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A strong Common App essay should be creative and personal. It should reflect who you are. With a wide range of topics and the freedom to create your own topic, you can write about anything at all. As you start brainstorming your own Common App essays, do try to avoid these pitfalls!

1. Being negative

Failures and challenges make for interesting stories for the Common App essay. They allow you to show your perseverance, resilience, optimism or even creativity. Some students go through traumatic experiences such as struggles in school or with family, or are even affected by political turmoil in their country. However, it is important to make sure that you don’t focus too much on the negative aspects. If yours is a story of struggle, stay focused on what you have learnt through these experiences and how they helped you to grow into the person you are today.

2. Too many details

Details are great! For instance, they could allow the reader to be present with you in the stuffy auditorium with the blinding lights as you tremble under the weight of the 200 pairs of eyes focused on your every movement. Use the details to paint vivid pictures from your story. Be mindful of how important these details are to the message of your essay. Do you need to mention every conversation with your coach or discuss every film you made? Pick some key events that drive the narrative and be stringent about trimming the unnecessary details.

3. Focusing only on your achievements

Have you been winning tennis trophies since the age of 5? Have you been winning medals in Olympiads throughout high school? You should definitely bring these achievements up in your application, but the common app essay shouldn’t be the place. If you are passionate about something and it is integral to knowing who you are as a person, you can discuss that. However, the focus should be how that activity shaped your personality!

Keep these in mind and get cracking on that essay. You can also check out some helpful tips from my colleague Tiffany on writing an outstanding Common App essay:

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Nirali J

Author Nirali J

Over the past few years, Nirali has tutored hundreds of students on standardised tests like BMAT, UKCAT, ISAT, PQA, SAT and ACT. She has also worked extensively with students on their UK and US college applications on profile building, school-shortlisting, personal statements, and interview preparation.

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