5 Ways To Perfect Your Common App Essay

June 15, 2016
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The common application essay has long been a dreaded element, essential to securing a place at a dream university. It forces many students to dig deep into creative self-expression at a time when they’re often spread pretty thin across a range of other commitments.

We asked Jamie Beaton, who applied to 25 of the top universities around the world and was accepted into all of them, including: Stanford, Yale, Harvard, Columbia, Wharton and Cambridge, how he took the stress out of crafting his personal essay that has received critical acclaim.

1. Eradicate cliches

Too often we depend on phrases we believe sound catchy, like ‘spine-tingling’ or ‘deafening silence’ to add vibrancy to our writing. However, in reality, cliches leave an essay to appear dull and unimaginative. Cliches can also hint at a lack of vocabulary. It’s important to take a critical scan over your writing, and highlight all the cliches that have crept into your essay - then delete them! There are plenty of synonyms you can draw on to replace commonly used words to really capture your reader’s attention.

2. Tie it all together

Admissions officers are reading tens of thousands of common app essays, so you want your piece to shine for its tight structure and well-articulated prose. One of the most effective ways to achieve this is to show a clever link back from your intro to your conclusion. Consider using an image that you can thread through your essay from the beginning, to refer to in your conclusion - this shows your ability to structure a coherent essay.

3. Take time to reflect on a specific event

To avoid generic statements that can lack focus and direction, choose a specific event that you can write about clearly. Describe a significant moment in your life to add weight to your story and inject real character into your writing. For example, talk about working part-time at your local burger shop and describe the task of carefully wrapping burgers. A very personal, distinct image is key- it’s much easier to describe a particular scene vividly than to write about a broad event. The person reading it knows exactly what you’re talking about and so will you!

4. Use extended metaphors

Show your literary skill and add color to what can otherwise sound like a report, by being crafty with a range of literary devices . Similes and alliteration are two sophisticated tools to splice through your piece. These effects will unify your essay.

5. Vividly describe people

Don’t be afraid to get personal and go into specific detail - a person’s expression as they approach you or the particular weave of the wool jumper they’re wearing. Really characterize what you are seeing as a reader. No depth of detail is too much when it comes to your essay.

Crimson Consulting provides full-service support to students looking to develop their skill-set to seize the best education and career opportunities around the world. Click here to learn more about the services they provide, and register now!

About The Author

Jamie Beaton, Guest Blogger
Jamie Beaton, Guest Blogger

Jamie is the CEO and Co-founder of Crimson Consulting, a transformative education consultancy with 1,000 of the brightest tutors based at top-ranked institutions. Crimson provides full-service support to students looking to develop their skill-set to seize the best education and career opportunities around the world.




Browse Successful Application Files

ashleyzo
USC ‘20


Accepted to USC, Dartmouth, Emory, UMich, Rochester, Lehigh, Miami, Alabama, Ole Miss

Hi! I'm a college freshman who was accepted to some of the best universities in the country (most likely due to my essays). Feel free to ask any questions!
griffindaly
Tulane ‘20


Accepted to Tulane, UC Berkeley, Cincinnati, UPenn

Hi y'all! I'm an incoming freshmen at Tulane University in New Orleans, where I'll be studying Architecture, with a coordinate major in International Development and a minor in Urban Studies. Hope I can help with this #difficult process!
uhoh29
JHU ‘19


Accepted to JHU, Cornell, Northeastern, Fordham, UMD, Wisconsin, Temple

Senior Woodrow Wilson Research Fellow at Johns Hopkins majoring in English and Writing Seminars
niathuravil
Rutgers ‘20


Accepted to Rutgers, NYU, Fordham, UMass, Colorado, MSU, Illinois, Arizona, Washington

Your local political astronaut with a passion for the prolific things in life.

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