than the technical issues of the essay.

For example, writing something meaningful can be a long process, so get started right away to allow for time to draft and revise. Many people tend to start drafting their essays in August and start brainstorming for them in July.

So don’t freak out because of college essays! Many people will get editors from, people who are in college or college tutors that specialize in editing college applications. Many people will help out by making sure that your college essays are the best.

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