• Be honest; the essay is the perfect way to show the admissions officer who you truly are beneath all your grades and extracurricular activities.
  • Write about your special characteristics. Shortlist special words that describe a special characteristic of yours.
  • Use the thumb rule. Place your thumb on your name in the essay and read it again. If anyone else’s name can be placed in the space instead of yours, it means your essay is not distinct enough.
  • Show, don’t tell. Use examples from your life to support your claims. For example, don’t simply write, “I am a hard worker.” Instead, quote a time in your life when you showed your hard work.


  • Choose controversial topics to write about. The essay is only 650 words long. Don’t use it to shed light on controversy or negative traits about yourself.
  • Be compelled to use all 650 words. Remember, this is the word limit, not the goal. The minimum number of words should be 250. Ideally, anything above this minimum limit is acceptable.
  • Write a vague description of yourself. Phrases like “I am a good student” or “I work well in a group” should not make the final cut in your essay.
  • Be pretentious; although it is not discouraged to write about your achievements, the common app essay might not be the place for it. Save your achievements for the activities section.