Most students these days apply to at least a couple of schools on the Common Application. The Common App certainly helps simplify the college application process, but it doesn’t always decrease the number of essays you have to write. Many schools have their own supplements with school-specific essays, and the extra writing adds up quickly. However, if you’re thoughtful, you don’t have to reinvent the wheel for each supplement. There are a couple of common questions that pop up on many supplements, and you can write an initial essay and then customize that essay for each school (this means doing more than simply changing the school’s name!).
· Why do you want to go to our school? Colleges want to know that you’re invested in their school, and that you have put some thought and effort into your decision to apply. You need to be able to articulate some specific reasons to go to each college you’re applying to, beyond things like their location, size, and student:professor ratio.
You might think this means you need a completely new essay for each school, because really, aren’t they all unique? If you’ve done your due diligence on your college list, there are probably some important similarities among your schools. You’re probably looking for schools with a particular kind of learning environment or character, for instance. Or maybe there’s a certain type of social life you’re looking for. Whatever it is, structure your essay around your interests and how they tie into your ideal college experience. If you do that, your essay is still primarily about you, and you can easily customize each essay with specifics and details for each college.
· What do you want to study and why? Colleges want to know what you think about, and how you plan to spend your time at their school. If you’re undecided, that’s OK! Talk about some things you’ve thought about studying, and perhaps address why these areas interest you, and why you can’t decide right now. It is important to show that you have academic interests and that you can point to some specifics about the programs at each school; if you have a specific major interest, show your knowledge about the field and the school’s department. The heart of the essay should be about your academic interest(s), and then you can customize it with the specific opportunities and options in those subjects at each college.
If you have school specific supplements to complete, be sure to review all of the questions before you sit down to write. Look for common themes in the questions for different schools. That way, you can plan ahead and write your essays to be widely applicable and easily customized. There’s no need to necessarily write a new essay from scratch for every question if you pay close attention to the prompts and do a bit of advance planning.