Common App Essay Length, Word Limit, How to Write

Choose One of the Common App Prompts for Your Topic

The Common Application essay is special for the following reason.

The prompts are extremely open-ended.

These prompts DO NOT ask you to talk about how to solve an algorithm, or about a special event in American Civil War history.

Rather, they open-ended questions about you, your background, and who you are.

Go ahead and look at the prompts here for the 2019-2020 school year.

See how there are a number of prompts to choose from?

You’ll notice something common about all of them.

They all have to do with who you.

Let’s say you want to talk about a challenge that happened in your life.

How do you want to define your challenge?

With prompt no. 3, you could talk about how your challenge helped you overcome a prevailing belief or notion that you simply did not believe to be true.

With prompt no.1, you can talk about how the challenge ultimately led to something important in your identity that makes up who you are today.

In any case, the prompt you choose really does not matter…

It’s how you choose to elaborate on the topic you are most passionate about.


Stick to Three Major Points

Since the common app essay cannot be more than 650 words, writing a common app essay is actually a fairly straightforward endeavor.

First off, keep in mind that 650 words equates to about 25 sentences.

Secondly, you only have to stick with two or three major points in your essay.

That means you only need to have about 7-8 sentences per major point.

So let’s say you really want to write about your passion for playing an instrument as your topic, as one example.

You can divide this major passion into three crucial sticking points:

  1. How you developed this passion
  2. How you have helped others with this passion (eg community service, teaching lessons, etc.)
  3. What you want to do with this passion in the future

If you had 8 sentences for each of the above three points, you would essentially have a complete common app essay.

In fact, you may even have too much of an essay and have to trim it down if it is over 650+ words!


On the next page, we talk about how to add a little style to you writing…

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