Can you use the same Common Application Essay when Reapplying?

So you applied to college before and did not get your desired results. With a fully completed application under your belt, you may ask yourself, how much of the application do you really need to complete all over again? Will an admissions office be able to tell if you are re-applying? 

Yes, most applications ask you to identify if you have applied for admission to the institution previously. If you have applied recently, the institution’s application system will likely automatically show the reader this information on its own. While readers will prioritize your new application, they will in most cases pull up your old application as well. 

Can you use the same Common Application Essay when Reapplying

Whether you enrolled in a college that offered you admission which was not your dream school or took a gap year while waiting for applications to reopen, you are looking to apply to college again. The first thing to know if that depending on if you took a gap year before reapplying or enrolled in college and began your undergraduate degree, your application format will be different. 

What if you are reapplying as a transfer? 

If you enrolled at an institution and have been a student over the course of the year while waiting for applications to open for the next academic year, you will be reapplying as a transfer student. Transfer applications differ not only in what they ask for but also in the platform. The Common Application for transfer, the Coalition Application, and homegrown applications made by individual universities are the three main ways you will be able to apply as a transfer student. This is important to note because it means you will need to make a new account when applying as a transfer. 

The second thing to keep in mind is that not all colleges require a personal statement or Common Application essay from transfer students. Some universities will instead ask for an essay that explains why you want to transfer institutions along with their supplemental essays. In this case, you will not have the option to use the same Common Application essay because the prompt will be entirely different. 

What if you are reapplying as first-year?

If you took a gap year and did not enroll in a college after applying to universities in your senior year of high school, you will still be considered a first-year applicant. As a first-year applicant, you will be using the same type of application as you did the year before. 

When completing an application that looks extremely similar, if not the same, as your previously submitted one it may be tempting to reuse your old application. This would be a grave mistake. When reapplying you should take advantage of the extra time for completion and reflection to improve every part of your application, from the activity list to the essays. Reusing your application essay from the previous year sends the following signals to the admissions office:

  1. You do not care enough about the institution to write a new essay.
  2. Your work ethic is questionable, you were not willing to take the time and effort to write a new essay.
  3. You did not grow and evolve over the course of the last year. The personal statement is a chance for you to show your character, passions, and experiences, reusing the same essay a year later implies that you haven’t had any important experiences in that time. 

Each of the signs that are sent an admissions reader when an applicant reuses an old essay is negative and hurts the application. Think about it this way, when you reapply to a college you are asking an admissions office to give you a second chance to prove you deserve a spot in their admitted class. Sending the same information is a waste of that chance. If the admissions office did not move forward with your application last year, why would they move the same application forward this year? 

If you are worried about writing a new essay for the same prompt, choose a different one! The great thing about the personal statement is that both the Common Application and the Coalition application allow students to choose from a list of prompts. 

What about your supplemental essays?

Supplemental essays are the unique prompts that each university requires in their application for admission. Rather than being broad personal essay prompts, these questions ask the applicant to identify how they connect with the institution specifically. Supplemental essay prompts may not change every academic year, so you may be answering the same prompts when you reapply. This is not a chance to copy and paste material from your last application. 

While you may still be drawn to the same major or clubs at the institution and it is okay to mention them, you should rewrite your supplemental essays as well. Make sure they are specific to the institution and what they offer. This is your chance to correct any weaknesses in your application.  

Reapplying to College: Next Steps

Now that you know not to reuse essays when reapplying to college and why, you’re on the path of successfully submitting applications for admission! For evaluation of your previous application by admissions professionals and guidance on how to strengthen your admissions chances contact us today!

Former Assistant Director of Admission at Rice University
Former Senior Admissions Fellow at Dartmouth College

4,000+ Applications Read and Evaluated

Alexis earned their B.A. in Anthropology at Dartmouth College and a M.A. in Social Anthropology at the University of London School of Oriental and African Studies, supported by a Dartmouth fellowship. At Dartmouth College, Alexis was a Senior Admissions Fellow, conducting outreach, writing blog posts, and evaluating applications.

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