Two Types of Essays

By Rajkamal Rao  

Two Types of Essays

Colleges generally require high school students to submit two types of essays.

The first is the essay required as part of the Common App or Coalition App or the Universal App - these are platforms used to apply to colleges.  The Common App, the most popular platform, lists seven “Personal essay writing prompts”, which are really seven essay questions.  You can pick one and answer it to a length of 650 words. The so-called "Personal Statement" and any one of the seven Common App essay prompts are one and the same. For most colleges, this is the only essay you will ever need.

But highly selective colleges will require you to submit additional “supplemental” essays of their choosing.  These colleges want to better understand who you are, what you want to be, and how you can express yourself. Check out our post about the three kinds of essays colleges typically ask you to write and our advice about how to tackle them.

Starting the 2023 admit year, colleges in Texas have begun accepting the Common App but most still require use of the ApplyTex Topic A essay. UT Austin has changed its essay requirements for Fall 2025. Public universities in California (UC Apply or Cal State Apply) or private schools like MIT have dedicated applications portals and essay requirements - and do not use the Common App. Some amount of reuse is possible. For example, if you're constrained for time, a good trick is to reuse the ApplyTex essay as one of the seven prompts of the Common App essay or the generic essay prompt for the Coalition App.

Regardless of which essay you are writing, follow these three simple rules.
  1. Answer the essay question correctly.  Too many students read too much into the question and over-engineer their responses.

  2. Be yourself and be honest.  College admissions officers look at thousands of essays in great detail and can quickly tell a genuine essay from one that's fake. An admissions officer from Harvard, speaking at an event in Ft. Worth in May 2019, advised students to take the "cafeteria test." Suppose you left behind the draft of a college essay in the school cafeteria and you didn't have your name printed on the essay, could a friend read the essay, and immediately know that it was you who wrote it?  If the answer is yes, you passed the cafeteria test.

  3. Have your essay professionally reviewed by someone who is neutral - that is, someone who didn't raise you from birth!  It is well worth the investment.
Admission officers of several selective colleges often talk about what they expect, such as in this video clip. The College Board provides essay tips here.

Please contact us for more information.

A Note About Rao Advisors Premium Services
Our promise is to empower you with high-quality, ethical, and free advice via this website.  But parents and students often ask us if they can engage with us for individual counseling sessions.  We offer world-class SOP and essay reviewing services for a reasonable fee, starting at $99/hour.

Individual counseling is part of the Premium Offering of Rao Advisors.  Please contact us for more information.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.