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Sep 17 2016
by Ava Frazier

An Open Letter to the High School Senior Who Has No Idea What to Write Their Common App Essay About

By Ava Frazier - Sep 17 2016
Earlier this year you were probably thinking one of two things: 1) I can't wait to start my CommonApp essay (which was me last year, but that might be because I have an existential need to write about myself), or 2) this is going to be terrible.  

Now you're sitting at a table or couch somewhere out there, staring blankly at your computer screen. You're either thinking, I have nothing to write about, I haven't lived, I don't know where to start or all of the above. 

I get it. This essay is the key to the rest of your life. Colleges expect to know who you are, in 650 words or less. That doesn't even happen in meaningful conversation with a friend.  It's daunting and, perhaps, impossible. That's why I'm here, sitting in my college library, avoiding my math homework as if I'm still in high school, telling you something that's going to change the way you approach this essay.  

Don't even try.  

It's that simple. Don't even try to write this essay. It will only come out forced and skin deep. You can start journaling if you want to, but my advice to to go out and live your life. Don't go and try to do something that will be worth writing about. Be yourself and let life go on as usual. But every night before you go to sleep, reflect on your life. What was your greatest moment? What made you who you are today? If that isn't enough to get you started on your 650 word letter of impending doom, ask yourself: what question do you want to be asked? 

In my experience, the most important thing you could tell your college is the exact thing you are dying to tell, but can't seem to say out loud.  

My best friend is currently writing her college essay, and when she was stuck I asked her: what do you love more than anything else?

Every question I've asked throughout this letter feeds into my personal CommonApp essay. I wrote about what I want to tell everyone: my dream to change lives through writing. I wrote about the day that my entire life changed: the day I wrote my first song. I wrote about what makes me who I am: writing about my experiences and sharing it with the world. I wrote about unspoken truths: that a single song pulled me out of my darkest months. I wrote about what I love more than anything else, and how I wanted to use it to change the world.

This might not be your approach. Maybe you need to write about a traumatic adversity you overcame.  Maybe you need to write about a sibling, or a philopsphical belief of yours. The bottom line is that you need to write about the one thing that has affected you the most. The only way for your college admissions council to understand you in 650 words to write, with passion, about the single biggest component of your life, no matter how daunting, personal or overexposed it may feel.  

I promise you that if you write with my words in mind, you will find the college you are meant to spend the next four years of your life at, because they will see and want you for exactly who you are.  Past and future combined.


P.S. imagery and details are extremely helpful and you should use a lot of both 

Lead Image Credit: Tim Gouw via

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Ava Frazier - Belmont University

Ava Frazier is a freshman at Belmont University. She is a singer/songwriter born and raised in Las Vegas, Nevada who listens to everything from country music to Disney pop. Lifehouse, doughnuts, and sunsets are the way to her heart. You can keep up with her on Twitter and Instagram at @avafray.

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