How to Write a Strong Common App Essay

SAT WorryOver 700 American Colleges and Universities utilize the Common Application system to streamline the application process. Among the many elements of the application itself, you will have to choose ONE of seven Personal Statement prompts to respond to, and you’ll have 250-650 words for your narrative.

When you’re staring at the seven Common App essay prompts, the choices can seem overwhelming, and the stakes are high.  Depending on the prompt that you select, you’ll need to write something that is informative and emotionally compelling, but not a cliché. You need to be unique and demonstrate character, while also proving you’ll add insight and experiences to the incoming freshman class. You need to talk about your leadership and accomplishments, but stay humble.  You need to be yourself while also keeping your voice professional.  It’s a lot to convey your authentic self in 650 words or less, but Veritas Prep has you covered with our Personal Statement Guide.

Our College Admissions Consultants all have formal admissions decision-making experience, and they have reviewed each of the seven Personal Statement prompts to provide guidance on how to respond to each of the options.  Best of luck!

Prompt #1: Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story. Read advice>

Prompt #2: The lessons we take from obstacles we encounter can be fundamental to later success. Recount a time when you faced a challenge, setback, or failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience? Read advice>

Prompt #3: Reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea. What prompted your thinking? What was the outcome? Read advice>

Prompt #4: Describe a problem you’ve solved or a problem you’d like to solve. It can be an intellectual challenge, a research query, an ethical dilemma – anything that is of personal importance, no matter the scale. Explain its significance to you and what steps you took or could be taken to identify a solution. Read advice>

Prompt #5: Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others. Read advice>

Prompt #6: Describe a topic, idea, or concept you find so engaging that it makes you lose all track of time. Why does it captivate you? What or who do you turn to when you want to learn more? Read advice>

Prompt #7: Share an essay on any topic of your choice. It can be one you’ve already written, one that responds to a different prompt, or one of your own design. Read advice>

Do you need more help navigating the college admissions process? Fill out our FREE Profile Evaluation for personalized feedback on your unique background! And as always, be sure to follow us on FacebookYouTube, Google+, and Twitter!

How to Get Started on the Common App: The 2017-2018 Personal Statement Prompts

help - wordsGreetings, class of 2022! That has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it? At Veritas Prep, there’s nothing like a change of seasons – the distinct shift from one application season to another is immensely exciting to us. And, there is no better indicator of a new season than the release of Personal Statement prompts from The Common App. Class of 2022, now is your time!

The Common Application officially kicked off the 2017/18 application season by releasing their Personal Statement prompts back in February. Now is the best time to start working on crafting your answers to one of these prompts – by starting your writing during the summer, you’ll have more time to create the perfect response without worrying about school responsibilities or extracurriculars come Fall.

Year after year, The Common Application collaborates with their partner institutions to make sure that the prompts meet the needs of each school and are yielding quality essay responses from students around the world. While some elements remain unchanged (including the 650 word count), this year they have decided to make revisions to existing prompts AND add two new prompts to the mix!

Without further ado, here are the 2017/2018 Common Application Essay Prompts:

1) Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story. [No change]

2) The lessons we take from obstacles we encounter can be fundamental to later success. Recount a time when you faced a challenge, setback, or failure.How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience? [Revised]

3) Reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea. What prompted your thinking? What was the outcome? [Revised]

4) Describe a problem you’ve solved or a problem you’d like to solve. It can be an intellectual challenge, a research query, an ethical dilemma – anything that is of personal importance, no matter the scale. Explain its significance to you and what steps you took or could be taken to identify a solution. [No change]

5) Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others. [Revised]

6) Describe a topic, idea, or concept you find so engaging that it makes you lose all track of time. Why does it captivate you? What or who do you turn to when you want to learn more? [New]

7) Share an essay on any topic of your choice. It can be one you’ve already written, one that responds to a different prompt, or one of your own design[New]

Over the next few months, we will break down every prompt for the 2017/2018 application season with in-depth coaching on how we would suggest you approach each prompt. Check back in soon for more!

Do you need more help navigating the college admissions process? Visit our College Admissions website and fill out our FREE Profile Evaluation for personalized feedback on your unique background! And as always, be sure to follow us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+, and Twitter!

How Are College Applications Actually Evaluated?

GMATThe Common Application is live! Most (if not all) college applications are now available for you to access, meaning that application season is officially here! We here at Veritas Prep get very excited about this time of year – we connect with students all around the world who are ready to tackle applications to their dream schools. We are inspired to come to work every day because we get to work with the most ambitious students and help them reach their most ambitious goals.

We’re a team of college admissions nerds experts who have a unique insider’s perspective to how college applications are actually read and evaluated by admissions committees. As the 2016/17 application season officially begins, we wanted to provide you this insider look into our 4 Dimensions of a College Applicant. When admissions committees read their hundreds of applications a year, they are looking to evaluate candidates through these 4 dimensions:

Dimension 1: Academic Achievements
Your academic achievements demonstrate that you’ve mastered high school academics, but most importantly, they indicate to admissions committees how you’ll be able to handle the academic rigors at their school if you are admitted. To evaluate your academic achievements, admissions committees will review your:

  • GPA: This is a predictor of your academic performance in college; how well you did in high school may be directly related to how well you’ll do in college courses.
  • Class Rank (if your school provides rankings): Class rank gives admissions officers a bit more context for your grades in comparison to how your classmates performed.
  • AP/IB/Honors Coursework: Admissions committees will want to know which courses are offered at your high school and if you took advantage of all that your school had to offer.
  • High School Profile: Your high school profile allows admissions committees to see where your high school stands compared to other high schools in the nation/world.
  • Standardized test scores: The SAT & ACT provide colleges with a standard scale to compare you to all other applicants. While your GPA may have less room for change, your SAT or ACT score is more in your control. A higher standardized test score can help mitigate the effects of a low GPA.
  • Recommendations: You may not suspect that recommendations play into your academic achievements, but admissions committees read these letters and look for your teacher’s perspective on your abilities and achievements in the classroom.
  • Final grades: Although it may seem impossible to stave off senioritis, do your best to keep your grades up! Your final grades do count – in our years of experience, we unfortunately have seen students have their offers of admission revoked because their grades dropped second semester of senior year.

Dimension 2: Match & Fit Factors
The most selective schools in the nation often report that 75% of their applicants are qualified for admission. Since they, unfortunately, do not admit all of the students who may be academically qualified to attend, admissions committees look carefully for match and fit factors. Essentially, they’re looking for the right group of students who accurately and creatively represent themselves in their applications in a way that demonstrates their perfect fit for the campus culture, academics and community. When admissions evaluates your match and fit factors, they’ll be looking closely at your:

  • Personal Statement: This is where you can really let your personality and passions shine!
  • Vision for the Future: The personal statement should shed light on what you are thinking about pursuing in college and beyond. Don’t worry too much about completing the goals that you write about as we know that this might change over time, but demonstrate to the admissions committee that you have ambitions (and make them believe in these, too).
  • Potential for Success: Colleges love to brag about their alumni and celebrate their students’ accomplishments. When they read your personal statement and supplemental essays, they’re going to be looking for successful students who will bring that same level of success to their campus.
  • Interest In and Knowledge of the College: With students applying to an average of 10+ schools these days, colleges really want to know that students actually want to attend their school. There are several places in the application where you can show your interest in and passion for a school. Admissions committees want to know that if they offer you a place in their freshman class, you will likely attend.

The other two Dimensions of a College Applicant will be integral in the success of your applications. Want to know what they are and how to make sure you’re submitting the strongest applications? Attend one of our upcoming online free college workshops led by one of our college admissions experts. Sign up for free here!

Laura Smith is Program Manager of Admissions Consulting at Veritas Prep. Laura received her Bachelor of Journalism from the University of Missouri, followed by a College Counseling Certificate from UCLA.

The 2016-2017 Common Application: How to Get Started

GMATThe Common Application is going to be offline from July 21 until August 1, 2016 while all of the dates and details are updated for this upcoming application season. For the first time in the Common App history, students who created an account before August 1st will be able to roll over all of their saved information to the application when it is officially released on August 1st.

So, for those of you who have gotten a head start, your information will be ready to access again on August 1st. For those of you who may not have had a chance to create an account just yet, don’t you worry! There are things you can work on now while the application is down to get you started on the right foot when it is officially open again on August 1st.

Strategize your essays:
The Common App announced in January that they are not changing their essay topics this year. Take a look at the prompts and brainstorm your strategy for your personal statement. Need a little guidance? Check out our tips for making your personal statement stand out!

Finalize your college list:
When the application opens again on August 1st, it will be time to hit the ground running. The best way to prepare yourself for filling out college applications is to know exactly where you plan to apply. Check out commonapp.org to learn about the 700 colleges who use the common app. You can also use collegeconfidential.com to identify best-fit schools for you.

Select your recommenders:
Most schools you apply to will request that you submit letters of recommendation from a teacher, coach, counselor, etc. Once the school year officially begins, all of the seniors will be asking their favorite mentors to write these letters, so start to think now about who you want to write yours! We generally like to suggest that you provide your recommender with a resume or list of accomplishments that they can reference when writing this letter of recommendation, so start putting together those resources, too.

Enjoy yourself:
Yes, that’s right, we’re telling you to take a break and enjoy the rest of your summer! The best way to kick-off application season is to be relaxed and have a clear mind. Make sure to take some time for yourself before you dive into these college applications so that you are able to give it your best effort from start to finish!

Are you interested in learning more about the Common App and how admissions committees at top universities actually evaluate college applications? Register for our free workshop here. And as always, be sure to follow us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+, and Twitter!

Laura Smith is Program Manager of Admissions Consulting at Veritas Prep. Laura received her Bachelor of Journalism from the University of Missouri, followed by a College Counseling Certificate from UCLA.