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The College Application Essay: An Essay of Analysis

The Common Application Essay

The College Application Essay is Hard Work

Call it what you will – the Common App Essay, the College Application Essay or the College Admission Essay.

These are all, essentially, the same thing – an essay written by an applicant as part of an application for admission to a college or university.

The Common App Essay has a particular meaning – it refers to the essay component of the Common Application – an application process used by the almost 500 members of the organization called The Common Application.

So, what exactly is a College Application Essay and – more importantly – how do you write a good one.


The Challenge of the College Essay

Let’s take a moment to consider a passage from a book entitled, “The College Application Essay” by Sarah Myers McGinty:


The college essay is, in one way or another, an essay of analysis. What makes it tricky is that, in this case, it’s self analysis. Self-analysis, objective judgment about your own actions, is not easy; it can be especially hard to do at this point in your life, when many of your goals and plans are unsettled. You may already have confronted this problem at the interviews. Admissions people ask, “What are you interested in?” or “What are your hopes and aspirations?” These are questions that require self-analysis, and they’re pretty hard. The college has questions about you partly because you still have questions about yourself. But the essay is a chance to demonstrate which questions you’ve asked yourself and what answers you’ve found.


What are the key points made by the author in this passage?

  1. that the college essay or the Common App essay is an essay of “analysis”
  2. that students at the high school level aren’t accustomed to analyzing things – especially themselves
  3. that the college essay is an opportunity for a student to demonstrate whatever answers about him or herself have been discovered

Frankly, the argument that Prof. McGinty makes in this passage is the very same one that I have made repeatedly on this website.

The college essay – or the Common App Essay – is a challenge for which most students need help.


What is the Purpose of the College Admissions Essay or Common App Essay?

Regardless of the subject matter or topic – the college essay, admission essay or Common App essay provides the Admissions Board with a chance t hear your voice.

Nothing else in the admissions process does that – unless you have a personal interview – but not every college or university application includes a personal interview.

So – what the Admissions Board is left with are transcripts, test scores, teacher recommendations, etc. – but nothing that says, “This is who I am and this is what I want you to know about me.”

And they want that – if they can get it.

Don’t forget – the Admissions Officers at colleges and universities aren’t just filling up classrooms and dorm rooms – they are building communities.

And how can you build a diverse and dynamic community out of a bunch or numbers and letters?

You can’t – which is why you get a chance to tell the Admissions Officers something about you that will make you stand out from the crowd.

Great – but again – how do you do that?


I Help Students Write Compelling College Application or Common App Essays

What makes the college essay or Common App essay so difficult is that you can write it about just about anything.

And, when you can write an essay about just about anything – it can feel as if you have nothing to write about.

Here’s an exercise that might help – imagine that you seated beside someone on a train at the beginning of a long journey.

Let’s say you lean over to that person and say, “Hey, do you mind if I tell you a story? Listen to what happened to me.”

I have written two memoirs, and they were both written to sound exactly like someone telling the person seated beside him a story.

What is that one story that you would tell someone so that they would say, “Hey, that’s one heck of a story!”

If you have that kind of story, the Admissions Board of the colleges and universities to which you are applying want to hear it.


And what if you don’t?


How a Common App Essay Tutor Like Me Can Help You

You have a story.

You just may not recognize it yet.

And that is where I can help you.

A lot of students contact me when they already have a draft of their college admissions essay written and they want t see if I can improve it.

Sometimes, I can – but there are times when I suggest scrubbing the essay entirely and starting over.


Because the premise of the essay is weak – and if the premise of the essay is weak, there is nothing that I can do to make it strong.

I can help make it better – I just can’t help make it strong.

So – the earlier in the process that a student contacts me – the better.


How to Contact Me

If you need help with your college essay, Common App essay or even a graduate school admissions essay, feel free to contact me via:


Telephone: 416-519-4427


Email: astransman@rogers.com


Skype: AlanStransman


I look forward t connecting with you soon!








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