With application deadlines fast approaching, you may be wondering if you can tweak or change your Common App essay for different colleges. This is an important question, since your essay is a vital part of your application and offers insight into who you are as an applicant.

The quick answer is yes, you can tailor or modify your Common App essay for each school you apply to. However, there are some guidelines you’ll want to keep in mind.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about adapting your Common App essay, including:

Understanding the Purpose of the Common App Essay

The Common App essay is an essential part of the college application process. It is a personal statement that allows you to showcase your personality, background, and values to college admissions officers.

The essay provides a unique opportunity for you to express yourself and make a lasting impression on the admissions committee.

Allows you to showcase your personality, background, values

The Common App essay gives you the chance to go beyond your test scores and grades, allowing you to reveal who you are as a person. It is your platform to share your passions, interests, and experiences that have shaped you.

Through this essay, you can highlight your unique qualities, such as leadership skills, creativity, or resilience. By showcasing your personality, background, and values, you can paint a vivid picture of who you are and what you can bring to the college community.

Offers a way to distinguish yourself from other applicants

With thousands of applicants vying for limited spots, it’s crucial to stand out from the crowd. The Common App essay provides an opportunity to differentiate yourself from other applicants. By crafting a compelling and authentic essay, you can capture the attention of admissions officers and leave a lasting impression.

Your unique story and perspective can make you memorable and increase your chances of being admitted to your dream school.

Gives insight into your writing skills

Writing skills are essential in college, and the Common App essay is a chance for you to demonstrate your ability to communicate effectively. Admissions officers assess your writing skills, including your ability to structure an essay, convey your ideas clearly, and use proper grammar and punctuation.

A well-crafted essay can showcase your writing talent and leave a positive impression on the admissions committee. It’s important to take the time to revise and edit your essay to ensure it is polished and error-free.

What Schools Look for in the Common App Essay

When it comes to the Common App essay, each school has its own unique admissions process and criteria. However, there are some common factors that most schools consider when evaluating these essays. Understanding what schools look for can help you tailor your essay to maximize your chances of getting accepted.

Creativity and original thought

Schools appreciate essays that showcase creativity and original thought. They want to see applicants who can think outside the box and bring a fresh perspective to their campus. This doesn’t mean you have to write a fantastical story or come up with a groundbreaking idea.

Rather, it’s about demonstrating your ability to approach a topic in a unique way and present your thoughts in an engaging manner.

According to a survey conducted by College Essay Guy, 87% of admissions officers believe that creativity is an important factor when evaluating the Common App essay. So don’t be afraid to let your imagination soar and showcase your originality!

Strong writing and communication skills

Another crucial aspect that schools look for in the Common App essay is strong writing and communication skills. Admissions officers want to see that you can effectively express yourself through writing and convey your ideas clearly.

A well-written essay demonstrates your ability to communicate effectively, which is an essential skill in college and beyond.

In fact, a study conducted by the National Association for College Admission Counseling found that 73% of colleges rated the Common App essay as either considerably or moderately important in their admissions decision-making process.

So make sure to proofread your essay for grammar and spelling errors, and ensure that your ideas flow logically.

Alignment with values or mission of the school

Schools often look for applicants whose Common App essays align with their values or mission. They want to admit students who will contribute to their campus community and embrace the school’s core principles.

To accomplish this, research each school thoroughly and tailor your essay to highlight how your values and goals align with theirs.

According to a report by U.S. News, many colleges value applicants who demonstrate a genuine interest in their institution. So take the time to understand the school’s mission statement, programs, and campus culture, and incorporate this knowledge into your essay to show your enthusiasm and fit.

Insights into who you are as a person and student

Lastly, schools want to gain insights into who you are as a person and student through your Common App essay. They want to learn more about your experiences, passions, and motivations. Your essay should provide a window into your personality, allowing admissions officers to get a sense of who you are beyond your grades and test scores.

In a survey conducted by IvyWise, 97% of colleges stated that the Common App essay was moderately to considerably important in their admissions decisions. So don’t be afraid to share personal anecdotes or reflect on meaningful experiences that have shaped you.

Tips for Tailoring Your Essay for Different Schools

Research each school’s values, programs and culture

When applying to multiple colleges or universities using the Common App, it’s important to understand that each institution has its own unique values, programs, and culture. One of the key ways to tailor your essay for different schools is to thoroughly research each institution you are applying to.

Visit their websites, read about their mission statements, explore their academic programs, and get a sense of their campus culture. This will help you gain valuable insight into what each school is looking for in an applicant and allow you to customize your essay accordingly.

Highlight relevant experiences, activities or interests

Once you have a good understanding of each school’s values and programs, you can start to identify relevant experiences, activities, or interests that align with those specific institutions. For example, if you are applying to a school known for its strong environmental science program, you might want to highlight any experiences you have had in that field or any extracurricular activities related to environmental conservation.

By showcasing your alignment with the school’s values and programs, you can demonstrate to the admissions committee that you are a good fit for their institution.

Focus on details that resonate with that specific school

Another effective way to tailor your essay for different schools is to focus on the details that resonate specifically with each institution. This could include mentioning specific professors or courses that you are excited about or referencing any unique opportunities or resources that the school offers.

By showing that you have done your research and have a genuine interest in the specific aspects of the school, you can make your essay more compelling and personalized.

Align your goals or aspirations with qualities of the school

When writing your essay, it’s important to align your goals or aspirations with the qualities of the school you are applying to. For example, if you are applying to a liberal arts college with a focus on interdisciplinary learning, you might want to emphasize your desire to explore different academic disciplines and your passion for interdisciplinary collaboration.

By demonstrating that your goals align with what the school has to offer, you can show the admissions committee that you have thoughtfully considered how their institution can help you achieve your aspirations.

Emphasize any connections you have to the school

If you have any connections to the school, such as family members who are alumni or personal experiences that have shaped your interest in the institution, be sure to emphasize these in your essay. Admissions committees appreciate applicants who have a genuine connection to the school and are more likely to see you as a good fit for their community.

However, it’s important to be authentic and only mention connections that are truly meaningful to you.

Elements to Keep Consistent Across All Versions

Your personality, voice and authentic self

When it comes to writing your Common App essay, it’s important to stay true to yourself. Regardless of the school you’re applying to, your personality, voice, and authentic self should shine through in your writing.

Admissions officers want to get to know the real you, so it’s crucial to maintain consistency in how you portray yourself in your essay, no matter which schools you’re targeting.

Overall structure and flow of the essay

The structure and flow of your essay should remain consistent across all versions. This means that the introduction, body paragraphs, and conclusion should have a logical progression and cohesion. Your essay should have a clear and concise message that is effectively communicated throughout.

Whether you’re applying to one school or multiple schools, maintaining a consistent structure and flow will make your essay more cohesive and impactful.

Stories or anecdotes included

Stories and anecdotes are powerful ways to illustrate your experiences and make your essay more engaging. If you choose to include a story or anecdote in your essay, it’s important to keep it consistent across all versions.

This means that the same story or anecdote should be used in each essay you submit. Consistency in your storytelling will help reinforce your message and make your essay more memorable.

Powerful opening and closing lines

The opening and closing lines of your essay are crucial for capturing the reader’s attention and leaving a lasting impression. These lines should be powerful, compelling, and reflective of your overall message.

It’s important to keep these lines consistent across all versions of your essay to maintain a strong impact. A great opening and closing can set the tone for your essay and leave a positive impression on admissions officers.

Description of major accomplishments or challenges

When discussing your major accomplishments or challenges in your essay, it’s important to provide consistent and accurate information across all versions. This ensures that the admissions officers have a clear understanding of your achievements and the obstacles you have overcome.

Consistency in describing your accomplishments or challenges will help strengthen your application and showcase your resilience and determination.

Best Practices When Modifying Your Essay

When it comes to modifying your Common App essay for different schools, there are several best practices to keep in mind. These practices will help you tailor your essay effectively while maintaining its core elements. Here are some tips to follow:

Keep a master version with core elements

It is important to have a master version of your essay that includes the core elements and main ideas you want to convey. This will serve as a foundation for all the variations you create. By keeping a master version, you can ensure that the essence of your essay remains intact, regardless of the modifications you make.

Make minor tweaks – don’t rewrite entirely

When modifying your essay, it is generally recommended to make minor tweaks rather than completely rewriting it. This allows you to maintain consistency in your writing style and voice. Minor tweaks can include adjusting certain details, rephrasing sentences, or adding specific examples that are tailored to each school.

Focus on precision when changing details

When modifying your essay for different schools, pay attention to the specific details that need to be changed. This can include mentioning the name of the school, referencing specific programs or opportunities that interest you, or highlighting any relevant experiences that align with the school’s values.

By being precise in your modifications, you can demonstrate your genuine interest in each institution.

Have teachers or counselors review versions

Before submitting your modified essay, it is beneficial to have teachers or counselors review each version. They can provide valuable feedback on whether the modifications effectively address the requirements and values of each school.

Their insights can help you make further improvements and ensure that your essay is strong and compelling.

Ensure consistency in quality and style

While modifying your essay, it is crucial to maintain consistency in the quality and style of your writing. Make sure that each version of your essay is well-written, coherent, and engaging. Consistency in quality and style will reflect your commitment to excellence and professionalism, leaving a positive impression on the admissions officers.

By following these best practices, you can effectively modify your Common App essay for different schools, showcasing your genuine interest and fit for each institution. Remember to stay true to yourself and your experiences while adapting your essay to meet the unique requirements of each school.


While you can tailor your Common App essay for different colleges, it’s important not to lose your authentic voice. With careful revisions and review, you can adapt your essay to align with each school’s values while putting your best foot forward.

Remember to keep the core structure and main themes consistent. By making small but meaningful adjustments, you can use your Common App essay strategically to highlight your fit at each institution. This allows you to put your best self forward while showcasing genuine interest.

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