One of the questions we are asked most often by applicants to college and graduate programs is this: “I’m applying to six different schools, and each one requires 2-7 essays/personal statements. That’s so much writing! Can I reuse the same essay for different schools? How can I keep up the quality and not burn out while writing so many personal statements?”
We understand. We even sympathize. Best of all, we have practical solutions about whether you can reuse some of your essays for different schools.
First, if more than one school is asking a nearly identical question, it’s logical to use some or perhaps even most of it. However, the essay lengths may be different, and the wording will vary to some extent. Read each question out loud, so you actually hear exactly what they are asking. Many times, an essay prompt has more than one question within it. You don’t want to overlook any of their questions within the main question.
Additionally, we have this advice:
- Make sure each essay has a distinctive theme
You can do this by developing different aspects even from a single experience. For example, if you plan to write about your first summer as a camp counselor at a sleepaway camp, in one essay you could describe how you worked to build a relationship with a lonely camper and help him or her develop more confidence and participate in more activities. During the same summer, you might also have been in charge of the drama group. This could offer the substance for a very different essay about teaching and organizing a group of highly energized, sometimes rowdy young teens.
Don’t waste an opportunity to write about multiple aspects of the same experience that opened different doors to personal growth. You’ll be stretching your available material to cover more bases.
- Chart your list of essays and the qualities you associate with them
With multiple essays/personal statements to manage, consider using a spreadsheet to list each question, the school asking it, and which experiences, accomplishments, and skills you can associate with those questions. This will help you avoid using the same experience, accomplishment, or skill for more than one question at a given school.
- Portray your multidimensional self
Make a list of what you feel are your ten most positive qualities. Your list might include things such as: intellectually curious, eager for new experiences, sense of humor, strong DIY skills, and leadership. That was fun! Now, make a much shorter list (two or three at the most) of what you would consider your weakest traits. These might include: procrastination, too much binge-watching, and impatience.
As you draft your essays, keep these different layers and textures of your personality in mind. (Sometimes, schools will ask you to identify a weakness and how you have worked to overcome it, so awareness of weaknesses doesn’t necessarily weaken your application!) Having this list front and center will spark additional insights and angles for your essays. In the process, you will reward the adcoms with a rich, multidimensional portrait of you as a human being.
- Name dropping? Better double check the names!
Check CAREFULLY (and then check again) to make sure that you don’t forget to change a reference of “Michigan” to “Chicago” when you adapt or reuse your application essay. Sending a “Why I want to go to UPenn” essay to the Yale adcom, or sending a “Why I want to go to Columbia” to NYU doesn’t bode well for you!
- No matter how similar the essay questions are, never simply cut and paste an entire essay to another.
As we noted above, no two questions will ever be exactly alike. As you write or edit from a different essay, keep the image of the school you are writing for in mind. Try to individualize each essay as much as possible. And by all means reread the essay prompts when you feel you are nearly done, to ensure you really did answer every one of their questions within the prompt.
Do you need help writing (or recycling) your application essays? Could you benefit from an expert helping you identify the strongest elements of your experience and profile? We can help! Check out our Admissions Consulting Services and work one-on-one with an expert advisor who will help you get ACCEPTED!For 25 years, Accepted has helped applicants gain acceptance to top undergraduate and graduate programs. Our expert team of admissions consultants features former admissions directors, PhDs, and professional writers who have advised clients to acceptance at top programs worldwide including Harvard, Stanford, Yale, Princeton, Penn, Columbia, Oxford, Cambridge, INSEAD, MIT, Caltech, UC Berkeley, and Northwestern. Want an admissions expert to help you get Accepted? Click here to get in touch!