Unsure how to tackle the Common App? Learn how Allie wrote her essay and got accepted to Duke!
For me, the essay writing portion of the application was one of the most arduous. The American Common Application is made up of four main portions; academics, extracurriculars, teacher references and essays. Although each of these sections is vital to crafting a strong application, I believe that the essay section is arguably the most important.
This part of the application is the only circumstance in which you can speak directly to an admissions officer. You are able to tell them your own experiences and passions in a way that isn’t academic or stilted; rather authentic and extremely personal. It makes the essay portion the only place where you can truly represent yourself exactly the way you desire.
There are two types of essays you must complete within the Common App, the personal statement which is asked of all students to write and then the additional supplement questions which are unique to each school you apply to. I found writing my personal statement a very lengthy process, and although the supplements are still extremely significant, I believe the personal essay is more challenging. This is because you must choose the distinct topic you wish to base your writing on, keeping in mind that it must fit in a general category of the ‘prompts’ that are released each year, rather than answering specific questions.
For me, the whole experience of writing the personal statement was a series of trial and error, of picking a certain topic and seeing how it worked out. In the end, my chosen topic was very well summed up in my title: “Vegemite, Peanut Butter and Orange Marmalade – A Guide to Cultural Diversity”. Ultimately, it came down to the topic that best represented me as an individual and gave me an opportunity to stand out from the crowds of essays officers were reading. I related my own experiences of living in different countries in an anecdotal form, highlighting how they had shaped my development and values as a person. Writing the essay was so much easier once I had a distinct topic that I knew I cared about and could show 100% of myself to an admissions officer at my dream school, Duke!
Crimson helped so deeply in this process. My essay mentor was Kaitlyn, and she was amazing. She helped me shaped and develop my statement in a way that preserved my authenticity, but still continued to mould it into the best form it could be by assisting me to communicate my thoughts in the best way possible. The difference Crimson has is their deep-set genuine care for the students they’re helping, and Kaitlyn was a prime example of that.
If I had one piece of advice for someone who is in the same shoes I was 8 months ago, it would be to let who you are shine in your essays. There are a million kids who can get perfect SAT scores, or have dazzling recommendations, but no one is the person that you are. Your authenticity defines you, so throw it into your essays. You won’t regret it.
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