It's important to look at different Common App essay examples when preparing your college applications. Your Common App essay or personal statement is one of the many college essays you will need to write, but it is also the most important one. Your Common App essay is sent to every college you apply to with your primary application. Because it is the only application component that allows you to speak directly to the admissions committee in your own voice, It can have a significant impact on their decision.

Furthermore, admission to top colleges seems to be getting more competitive every year. Institutions like Columbia and Yale have acceptance rates lower than 5%. Ivy League Schools are not the only colleges with low acceptance rates. Other well-known schools like the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Stanford receive thousands of applications yearly, and they only admit top candidates. In other words, having a good GPA and extracurricular activities on your high school resume is no longer enough. If you want to beat the competition and get acceptance, you will need a compelling Common App essay and outstanding supplemental college essays. This is especially true if you are hoping to get into college with a low GPA.

Reviewing essay examples is a great way to get started. This blog shares some excellent essay examples written in response to the most recent Common App prompts to give you some inspiration and help you get started. 

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Article Contents
17 min read

Common App essay example #1 Common App essay example #2 Common App essay example #3 Common App essay example #4 Common App essay example #5 Common App essay example #6 Common App essay example #7 Four tips for a compelling Common App essay FAQs

Common App essay example #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.

As you read my application, I would like you to know that music is more than a hobby to me, and it is more than just what I want to study in college; it has always been a part of who I am. My mother often jokes that I was born with a jukebox in my head because I have been singing and dancing for as long as I could stand and talk. 

I grew up in a small, remote town of about 1000 people where the high school was perpetually underfunded and unable to support many extracurricular programs, including music. However, I did not let this setback stop me from following my passion. My parents are incredibly generous people who succumbed to me begging them for a piano every day for almost a year.

I taught myself how to play by watching YouTube videos, and I learned how to write music in the same way. Then, because I enjoy a challenge, after learning the piano, I started playing the cello and then, later, the violin. I am equally passionate about all three instruments, but the one I have a better mastery of is the cello.

I got my first opportunity to utilize years of solo lessons and practice a few weeks ago when I played with a small group of students in a different town nearby. I remember getting on stage and feeling like I was exactly where I belonged. My dream has always been to be a part of a symphony orchestra, which is why I was very intentional in selecting colleges that would give me the opportunity to not only play with other passionate musicians, but that would enable a previously underdeveloped part of who I am to bloom under the guidance of gifted directors.

Shifting from introverted, isolated artistic practice to genuine collaboration and community will be a massive evolution for me as a musician and a person. I am ready and eager to take on this challenge. I look forward to using the skills that I have spent years building, energizing, and encouraging my fellow musicians, learning from them, and sharing my unique perspective with them and our audience. (361 words)

Common App essay example #2

The lessons we take from obstacles we encounter can be fundamental to later success. Recount a time when you faced a challenge, setback, or failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience?

As soon as the baton is in my hands, I don't think anymore; my body just takes over. I am sprinting toward the finish line before I have time to think about it. There is no one in front of me, which means that if I pick up the pace, I might just win this race. I force myself to move a little faster, but the finish line seems a further away every time I look up. I keep running, and the line keeps moving, but I don't want to stop. I keep running until I can't breathe anymore, and I feel the fatigue so deep in my bones that I have no choice but to fall to the floor.

I have had some variation of this nightmare a few times in my life. The first time was the day before my first relay race. I was so excited to have made the track and field team that I almost couldn't sleep. I spent most of the night telling my mom and my siblings how excited I was and how prepared I felt. At some point, my mother had to force me to sleep, and the anxiety that I felt somehow transformed into this nightmare.

I remember waking up determined not to let my fear become a reality. So, I checked in with my coach, stretched for longer than usual, and ran like my life depended on it. That was the first race I won but was not the last. I was on the track and field team for three years, and in that time, I won several medals, gained a mentor in my coach, learned how to push myself, built self-discipline, and developed a passion for running - something I was truly good at. I even started making plans and looking at colleges with great athletic programs where I would be able to develop my skills even more.

Then Covid happened. I was one of the many patients suffering complications from Covid-19. It started with what felt like a simple cold and having to miss one race. Then, two races because the cold would not go away. Then it was three races because the sporting events were canceled, and I couldn't run anyway because I was on a ventilator. It was at the hospital that I had this nightmare a second time.

I am one of the lucky patients who survived and returned home to my family, but I returned home with an inhaler and what the doctor referred to as long-term breathing problems. It was during those first few weeks at home that I could not stop having some variation of the nightmare I described earlier. I felt grateful because I am alive and relatively healthy, but I also felt defeated because I knew that I could never run again, let alone compete at the level I used to.

I struggled to feel like myself. So much of my identity and the future I envisioned was tied to my athletic ability. I started trying different activities to distract myself and find joy again. I joined the debate team, started tutoring kids at the local community center, and I learned how to play chess which it turns out I am pretty good at. It took me a few months, but eventually, I felt like myself again, and I found something new to be excited about.

This experience taught me that sometimes life happens, and things don't go according to plan, but as long as you get back up, you can learn from your experiences and grow. The self-discipline I built on the track field and that ability to push myself have helped me become a better student and chess player. I have started making plans for my future again, and I am excited to use the skills I gained as an athlete in different areas of my life. (649 words)

Worried about your grades? Check out how to get into college with a low GPA:

Common App essay example #3

Reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea. What prompted your thinking? What was the outcome?

Raised in a proud, traditional Muslim family, I wasn't sure where to turn when I began to question the teachings of the Quran two years ago. As a black woman in America with a recognizably Muslim name, I have had to defend myself and Islam repeatedly. I understand that many of the things that I see in the media about my religion are simply not true, but even I was starting to find some of the dogma overly judgmental and confusing.

The first time I challenged the religion out loud was at my aunty's house. My parents had traveled, and we were spending a few weeks with my aunt. We were getting ready to have dinner when she called all the girls over to help set the table. I called my younger brother along to help because that is how we did things in my house, but my aunt reprimanded me and told me that God had not intended for that. I remember being confused and, frankly, upset. When I asked her what she had meant by that, she told me that we had all been given our duties by God, and my brother's duties did not involve domestic chores because he was a boy.

That was one of many incidents over that month that confused me and often ended in me arguing with my aunt because I simply did not understand. Eventually, I decided to go back to the source and learn what the Quran says about domestic chores. I did not find anything like what my aunt had described.

I then decided to talk to an imam since they are supposed to be experts in the teachings. It was my imam who then explained to me that people often confuse culture and religion. He told me that it is likely that my aunty, like many women from Mali, grew up believing that certain chores were for women and others for men, but that it was a cultural doctrine, not a religious one.

He then encouraged me to always question what I am told and go back to the source to verify the information. That is the lesson that stayed with me and that I apply to most of the things I learn. As a history fan, I know it is important to corroborate information and fact-check whenever possible.

In the end, this experience brought me closer to my religion. It also taught me that we can only form our own beliefs and truly trust information when we challenge it and look for reliable sources. I believe that in this day and age where people often report things on social media without fact-checking, it is imperative to know the difference between an opinion and a fact and to know how to identify reliable information. (465 words)

Common App essay example #4

Reflect on something that someone has done for you that has made you happy or thankful in a surprising way. How has this gratitude affected or motivated you?

An old African proverb says that teachers open doors so that you can walk through them by yourself. When I was in 8th grade, my literature teacher, Ms. Ahmed, gave me a book, and by doing so, she opened the door to a whole new world for me.

I want to tell you that it was on a sunny Monday morning in May and that she was wearing a blue pantsuit and a smile when she gave it to me, but the truth is that the details are fuzzy. What I do remember is the feeling that I got when I finished reading purple hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

I had finished my in-class assignment, and in typical teenager fashion, I was pulling out my phone so that I could scroll aimlessly on social media when Ms. Ahmed put a book in front of me instead and told me to read it. I opened the book intending to read the first chapter and avoid upsetting her. Instead, I ended up asking if I could keep it, and lucky for me, she said yes.

I finished the book in two days and found myself going to my teacher's office to discuss it. It was only after spending my lunch break discussing literary devices with Ms. Ahmed and enjoying it that I decided that I wanted to have a career that revolved around books.

I've always appreciated the written word, but most of the books that I read were for school assignments, and they usually had blonde, blue-eyed main characters who did things like play in the snow after school. Their world and experiences were completely different from mine, so even though I enjoyed their stories, I did not relate to them very much, and so I wasn't really inspired to read more.

Until my teacher put that book in my hands, I had never read about a main character who looked like me and did things like shake the trees in the backyard for mangoes after school the way I did. It made me feel seen, and it made me want to read her story. When I finished purple hibiscus, I immediately started looking for more books with main characters that I could relate to. Within a few months, I had developed a love for reading all kinds of books, from classics like A tale of two cities to fun memoirs like Born a Crime by Trevor Noah, and even fantasy series like City of Bones by Cassandra Clare.

When my family moved to the United States last year, I decided to start an after-school book club so that I could make friends who share my interests. It now has 23 members. I am very proud of the books we read and the fantastic conversations those books have sparked. This experience has only made my interest in literature grow. I am now actively seeking an education that will allow me to continue exploring this interest and give me the skills that I need to one day become the teacher who introduces others to the enchanting world of books.

Every once in a while, usually, after I finish a particularly good book, I remember that Ms. Ahmed gifted me a copy of a 307-page book and that even though I did not know it at the time, it completely changed my world. I have thanked her a few times, but I honestly do not think that I could ever thank her enough. (580 words)

Common App essay example #5

Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others.

"I believe that in a great city, or even in a small city or a village, a great theatre is the outward and visible sign of an inward and probable culture." -Sir Laurence Olivier.

I wholeheartedly believe Sir Laurence Olivier's words to be true. I grew up in New York City, where the theatre scene is impressive, to say the least. My mother and I often went to see plays in different areas of the city - from Broadway to small theatres above coffee shops. It was therefore not surprising to her that when she came into my room two years ago to tell me that we were moving to SmallTown, my first question was, "do they even have a theatre?"

My mother had been offered a chance to work on a project that she was really passionate about, so we packed our bags, and we moved across the country in the middle of my Sophomore year of high school. As an only child, I have learned to be comfortable with my own company. I spent most of my childhood playing by myself and exploring different interests. In fact, most of my favorite hobbies, like reading, for example, are solo activities. However, like most teenagers, I did not want to go through high school without any friends.

Adjusting to life in SmallTown was challenging. I went from a city that was so diverse that my brown skin and curly hair were barely noticeable to sticking out like a sore thumb at every gathering. Most of the students had grown up together, so even when I made friends, it was hard to keep up with their inside jokes and stories from primary school.

In an effort to find friends who share my interests, I tried to participate in different extracurricular activities. I worked on the school paper, joined the debate team, and volunteered for the tutoring center. One day, my mother suggested that I try the drama club. Initially, I was hesitant because although I'd always enjoyed theatre, I had never acted or been a part of anything behind the scenes, meaning that I didn't think I had anything to offer.

After some reflection, I realized that the issue was not that I didn't have anything to offer but rather that I did not know if I could be useful in any way. So one day after class, I went into the school theatre and asked the teacher if they needed any help with anything. Ms. Stevens, the drama teacher, took the time to talk to me and ask about my background and skills. Within a few minutes, she had put me to work as her assistant.

My role as Ms. Stevens' assistant has been the most challenging and rewarding experience of my life thus far. It helped me understand that theatre is truly a cooperative effort, and I now appreciate it more because of that. It also gave me a chance to understand my abilities a little bit better. For example, I have learned that I do not have much artistic talent but that I can oversee visual things like set/stage design and costumes because I have an excellent eye for detail. Additionally, it helped me find friends who not only share my passion for theatre, but have actually made me love SmallTown.

In the end, moving to SmallTown may have taken me away from Broadway, but it brought me closer to the theatre, and in doing so, it helped me grow. (582 words)

Common App essay example #6

Describe a topic, idea, or concept you find so engaging that it makes you lose all track of time. Why does it captivate you? What or who do you turn to when you want to learn more?

"Cooking is essentially chemistry, so I don't know why I am surprised" That's what my father said to me when I proudly presented him with a bowl of homemade fettuccine alfredo pasta and asked him to take a bite. I remember being confused at first and wondering whether he was paying me a compliment or not. "Is that a good thing?" I asked, and he responded by nodding because his mouth was full of pasta, which made me incredibly happy. After all, to me, that was the ultimate compliment.

I have always loved science and chemistry in particular. As a child, I always wanted to be a mad scientist with test tubes and goggles for Halloween. I used to and still enjoy learning about how chemicals interact and experimenting with them in class when we have lab assignments.

I initially did not see the connection between my love for cooking and my passion for chemistry, but as soon as my father pointed it out, it made perfect sense to me. Cooking is really just chemistry. Heating and freezing, mixing and blending are all processes used in the laboratory and the kitchen. When we're cooking food, a multitude of physical and chemical processes simultaneously take place to transform the ingredients (i.e., chemicals) involved into delicious fuel for our bodies.

I love experimenting with these different ingredients to create new dishes and explore the boundaries of culinary arts. I can spend hours picking out ingredients, looking for the right ingredients, and tweaking a recipe. I love that simple items that are almost useless on their own can be mixed with something else to together create something entirely new and unique.

My father is a professional chef, and I often turn to him when I have questions about different aspects of the cooking process. However, because I am also a curious person who enjoys learning about other cultures, when I want to learn more, I tend to turn to the internet, where I can find experts in the cuisines of different cultures and learn from them. For example, I am currently taking a three-month-long online course on the basics of south-Indian cuisine from a chef in Hyderabad.

Cooking brings me joy because it is my hobby, but it also gives me comfort and allows me to use my passion in a way that is productive, creative, and fun. I have had the opportunity to cook for a large crowd a few times during family events, but I hope to do it more often as I have started volunteering at local soup kitchens. An experience that I would like to continue while in college, as well. (442 words)

Do you have questions about the college application process? This video can help:

Common App essay example #7

Share an essay on any topic of your choice. It can be one you've already written, one that responds to a different prompt, or one of your own design.

It all started with hair. Dirty, unwashed hair that my mother did not allow me to cut and would not let me wear to school until it was shampooed, conditioned, detangled, combed, and put into two perfect pigtails with butterfly clips. I hated the entire process because I found it way too long. As a five-year-old, I just wanted to go to school and play with my friends, but my mother wouldn't let me go until I got in the tub so that we could wash my hair. Eventually, we compromised. I would stop running around the house and let her wash my hair if she let me style it how I wanted.

To be perfectly honest, I do not remember this happening, but it is the story that my parents and older siblings tell me all the time about why I started doing my own hair. What I remember is being a little bit older, maybe seven or eight, and looking forward to school days because I got to try a new hairstyle. I loved experimenting with my hair. Looking back at some of my pictures, I picked some questionable hairstyles but looked very happy with them. Both my mother and I kept our ends of the bargain, and somewhere along the line, as I was growing up, I stopped dreading doing my hair and started loving it. Then I started enjoying picking clothes that matched my hairstyle, which all turned into a love for fashion. 

Today, fashion has become a passion of mine. I taught myself how to use a sewing machine when I was about thirteen years old because I wanted to wear something I could not find in the store. For my senior year art class project, I have created a clothing line that we will be unveiling at a fundraising event in a few weeks. Additionally, I have been volunteering at a local thrift store that specifically helps women from poor communities prepare and dress for job interviews since I was fifteen years old.

I chose to share this story with you because I believe that it tells you a great deal about me as a person. I am very determined and passionate, and I am not afraid of a challenge. I bring this same level of dedication and work ethic to everything that I do, including my studies and other extracurricular activities.

As I get ready to embark on this new journey as a college student, I am eager and prepared to learn new skills, discover new things to be passionate about, share my interests and perspective with other students, and find a way to use my skills and abilities to contribute to my new campus community. (453 words)


Four tips for a compelling Common App essay

DO NOT plagiarize

Your essay needs to tell your story, not someone else’s. Copying someone else’s work is not only dishonest, but it is a violation of the rules of academic integrity. This means that getting caught would cost you the admission you worked so hard to get. So, be honest, and write about your own experiences in your own words.

DO use specific examples

Your essay should show, not tell the admissions board about your abilities and skills. The best way to do this is to give examples and use specific experiences to demonstrate what you want your reader to learn about you, instead of summarizing or merely listing facts about yourself.

Not sure what rolling admissions are? Check out this video:

DO NOT go over the word limit 

Check your word count and ensure that you are within the proper range. Your essay should be between 250 to 650 words. We recommend writing at least 400 words. If you go over the limit, it will look as though you did not care enough to follow instructions, or you did not pay attention to them. Either way, it will make you the weaker candidate. So, make sure you keep track of your word count as you write and edit. You can edit the essay to make it shorter if you write too much. If you are unsure how to edit it without reducing the quality of the essay, reach out to a college essay advisor for assistance.

DO proofread

The admissions committee will be evaluating your communication skills and attention to detail as they read your essay. So, in order for your personal statement to be strong, it needs to have a compelling personal narrative and be free of spelling mistakes, poor grammar, typos, and confusing syntax. You should proofread your essay every step of the way. Additionally, it would help if you reached out to college essay review services to ensure your essay is ready for submission. Admission professionals can identify errors that the untrained eye would miss. 


1. Is a Common App essay the same as a personal statement?

Yes. The Common App essay is also commonly referred to as the college personal statement.

2. How important is the Common App essay?

In short, very! Your Common App essay allows you to talk to the admissions committee directly, in your own voice and tell them why you are a good fit for their school. It also gives you a chance to humanize your application and show them the person behind all the numbers. A strong Common App essay can make a huge difference in the admissions committee's decision.

3. How many Common App essays do I need to write?

You only need to write one Common App essay, but depending on the school you are applying to, you may also need to write supplemental college essays specific to the schools you've chosen.

4. What is the difference between the common app essay and supplemental essays?

Your Common App essay is one general essay that goes out to all your chosen colleges along with your primary application. On the other hand, supplemental essays are college-specific essays that you write in response to prompts provided by different colleges.

5. What makes a strong Common App essay?

A strong opening line, specific examples or even anecdotes, and a structure that is easy to follow.

6. How long should my college essay be?

Your Common App essay should be between 250 and 650 words unless otherwise stated in the prompt.

7. How long does it take to write a strong essay?

We recommend giving yourself six to eight weeks for the entire process. That is enough time to brainstorm, plan your essay, write your first draft, get it reviewed, and edit it until it is polished. 

8. What should I do before I start writing my common app essay?

You should take the time to research the schools you are applying to and brainstorm. If you're unsure how to write a college essay, we recommend working with a college essay advisor for guidance.

To your success,

Your friends at BeMo

BeMo Academic Consulting

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