This process should take several hours to complete depending on whether you choose to write one or both of the optional essays.
Items marked with a red asterisk * are required. Students are not required to complete items that do not have the red asterisk.
In this section, you will learn about the personal essay and optional additional information essays. You will learn:
- The purpose and goals behind the personal essay
- Tips on how to approach the personal essay
- Prompts for the personal essay
- Resources with more advice about how to write the personal essay
- The purpose and uses of the optional additional information essays
- Advice about whether and how to write an essay about COVID’s impact on your life
- Advice on whether and how to write an essay about other additional information you want colleges to know about you
Take some time to reflect on the writing prompts in Common App, choose your topic, and write your essay(s). The length of time this process takes varies by student, but it should take several hours at least.
Here is an example of the Writing section in Common App.
In this video, we discuss the personal essay and the prompts for the essay and provide tips on how to approach writing this essay. The purpose of this section is for you to understand your goals in writing the personal essay and to help you think of a story about yourself to share with colleges. Writing the personal essay should take several hours.
In this video, college essay coaches provide additional tips on how to write the personal essay. The purpose of this section is to provide more detailed suggestions to help you write your personal essay. This video will take approximately 5 minutes.
In this video, we will discuss the two optional additional information essays and the type of information that is appropriate to be included in each. The purpose of this section is to help you understand when you might want to write an additional information essay. If you choose to write an additional information essay, this section might take 1 – 2 hours.
Tips & Reminders
- When writing the personal essay, think about telling a story from your life that reveals something about your character, values, or experiences.
- Many students do not write an optional additional information essay.
- In deciding whether to write the COVID impact question, think about the specific impacts mentioned in the question itself. If any of these are particularly relevant for you, then you might consider answering this question. If the impact of COVID to your life was similar to that of your classmates, then you can consider skipping this question.
- The question on “circumstances and qualifications not reflected elsewhere” is particularly helpful if you need to share information about ongoing challenges that may have impacted your high school career. Colleges want to understand your application in context of the circumstances, challenges, and opportunities in your life. Colleges will not know about specific challenges or circumstances unless you tell them. This section should be brief, straightforward, and clear.
National Association of College Admissions Counselors (NACAC) – advice on the personal essay
Essays that worked – on Johns Hopkins website
Essays that worked – on Connecticut College website