Common Application essay

I’m an international student living in India and will be applying to universities in both the UK and the US. The UCAS application requires a personal statement, which I’ve already written. Is it okay if I use that personal statement for my main Common Application essay?

—It’s Raining Essays in Mumbai

My best guess is you’ll more than likely have to write another essay. There are significant enough differences between the Common App and UCAS applications that make cross essay submissions problematic.

The purpose of the UCAS application is to convince a UK university you’re prepared to tackle a particular course of study, which will end up being your chief academic focus. And so the UCAS personal statement serves to convince a university that your academic and intellectual bent, history, and goals are aligned with your prospective course—it’s more akin to a US graduate school’s statement of purpose than a US undergraduate personal statement. And because UCAS doesn’t have an additional activities list that accompanies its personal statement, you can take a little more liberty describing your extracurricular activities, as they relate to your prospective course of study, into your UCAS essay.

Students in the US often don’t pick a major until the second year of college and usually need to take core requirements outside their discipline. As a result, US schools don’t expect you to write about your intended major within the Common Application essay. And because the Common Application essay is accompanied by a detailed activities list, you’re also not expected to describe any of your activities within the essay either.

Stylistically speaking, UCAS and Common App essays are dissimilar. There are some schools in the US, however, that might require a “Why this college?” essay. You can probably incorporate some elements of your UCAS essay here, particularly for those schools that ask students to tie their experiences and goals to a university’s offerings—think a student’s intended major.

The UCAS personal statement really has no corresponding one-to-one Common App equivalent. It’s almost a combination of a personal statement, “Why this college?” essay, and activities list all in one. Because its US counterpart is divvied up into three distinct entities, I’ve never seen a student successfully able to use it on this side of the pond.


Written by Zaragoza Guerra
Zaragoza Guerra is a member of College Coach’s team of college admissions consultants. Zaragoza previously worked as a senior admissions officer at MIT, Caltech, and The Boston Conservatory. Visit our website to learn more about Zaragoza Guerra.