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The 10 Most Important Tips for Writing the Perfect Common App Essay

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WRITE IN YOUR OWN VOICE

Imagine you go to a movie with your cranky grandma, goofy dad, cocky older brother, annoying younger sister, genius best friend, clueless neighbor, and latest crush, and every one of you loved it. When you step out of the theater, the raving begins. Now imagine that someone records this explosion, transcribes it, and hands you a script of the conversation without identifying who said what.

Think you could assign each line of dialogue to its speaker? No doubt you could, because even when eight people express approval of the same thing, they all do it differently. Every person has his or her own vocabulary, grammar, rhythm, humor, edge, and colorful or understated way of expressing him- or herself. In other words, everyone has a distinct voice.

When a good-natured student named Cole opened his essay with a story about his car breaking down, he did so in his own easy-going voice.  “I am cruising down the freeway in the ’71 Nova I just bought with my entire life’s savings when I hear a loud pop followed by banging. Right off, I know my tire has blown. Though I have not had the Nova for long, she is not lovin’ me tonight.”

When ambitious Jackson wrote his essay about working on a secluded trail while volunteering on a wilderness crew, he did so in his own intellectual voice: “The section was an absolute mess when we arrived, the trail itself being an overgrown, rutted, root-filled, eroded, steep, and generally unsafe travesty of trail-building and maintenance.”

After reading their essays, if you spoke with Cole and Jackson, you’d know in less than a minute who is who, because you’d recognize their voices.


Topics: Life
Tags: personal statements, common app, applying to college, college admission essays, sparknotes college, college 101, crushing the common app, common app essay, common app essay prompts

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About the Author
Chelsea Dagger

Since 2010, Chelsea Dagger (known in real life as Chelsea Aaron) has been SparkLife's sweatiest editor. She's currently working on a how-to-kiss guide for teens, and when she's not conducting smooch-related research on her life-size Joseph Gordon-Levitt cardboard cutout, she's eating pancakes, stocking up on industrial-strength deodorant, and destroying everyone at Harry Potter trivia. (EXPECTO PATRONUM!)

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