• Smart And Bright

An Uncommon Common App Essay

Updated: Jan 11, 2021

When writing a common app essay, students know that they need to write something unique and interesting and personal to them.

How do they know this? Because we tell them every single year. We preach it. We are practically begging for them to do it.

How do they respond? They tell us about a musical performance they had or how they had to persevere in a really big challenge during a sport or competition.


If you write like everyone else, you'll get the same results as everyone else. Think of it like this:

According to The Crimson, Harvard received “a record 39,506 applications, the College’s acceptance rate is marginally lower than that of the previous year—5.20 percent this year, versus 5.22 percent for the Class of 2020.” As you can tell, top schools are getting harder and harder to get into.

But if one TENTH of students decide to write about playing an instrument for their Common App essay, that’s nearly 4,000 essays about the same thing that the admissions office has to slug through.

Now imagine doing that year after year.

Believe me, no matter how good you may think your essay on that saxophone solo is – the admissions office is dead tired of reading about them.

In order to write a really great Common App essay, you should pick a really uncommon idea - one that is like a breath of fresh air to read. Try to think or a perspective or idea that is only told by you.

That’s the biggest problem, most students don’t like to think – they just want to talk.

But I encourage you to sit down and write out all the important things in your life – family, friends, activities, foods, hobbies – and try to find an underlying theme in all of them.

Maybe you discover that you are constantly selling new ideas to your friends. Maybe you are a cotton candy expert who wants to showcase the different textures of the fluffy delicacy. Maybe you find out that you just really love heights.

In any of these cases, finding a commonality in your life will push you in the right direction of discovering your passion.

And, at the very least, you won’t be writing about sports or music.

Photo Credit: Breaking Bad, Business Insider