4 Tips for your Common App Essay

4 Tips for your Common App Essay

The Essay Prompts are out! Have you seen them or started working on them and quickly despaired as to how to tackle them? Don’t worry! We’re here to help.  

We know this Covid 19 situation has left all of us thinking uncertainly about the future. Our Mauritian high school leavers have it tough with unprecedented exams conditions in a pandemic and on top of that, having to deal with torrential rains. Despite these circumstances, we should not stop planning and that’s why we have listed some of the most important things to keep in mind when putting together your personal essay. 

But let’s celebrate some good news before we get into the heart of the matter – 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Thursday that people who are fully vaccinated against Covid-19 no longer need to wear masks or physically distance — whether indoors or outdoors in most circumstances.’ – So, there’s hope for the future!  🎉  🎉 


For many high school leavers, the Common Application’s personal essay is the most daunting part of the admissions process – How do you know what the admission officers are looking for? How personal is this essay meant to be? How can you summarise your life’s passions and interests in 650 words? If you can follow these guidelines as you plan, draft, and polish your applications, you’ll be well on your way to submitting a great application!

1.     Find out what makes you stand out

Admissions Officers read thousands of essays every year and that too, in very little time which means your essay must grasp their attention. So, before you begin drafting (and be aware there’ll be many drafts), do a little brainstorming exercise – what makes you tick? How are you different to the other students in your class, in your school, in your country? What are you truly passionate about? Once you have listed those, build a story around it, link it up to what you have been doing as activities to further this passion and tell the Admissions Officer what this passion will gear you towards while at university. And that’s what you should be discussing in your college essay! 

They don’t want to hear about what you want to do in the future, but want to know what you have already done (ideally more than just participation in the school’s Benevolent Club for instance) to elevate yourself to present as a deserving candidate worthy of a seat and a scholarship at their university.

2.     Build your Story 

Instead of thinking of the Common App Essay as a personal essay, try to think of it more as a personal narrative and use this as a means or a platform to tell the Admission Officers a story about yourself – anecdotal evidence – that will take them through the different aspects of your life and therefore present to them a picture of what you will be like as a freshman. For instance, if you love coding games, do not just tell them that you can code and list your certifications. They can already see those achievements from other parts of the Common Application. Instead, tell them about the time you worked with a team of young volunteers to code a game for underprivileged children at ELI Africa, how you spent months studying Python for example, how the team came together to work despite initial failures and how this has shaped your current approach to computer science, the world of programming as a whole and how this passion will be furthered by the research projects they have at university.

Turning your essay into a story will make it unique, and therefore memorable to the Admissions Officers.

3. Proofread, Proofread, Proofread

At PhronesisUSA, our education experts proofread every essay, supplemental essay, or letter of recommendation prior to submission for university. But if you’re attempting this by yourself, then we would strongly suggest that you put aside a considerable amount of time for proofreading and editing. After all of the work you have put into brainstorming and drafting, you wouldn’t want an Admissions Officer to cast your essay aside because of careless typos or grammatical mistakes or lack of verb structure and parallelism (now we’re just showing off!) but you get the gist. Don’t just rely on the computer’s spell check feature as it won’t catch everything, get a few other people to review the piece for you. 

4. Get Help

If you diligently keep these suggestions in mind, carry out your research on the universities and have strong anecdotal activity evidence to refer to, you should finish with a strong piece of writing. If you are still feeling a little unsure, you can check in with us if you are eligible for a seat at our learning academy.

It’s always helpful to have an expert to make sure you’re on the right path with your essays and overall, with your university applications.