Answer: This is totally normal! But feeling that you have more to say than you can fit is often a result of insufficient paring-down—that is, you probably haven’t chosen the right specific prompt to get your personal statement into particular, small territory. That’s the key: your job is to find the right question to answer, using all the prewriting tips and tricks and exercises we’ve outlined here. With the right question, you can use your Common App Essay as a window into who you are, rather than feeling burdened by the belief that you must communicate your ‘whole self’ in your application. You can’t box yourself up and hand your soul to the admission committee—but you can use those 650 words to give them some insight into some of the most important parts of you.
This nifty tool that helps you with what is often the hardest part of writing an essay: coming up with a thesis. The tool breaks thesis writing down into multiple boxes where you input your information in pieces. When you click Submit, the tool then automatically generates a thesis for you. You may have to tweak it a bit to polish it, but the hardest part is done for you! The page also has a useful little guide to structuring your essay.  
As an undergraduate, I was privileged to gain extensive research experience working in a research lab with Dr. Carol. During the three years I worked in her lab, I aided in designing a study, writing an Institutional Review Board (IRB) application, running participants through both pilot and regular studies, coding data, and analyzing said data, with these experiences culminating in my honors thesis. This thesis, entitled Self-Esteem and Need-to-Belong as predictors of implicit stereotypic explanatory bias, focuses on the relationship between levels (high and low) of self-esteem and an individual’s need to belong in a group, and how they predict whether an individual will tend to explain stereotype-inconsistent behavior. Participating in such a large study from start to finish has validated my interest in academic research as a profession.
Sharing a personal story that’s relevant to the prompt is an excellent way to make your essay stand out from the crowd. You don’t have to pick a strictly academic story for your essay; college admissions boards care about your complete persona, not simply your academic history. However, remember that your story exists to serve your prompt; avoid telling a story for its own sake. Leave out elements that aren’t relevant to the essay, and resist the urge to include every single juicy detail. When searching for stories from your history, choose incidents that allowed you to learn and grown. Don’t be afraid to use a failure in your story; colleges know that students are humans and that failure is a natural part of life.
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Since I will be studying for an entire year in Prague, I will have the opportunity to attend the annual Mezipatra, an international film festival in November that screens around a hundred top-ranking films on lesbian, bisexual, transsexual and queer themes. I feel really connected to going to this event because I crave being in an environment of like-minded people who strive to do that same thing I want to: balance the images of people typically portrayed through cliché and stereotype.
“Having worked in children’s education for years, I’m enthralled by child psychology. From shaping my Kumon students’ work ethic through positive reinforcement to employing associative learning to help my church students anchor their understanding of scripture, I have become experienced in using my knowledge of psychological concepts to help children manifest their cognitive and social abilities. Based on my experience working and bonding with youth, I want to be able to integrate psychological concepts into my future work as a pediatrician to develop supportive and insightful relationships with my patients.
Tzu Chi USA Scholars is a scholarship program funded by Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation to recognize and provide financial assistance to outstanding college-bound high school graduates and continuing undergraduate students in selected areas of the United States. Tzu Chi USA Scholars are selected on the basis of their financial need, academic achievement, and community involvement. Each Scholar will [...] More

Most people prefer reading a good story over anything else. So... tell a great story in your essay. Worry less about providing as many details about you as possible and more about captivating the reader's attention inside of a great narrative. I read a great essay this year where an applicant walked me through the steps of meditation and how your body responds to it. Loved it. (Yes, I'll admit I'm a predisposed meditation fan.)

Student #1: Ramya: Ramya intends to be pre-med in college, but isn’t sure if she wants to major in biology or something else entirely. She’s spent her high school years participating in a variety of activities. She played soccer, but wasn’t the star player. She was involved in student government, performed in cultural shows as a dancer, and did speech events.

Above all, my family is the most important thing in my life. The meaning of family may differ for everyone, but for me, my family is life. I almost died in the 2010 Haitian earthquake, as Jacmel was one of the worst damaged areas, had it not been for my grandmother and my mom. Later, if it was not for my uncle, my mom would not have been able to come to America to give me a better life. Without my family, I wouldn’t be here. I am forever indebted to their sacrifices, and I am so grateful that I have their eternal love and support.
The Pinnacol Foundation College Scholarship Program ensures that the children of seriously injured and killed Colorado workers have the opportunity to pursue their dreams by continuing their education. Applicants must be the natural child, adopted child, stepchild or full dependent of a worker who was injured or killed in a compensable work-related accident during the course and scope of [...] More

Perhaps that’s why my love of words has led me to a calling in science, an opportunity to better understand the parts that allow the world to function. At day’s end, it’s language that is perhaps the most important tool in scientific education, enabling us all to communicate new findings in a comprehensible manner, whether it be focused on minute atoms or vast galaxies.


Perhaps the narratives I spoke of earlier, the stories I mistakenly labeled as “semantics,” carry real weight in our everyday decisions. In the case of Walker’s study, men unconsciously created an irrational narrative around an abstract rock. We all tell slightly different narratives when we independently consider notions ranging from rocks to war to existence. It is ultimately the unconscious gaps in these narratives that are responsible for many of the man-made problems this world faces. In order for the “life of the mind” to be a worthwhile endeavor, we must challenge the unconscious narratives we attach to the larger games we play—the truths we tell (or don’t tell), the lessons we learn (or haven’t really learned), the people we meet (or haven’t truly met).
For as long as I can remember, I have dreamed of science. Where others see the engineering, experimentation, and presentation of science as a chore, I only see excitement. Even as a child I constantly sought it out, first on television with Bill Nye and The Mythbusters, then later in person in every museum exhibit I could find. Science in all its forms fascinated me, but science projects in particular were a category all to themselves. To me, science projects were a special joy that only grew with time. In fact, it was this continued fascination for hands-on science that brought me years later to the sauna that is the University of Alabama in mid-June. Participating in the Student Science Training Program and working in their lab made me feel like a kid in a candy store. Just the thought of participating in a project at this level of scientific rigor made me forget that this was supposed to be my summer break and I spent the first day eagerly examining every piece of equipment.
“Twice a week I head down to volunteer at the Los Sures Social Services office, situated next to the local senior citizen home, to help at the food pantry. We distribute food to people in my neighborhood. Many are familiar faces. Many are middle-aged Hispanic women with children dangling from their hips like grass skirts. These women are there as a result of their culture and lack of financial knowledge. In our Spanish culture, patriarchy prevents women from preparing for themselves as much as they should. This leads to Hispanic women having little or no money management skills. Financial illiteracy is a major issue in my neighborhood, and that is why I hope to give Hispanic women a chance for a better future through financial education.
The Americanism Educational Leaders and Pepperdine University Libraries are pleased to announce its annual collegiate essay contest. The mission of AEL is in its strong belief in "American exceptionalism", i.e., that our country is exceptional in the history of the world. All of our programs are meant to encourage students to learn about, understand, and appreciate some aspect of the American [...] More
Our vision is to be the company that best recognizes and serves the needs of international students around the world. We strive to provide students world-class resources to help them investigate and pursue an international education, through relevant content, custom online tools and engaging websites that offer only best in class products and services.

This connection of past experience to current maturity and self-knowledge is a key element in all successful personal essays. Colleges are very much looking for mature, self-aware applicants. These are the qualities of successful college students, who will be able to navigate the independence college classes require and the responsibility and quasi-adulthood of college life.


And finally, I hope to better understand Czech culture as it pertains to film making by studying at Charles University and taking classes like “Central European Film: Search for Identity” and “Hollywood and Europe”. I will get more in touch with the performance and character elements of film by taking the theater class “Prague Theater Scene: Performance Analysis.” Finally, I’ll learn to better listen to what my community in Prague has to say (literally and figuratively) by taking Czech language classes in a two-week intensive course that includes two language-focused events where students engage with the local area.
Last February, I partook in a Divas in Defense workshop. Within this class, our group met a woman who was a survivor of domestic violence. She was also close to becoming a victim of sex trafficking. From this I learned that intimate partner violence is the leading cause of female homicide and injury-related deaths during pregnancy. Although it is not a common hot topic, many people go through it everyday. These people are not only women but men and children, too. Therefore, domestic violence is an issue that is under-discussed, yet extremely important.

This past summer, I had my first substantive work experience interning at the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research, researching and writing about treatments and therapies. Working there was certainly not a game, but my strategy was the same: work hard, remain focused, be mindful and respectful of those around me, deal with the inevitable curveballs, and take constructive criticism to heart, all in pursuit of a meaningful goal. At first, I found it intimidating, but I quickly found my footing. I worked hard, knowing that what I took away from the experience would be measured by what I put into it. I studied my co-workers: how they conducted themselves, how they interacted with each other, and how they approached their respective jobs. I carefully reviewed redlines on my writing assignments, tried not to get discouraged, and responded to the comments to present the material more effectively. I absorbed the stories relayed by Parkinson’s patients regarding their struggles and was amazed at how empowered they felt by their participation in clinical trials. Through them, I discovered what it really means to fight to win. I have also come to understand that sometimes a game never ends but transforms, causing goals to shift that may require an adjustment in strategy.

In the future, I hope to pursue my dream of becoming a doctor by attaining an MD, and to double major in Managerial Economics. I intend to study at UC Davis as a Biological Sciences major, where I anticipate to become extremely involved with the student community. After graduation, I plan to develop a strong network relationship with Kaiser Permanente as I’ve started last year in my internship. By developing a network with them, I hope to work in one of their facilities some day. Based on my values, interests, and planned future, I’m applying for the NCS Foundation scholarship because not only will it financially help me, but it can give motivation for me to academically push myself. I hope to use this scholarship in applying for a study abroad program, where I can learn about other cultures’ customs while conducting research there.  

The folks at The Common Application have cast a wide net with these questions, and nearly anything you want to write about could fit under at least one of the options. If your essay could fit under more than one option, it really doesn't matter which one you choose. Many admissions officers, in fact, don't even look at which prompt you chose—they just want to see that you have written a good essay.
Sharing a personal story that’s relevant to the prompt is an excellent way to make your essay stand out from the crowd. You don’t have to pick a strictly academic story for your essay; college admissions boards care about your complete persona, not simply your academic history. However, remember that your story exists to serve your prompt; avoid telling a story for its own sake. Leave out elements that aren’t relevant to the essay, and resist the urge to include every single juicy detail. When searching for stories from your history, choose incidents that allowed you to learn and grown. Don’t be afraid to use a failure in your story; colleges know that students are humans and that failure is a natural part of life.
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