Need some inspiration for those Common App essays? For starters, you need to keep in mind that your goal is to give the admissions committee a glimpse into how you think. Here is a list of our favorite ideas:
Write the whole essay in poetry
In our years of helping students get into great colleges, we've found they are afraid to break the rules. Many of our students were told by their teachers to stick to the format they’ve been taught all their lives and write a nice, clean five-paragraph issue with a neat intro and solid conclusion. Well, as the resident experts, we are here to tell you to BREAK THE RULES! Write in free form. Craft a poem. Get creative.
Write a scene from a play
Colleges are going to get thousands of formulaic, five-paragraph essays, or worse, thousands of formulaic “this was what I learned from my community service trip” five-paragraph essays. Entertain your readers. Demonstrate your writing chops. Take them on a journey. Whatever you do, do not write about your community service trip.
Write about your morning routine
Show them how you strategize and maximize efficiency. In her junior year, one of our writers was, like many of you, just insanely busy. At one point, SATs, her art show, and student government elections all converged. So, in order to squeeze in even five minutes of extra sleep she desperately needed, she would lay out a mug with an unopened package of oatmeal at night, lay out all of her clothes and keep her glasses and school uniform skirt in her car. In the morning, she would put on a pot of boiling water, bobby pin her bangs back so she didn’t have to style them, and put on a pair of shorts. By the time she was dressed, the water would be scalding hot, so she’d pour it in the mug with oatmeal so it was the right temperature to eat during first period (no time wasted sitting and eating at home). Then she would pick up her middle school-aged neighbor, quickly put her skirt over her shorts while she was parked in front, and practice her speech with her young neighbor on the drive. Perhaps you keep your phone on the other side of the room to force yourself out of bed and listen to the same song while you get dressed. Maybe you oversleep sometimes. That’s fair game to write about. Everyone on the admissions committee has done it, too.
Write about your bedtime routine
…Or about how every now and again, you’ll accidentally stay up late watching A Quiet Place, get scared, and do everything in your power to try to fall asleep for several hours. Maybe you become paralyzed by fear, work up the courage to turn on the lamp, read a children’s book to brighten your mood, turn the light off, count sheep, turn the light on, read some more, make yourself a snack, google “ways to fall asleep” on the internet, take up meditation, read from your APUS history book because you’re SURE it will put you to sleep…
Write about your bedroom
What does your room say about the way you go about organizing your personal space and what you like to surround yourself with?
Write about your desk
Maybe you are extremely tidy and file away every pay stub from your part-time job or maybe you have dozens of movie stubs scattered throughout the drawers.
Write about how you are an introvert who loves to perform
Tell the admissions committee a story about how you don’t ever raise your hand in last period, run to say goodbye to your best friend when the bell rings, and b-line out of school without a word to anyone just so you can get home and practice your latest standup routine in front of your grandparents.
Write about that time your train got stuck in New York City and you were really late
Walk your readers through exactly what was going through your head at that time, from the moment your train was delayed five minutes, then ten minutes, then twenty minutes, to the moment the panic set in, all the way through the second you decided you would handle it like an adult, panicked again, and finally figured it out.
Compile a list of things you need right now
Tell us why and when you’re going to get each item.
Write about food
Food is a humanizing topic. We all eat and presumably, so does everyone on the admissions team. Write about anything that is humanizing.
Cooking is humanizing, too
Write about cooking dinner. It doesn’t have to be about your culture, either. In fact, write about scrambling an egg. This is a process everyone gets through differently. There are steps involved. Some people use butter. Some crack the egg on the counter instead of on the bowl. Believe it or not, some people even serve it with jelly. How do you do it and what is your thought process?
Write about bedtime stories
Which one did your parents tell you? Which one do you tell the little kids you babysit? Do you try to tell them really short stories so they’ll just go to bed already so you can finally get your homework done? What do you do when they demand you tell another one before they go to sleep?
Write about small moments you had with your parents when you knew they loved you
Tell us that story and tell your reader whether or not you knew at the time what it meant. Tell them what it’s like now knowing your parents love you that much.
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