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Common App Essay Tutor: Home Page

Common App Essays

Common App Essays Are Hard to Write

Welcome to this page on the internet – especially if you have arrived here by searching for information on the common app essay.

My name is Alan Stransman,  and I am a Common App Essay Tutor – which means that I help students write the essay portion of The Common Application.


The 2015-2016 Policy Regarding the Common App Essay

If you have arrived at this website by searching for information on the Common App Essay, you are probably aware that the personal essay is one of components of the Writing Requirements section of the Common Application.

However, for 2015-2016 – the personal essay is not required by all of the colleges that use the Common Application – the paragraph below indicates this year’s policy regarding submission of the Common App Essay:

Some colleges require submission of the personal essay with your Common Application. You may submit a personal essay to any college, even if it is not required by that college. If not required by a college, you will be given the option during submission to include your essay for not for that college.

This means that there are some colleges which require a Personal Essay as part of the application, and others that do not. However, even if a college to which you are interested in applying does not require a Personal Essay, you still have the option of including an essay with your application.

Those colleges that do require a Personal Essay will not accept an application with out one.


When Should You Include an Essay With Your Common Application?

So – should you include a personal essay with every application that you make to a college that is part of the Common Application?

I believe that the answer to that question is, “yes” – as long as your personal essay is well written.

A good Common App Essay can improve your chances of being accepted into the colleges and universities of your choice, whereas an average essay will not hurt you.

So my advice to anyone who is applying to colleges that are members of the Common Application is is to include a personal essay, whether it is a requirement of the specific colleges to which you are applying for not.


The 2015-2016 Essay Prompts Were Published on Aug. 1

Perhaps, the most important changes to the 2015-2016 Common Application concern the new essay prompts. In 2014-2015, the essay prompts did not undergo any changes or revisions from the previous year, but for 2015-2016, there have been significant changes.

Below, are the essay prompts for 2015-2016. Italics indicate word changes from previous versions:

1. Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.

2. The lessons we take from failure can be fundamental to later success. Recount an incident or time when you experienced failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience.

3. Reflect on time when you challenged a belief or idea. What prompted you to act? Would you make the same decision again?

4. Describe a problem you solved or a problem you’d like to solve. It can be an intellectual challenge, a research query, an ethical dilemma – anything that is of personal importance, no matter the scale. Explain its significance to you and what steps you took or could be taken to identify a solution.

5. Discuss an accomplishment or event, formal or informal, that marked your transition from childhood to adulthood within your culture, community, or family.


New Common App Essay Prompt for 2015-2106

Note that Essay Prompts 1 and 2 have been revised from previous versions, Essay Prompts 3 and 5 have been carried over to the current application year without any changes, and that Essay Prompt 4 is completely new.

If you are familiar with the essay prompts from 2014-2015, you will note that the “place where you’re content” prompt from previous application years has been dropped.


Common App Essay Examples

Common App Essay Examples

 How to Choose a Topic for Your Common App Essay

As stated above, the personal essay is not required by every member college in the Common Application group – but you can, if you wish, include an essay with your application to any of the Common Application colleges – even those that do not require it.

In my view, as a Common App Essay Tutor – I would encourage any of my students to include a personal essay simply because I believe that it can help, and, as long as it is written well, it cannot hurt a student’s chances of being accepted into university.

So – how do you decide which essay prompt to choose?

Most students begin the process of writing their Common App Essay by reviewing the essay prompts.

This may seem to make sense – but is it the best way to proceed?

In working with students, I prefer to begin with the following paragraph:

The essay demonstrates your ability to write clearly and concisely on a selected topic and helps you distinguish yourself in your own voice. What do you want the readers of your application to know about you apart from courses, grades, and test scores? Choose the option that best helps you answer that question and write an essay of no more than 650 words, using the prompt to inspire and structure your response. Remember, 650 words is your limit, not your goal. Use the full range if you need it, don’t feel obligated to do so. (The application won’t accept a response shorter than 250 words.)

The above paragraph is taken from the Common Application, and it is, in my view, the place at which every student writing a personal essay should begin.

What do you want the readers of your application to know about you?

Answer this question first – and then choose the essay topic into which your answer most comfortably fits.

3 Tips to Writing a More Effective Common App Essay

The tip cited above – starting with the question, “What do you want the readers of your application to know about you?” is one of three simple tips included in a FREE PDF report, which you can access by filling out the drop-down form on this site or by clicking on the link below:

The PDF report is FREE so grab your copy today – by clicking here

Common App Essay Tutor

 How Can I Help You As a Common App Essay Tutor?

The Common App Essay is, by far, the most challenging writing assignment that most students will face during their high school career.

There are several reasons for this:

  1. Regardless of which topic or essay prompt you choose, the subject of the essay is you. Most students are not used to writing about themselves in an analytical way.
  2. The best personal essays are not only based on real events which need to be recalled in vivid detail, but our narratives – that is, they tell a story with a beginning, middle and end.
  3. The 650-word limit demands that your essay be both concise and precise. Every word must count.

In addition to being a former teacher of English at the high school and university levels, I am a memoir writer, which means that I have extensive experience in using personal experiences as the raw material for compelling and engaging narratives.

The personal essay is a mini-memoir. The objective of it is to take an experience or incident from your past and to use it to reveal something that is unique and memorable about you.

That is exactly what the memoir writer does, too.

If you have a Common App Essay to write, I can help you at any stage of the process – but the earlier you contact me, the better, because 90% of writing an effective personal essay is in choosing the right topic.

If you get that right, you will be well on your way.


How to Contact Me for Help With Your Common App Essay

Feel free to contact me anytime via:



Phone: 416-519-4427


Skype: AlanStransman

My fee is $60 U.S. per hour or $35 for a half-hour, payable via PayPal.

I use email, telephone and Skype and can help you with your Common App Essay wherever you are located, as long as you have internet access.










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