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What to do when the CommonApp Essay is "optional"


As I was finalizing my UPitt application, I realized that the main personal statement was listed as "optional". However, UPitt has 4 other 'supplemental' essay prompts, one prompt in which I could just copy and paste my main commonapp essay into. I was curious as to if I should submit my CommonApp essay normally, or just not submit it under the "optional" policy, and then submit it as the supplemental. The essay is quite strong, so I want it to matter in my application. Which option (submit via personal statement or supplemental) should I choose?


2 answers

answered on
Accepted answer

So this is largely a personal belief but I read optional as strongly encouraged. Only exception is test optional. For essays unless you are not confident in your writing ability I’d always recommend you submit an optional essay.

I am of the opinion that copy and pasting is not a good idea. It should be orginal.

If you had to pick one (supplemental or personal statement) think about how many schools you are applying to and then look up if they want essays or not. Using it as personal statement means you don’t have to write another essay for a school that requires it while if they don’t care about personal statement but have supplemental I’d use it as supplemental.

Hope this helps and please comment if you need clarification as I’d be happy to help clarify!

Pitt states on their website: that they have their own short answer questions. They do not want the common app essay as they have their own questions for that. Pitt uses the common app to reach a wider audience, but has their own application without a personal statement.
I agree with you Adri but Jdog asks if he should use it for x or y not both.
answered on[edited]

In this case, it would be all right to skip the optional Common App essay and use it as a Pitt supplement. In the past, they've stated: "In lieu of an essay or personal statement, we ask interested applicants to answer Short Answer Questions." While "optional" generally means "strongly recommended" for essays, it's a little different here.

Just one thing: Pitt's short answer questions are supposed to be 200-300 words, so if you can copy & paste your Common App essay, you might want to flesh it out a little more for other schools, as you have up to 650 words for that. Also remember to complete 2 of the 4 short answer questions for Pitt, not just one.

Hope this helps, and best of luck!

They have a 750 word limit but say that strong resposes are between 200 and 300 words. There's also another essay prompt for the Honors College.
Yup! If they have a recommended word count, it's best to follow that though, even if they allow more.