Can You Submit Different Common App Essays to Different Schools?

By Eric Eng

By Eric Eng

Two women talking in a table.

Can You Submit Different Common App Essays to Different Schools?

Can you submit varied Common App essays to multiple schools? The Common App is indeed adaptable. So, to answer the question: you can certainly change the essay, submit it to one school, and then modify it before submitting it to another. However, why would you want to do that?

When applicants consider writing different Common App essays for different schools, it’s often because they believe they need to tailor their application to each specific institution. They aim to distinguish themselves from the crowd.

Male student using a laptop for college application in a libaray.

But apart from producing your best work, it’s imperative to always check for spelling and grammar errors. Have confidence in the effort you’ve put in. Trust that your writing will shine and that the right school will see you for who you truly are. They will want you as a part of their community just as passionately as you wish to attend.

What Exactly is the Common App?

The Common Application is a non-profit organization with over 900 distinct educational institution members. Its mission focuses on:

  • Removing logistical and institutional barriers that hinder access to higher education.
  • Assisting those dedicated to aiding students in various capacities.
  • Supporting a diverse array of students and organizations.
  • Informing member institutions through data and insights.

Using this platform, both first-time and transfer students can apply to multiple universities simultaneously. Consequently, they only need to input common data, such as name, address, and extracurricular activities, once.

Group of students looking at a laptop while talking.

This streamlined college application process, accepted by a vast majority of prominent educational institutions, not only saves time but also reduces the stress of creating distinct application materials for each prospective school.

Even if your desired college does not accept the Common Application, most institutions require similar components. This allows for easy data transfer, including official high school transcripts and standardized test scores.

Main Features

The Common App website offers five main tabs. Typically, students begin by adding schools through the “College Search” feature. Once added, these schools appear in the “Dashboard” tab, which summarizes application progress and lists tasks required for each institution.

To complete the application, students navigate to the “Common App” page, filling out details like family history, transcripts, and test scores.

Institutions Accepting the Common Application

Over 950 schools and institutions endorse the Common Application, establishing it as a standard in college admissions. This includes public universities, some international institutions, and all Ivy League universities.

Some prestigious institutions that accept the Common Application include:

Making Your Application Stand Out

While contemplating submitting different Common App essays to various schools, remember that some colleges may request supplemental materials. These supplements present an opportunity to showcase in-depth knowledge and tailor your writing to a school’s unique requirements. Even so, the focus should remain on you.

Should a student not gain acceptance via Early Decision, revising the Common App essay could be beneficial. Some may see this essay as part of a consolation strategy if their top-choice school doesn’t admit them.

Overcoming Indecision

Students occasionally find themselves torn between two versions of their Common App essays, considering submitting each version to different schools. If you find yourself in this predicament, feel free to reach out. At AdmissionSight, with over a decade of experience, we can guide you. It’s crucial to address any indecision now, as the real world offers a broader array of choices than high school ever did.

Can You Have Multiple Common App Essays?

Fundamentally, the Common Application allows you to modify any part of the application without restrictions, with the sole exception of the personal essay. For instance, in the “Additional Information” section, you can make limitless edits to your writing.

Young woman typing in a table.

If a student wishes to tailor content for a specific school and then adjust it for others, they can conveniently do so, especially when handling additional information.

You could, theoretically, write varied content in the “Additional Information” section for each school’s application. While this is feasible, it’s not generally recommended.

The Personal Essay

When it comes to the personal essay, there are specific limitations. According to the administrators of the Common Application, students can only submit three distinct versions of their personal statement. The key term here is “submit.”

After submitting an essay draft to one school, you will only have two more opportunities to revise it for submission to other schools. Before this initial submission, you can edit the essay as much as you wish. However, once you click the “Submit” button for the first time, the count begins on the number of versions you can send via the Common Application.

What Exactly Constitutes a “Version”?

A new version of an essay is generated even if you alter just a single comma after its initial submission similarly, if you replace your entire essay with a different one, that also counts as a new version.

Writing in a note book in front of a laptop.

Any change, be it significant or trivial, creates a new version. If you anticipate wanting to modify the personal essay submitted with your Common Application, ensure that such edits are substantial. You wouldn’t want to be restricted from making further meaningful changes simply because you made minor, inconsequential alterations earlier. While the limitations set by the Common Application on the number of essay versions might seem inconvenient, it’s essential to recognize and work within these boundaries.

Can You Submit the Same Essay to Different Colleges?

Yes, you can. However, the system isn’t as flexible as one might hope. The Common Application allows unlimited edits to most parts of the application, except for the essays.

Typically, students must finalize and submit their changes for one college before making alterations for another application. They can then revise the activity section, add or subtract test scores, and make other adjustments. However, changes to the essay are more limited due to its significance.

Students are allowed to revise their essays a total of three times, with a maximum of two changes permitted per revision. This nuance is crucial but often overlooked. To edit an essay after it’s been submitted to a school, students will need to unlock their application.

Once an essay is submitted to a college, it can’t be immediately modified. However, you can unlock and edit it up to three times in total. Remember, your final draft will be forwarded to any subsequent colleges to which you apply.

Did You Make a Mistake in Your Common App Essay?

Did you notice an error in your Common App essay after submitting it? Don’t panic; you still have the option to edit. Once you’ve submitted the essay initially, the system allows for unlimited edits. To revise your personal statement, navigate to the Common App tab, choose the Writing section, and click within the text box to make changes. Always ensure you save any modifications by selecting “Continue.”

Typing an essay using a laptop.

However, it’s crucial to understand that after your Common Application essay or any part of your application has been submitted, subsequent edits won’t be reflected in the applications already sent. They will only be included in any future applications you send.

If you’re hoping to adjust an essay you’ve already forwarded to a school, it’s a good idea to contact that school’s admissions office to see if modifications are possible. But, consider this action only for significant errors. Editing minor mistakes post-submission can indicate a lack of thorough proofreading on your part.

Advice on Editing Your Common App Essay

Backup First

Before making changes, ensure you’ve saved your original version separately. You might decide it’s better than your edited version later on.

Address the Shortcomings

Reflect on any gaps or weaknesses in your original essay. Your revised edition should address these points.

Be Cautious with Edits

Remember, your initial draft had its merits. Avoid unnecessary revisions and focus only on major improvements.

Rethink Your Topic

If you feel the original topic wasn’t a true reflection of you, consider starting from scratch. Only do this if you’re wholly confident about the new direction.

Maintain Consistency

Your revised essay should seamlessly fit with the rest of your application and any supplemental information you’ve provided.

Avoid Repetition

Ensure your essay doesn’t replicate information you’ve shared in other sections, like school-specific supplements. It should showcase different aspects of who you are.

Review Before Resubmission

Before you resubmit, read through your essay multiple times. Reading it aloud can help you catch errors, and having someone else review it offers a fresh perspective.

In conclusion, while the Common Application does provide some flexibility, students must approach the essay submission process with caution and strategy. If considering multiple essays for different schools, it’s essential to understand the platform’s limitations and to ensure each version effectively communicates the student’s story. Ultimately, it’s about presenting oneself authentically and compellingly to each prospective institution.

Now, if you’re an upcoming college student and are searching for guidance in getting entry into one of the elite universities in the country, we’ve got you covered! At AdmissionSight, we have over 10 years of experience guiding students through the competitive admissions process.

AdmissionSight will assist you throughout the entirety of the college admissions process in order to increase your chances of gaining entry into your dream school.



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