Why Does the CommonApp or Coalition Application Essay Matter?

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Many colleges use the CommonApp, or the Coalition Application essay prompts, to evaluate student applications. Colleges use these essays to understand several things about a student:

  • How well can you write?
  • What experiences have shaped your life?
  • What do you want colleges to know about you besides your activity list and transcript?

In other words, they are meant to understand the person applying rather than the resumé, transcript, or test scores. An excellent essay helps put a student’s application in context.

This video from Johns Hopkins University provides useful context for what colleges look for in a personal statement.

Johns Hopkins University’s Tips on Writing a Personal Statement

Write In Your Own Voice

A good essay is written in a student’s voice. That means it reads like the student wrote it. When you write your personal statement, try not to write an autobiography that starts in childhood and goes through your high school years. You should also not write a cover letter for an application, relisting your entire resumé. As the blog post above indicates, you should “pick a subject that is unusual, interesting, and personal and isn’t just meant to impress a reader.

Explore Topics and Themes

You’ll explore different stories and understand the prompts better as we go through the writing process. As you write, be patient and explore your ideas. Follow the process: it will help you tell your story more vividly, succinctly, and purposefully.

You will evaluate your essay using several tests at the end of the process. This will help you know whether you’re done:

  • Is it in your voice? Does it read as if you wrote it?
  • Does it have a compelling story to tell?
  • Does the story’s theme convey what you want it to about yourself?
  • When you read it aloud, does it make sense?

Please do LifeLaunchr’s self-discovery course before doing this one: it will help you brainstorm better ideas and a more coherent theme!

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