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What To Write for the Common App Essay

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What to write for the Common App Essay when applying to the University of Massachusetts

It’s time to apply for college! You have your eyes set on a handful of great schools, but each one is requiring an essay alongside your high school transcript and application — this is a part of the Common Application.

This essay is required by many colleges and universities out there, and what’s great is that you can send out the same one to as many schools as you like. The prompts usually change slightly each year, but the question remains the same: How do you stand out among the rest?

For the Common App essay, you need to choose one of the prompts provided and answer it in an essay format. The point of this application is for schools to get to know who you are through this short essay (and it is very strict with its required word count). What events have changed you? Why was this experience so impactful on your life? While it may sound easy to talk about yourself, it’s important to make yourself sound unique. For example, one thing that I wanted to get across in my essay was that I am creative and I have a passion for art (which was a subject that I wanted to study at the time). Fine, so do a lot of people. How can I make that unique to me as a candidate for all of these schools to which I will apply?

I had to write my Common App essay in 2013, which was right after Hurricane Sandy in October of 2012. I, among many, were impacted by that storm. We still are... six years later. Seeing my entire town destroyed after one night was devastating. When it was time to sit down and write my essay, I knew it was going to be about the storm and how it affected me.

I discussed my experience from the storm: before, during, and after. A lot of people went through Sandy, but each experienced it in their own way. After I wrote about my experience, I needed to implement creativity and my interest in art. I wrote about what I noticed a month after the storm: reopened businesses, cleaned streets, and blooming flowers. I drew and painted a flower from my backyard and included it with my Common App, representing how there was hope that everything will grow again after such a destructive storm.

While my SAT and ACT scores were not the best — based on these, I was probably below average for some of the twelve schools to which I applied — I still got accepted to all twelve schools. I believe that my Common App essay helped me stand out to colleges and universities through the story I told, and makes me now believe that schools are not focusing on grades as much as I used to think.

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