Recycling logo cut out in white paper on a gray background

Reuse or Recycle: How to Manage College Essay Material

The key to the college admission process is being as efficient as possible. Here's how to be smart about organizing and reusing essay materials for multiple schools.

The college application process can be an overwhelming experience: you have to draft numerous versions of your personal statements and supplemental essays, refine the content of your activities list, and research various schools while also working on rigorous class assignments, tests, and final projects. And don’t forget the demands of your extracurricular activities and other commitments with family and friends. As Early Action and Early Decision application deadlines draw near, you’ll likely feel exhausted and stressed. 

Navigating the admission process is like managing a major project—there are many moving parts that require a great deal of attention. The Common Application exists in part because universities recognize the value of streamlining this process. Effective project management could be a stress reliever for any applicant, and you can start by streamlining your college essays. You may have several more applications to prepare, but you can be confident in your ability to pull through the remainder of the application process by reusing certain essay material efficiently. Here’s how! 

Adapting essay material

It makes sense for your Common App personal statement to remain the same for every school receiving a copy of your application. Customizing a personal statement for each school would defeat the practical purpose of the Common App. On the other hand, would it be beneficial or advisable to recycle your supplemental essays? You should develop your own system for structuring each essay that grants you the flexibility of customizing for each school receiving your application. There are two major categories of essay material:

  • Biographical
  • School specific

Biographical material offers experiences and reflections that are unique to an applicants character, while school-specific material addresses unique characteristics of a college that connect with the applicants values and interests. You may notice your early application essays already have quality blocks of biographical content that you can fluidly adapt for future essays. 

Carefully review each essay prompt for any school you’re applying to and determine if any essays require school-specific content. It could be that the same essay can be adapted to address the questions or prompts for various schools; however, you can improve the quality and impact of each essay by incorporating material that’s unique to each school. Streamline this process by creating a structure for your essays that allows you to predictably manage your school-specific content. For example, connect with each schools unique traditions, programs, campus culture, surrounding neighborhoods, etc. You could potentially save precious time and mental energy by applying a consistent structure to your essays. 

Related: Video: College Essay Q&A With Expert Kim Lifton

Proofread your work

Application reviewers are experienced and pick up on many nuances. It’s imperative to do your research on each school. Be sure to reference the appropriate schools programs, institutes, offerings, traditions, etc.If you wish to use similar essays for multiple schools, be sure to proofread them carefully prior to final submission. It’s in your best interest to not accidentally include the name of the wrong school in any of your essays. This advice might seem intuitive, but it’s easy to overlook these small details when you’re rushing to meet application deadlines. Although it’s not necessarily a disqualifying error, including the name of the wrong school in an essay certainly doesn’t give a good impression or make the admission process easier for you. Admission committees understand that we’re all human and are likely to make mistakes; nevertheless, they appreciate the courtesy and respect of applicants who follow instructions and proofread their work carefully.

Trust your approach

The college admission process can challenge a students stamina and spirit. Many hopeful students pour their souls into their applications, particularly the essays. As with many long-term projects, the earlier you tackle the most demanding tasks, the more manageable the process will become later in the timeline. One way to set yourself up for success is by indexing your essay material in a way that allows you to search and identify content in an efficient manner. This approach to managing essay material doesn’t suggest reusing or recycling entire essays verbatim. Stay true to your authenticity while remaining practical. 

Related: College Application Essays: Our Best Advice

Colleges and universities expect the most competitive candidates to be exceptional in their ability to manage time, prioritize commitments, and leverage resources. The college application process is a major test of a candidate's management skills. By remaining earnest and organized, you can be confident in your approach to the process. 

Check out the articles in our College Admission section for more expert advice on college essays.

Like what you’re reading?

Join the CollegeXpress community! Create a free account and we’ll notify you about new articles, scholarship deadlines, and more.

Join Now

admission essays application essays college admission college applications college essays personal statements

About José Iván Román

José Iván Román is a College Admission Consultant at Solomon Admissions. He previously served as an academic advisor at Northeastern University for six years, where he advised students in the University Honors Program, the College of Health Sciences, and the College of Engineering. As Assistant Director of the Northeastern University Honors Program, José Iván contributed to developing and overseeing programs for high-achieving students, including research opportunities, co-op and extracurricular programming, and scholarships.


Join our community of
over 5 million students!

CollegeXpress has everything you need to simplify your college search, get connected to schools, and find your perfect fit.

Join CollegeXpress
Priscilla Yeboah

Priscilla Yeboah

High School Student

I was afraid and timid throughout my search for colleges, but I finally found the college that was fit for me and luckily I got accepted. One of the most influential things that helped me was the articles and advice on CollegeXpress. They've helped me a lot and benefited me as a senior to make the right choices in life. Thank you!

Rana Slosberg

Rana Slosberg

Slosberg College Solutions LLC

My favorite part of CollegeXpress is the 800+ lists which have all kinds of hard-to-find information. These lists are helpful when I’m creating college lists, and I also use them to give students a feel for a particular college or university.

Abhishek Kumar

Abhishek Kumar

High School Class of 2022

As a high schooler, I know how hard it is to plan for college. You have to consider a lot of factors: SAT/ACT scores, college searches, scholarships, and more. CollegeXpress has been a helpful resource that solves all these problems. One can easily create a free account and search away. They help you search for scholarships and colleges, they have graduate program search, they have lists and rankings, and so much more. CX also has a lot of articles and advice to read—whether it’s financial aid, test prep, campus visits, internships/careers, or anything. Not only that, CX gives out free scholarship money to students who sign up and create a free CX account. I love CX and will continue to use it! Thank you CollegeXpress for making my college journey easier!

Lu Diehl

Lu Diehl

High School Class of 2022

I never would have found the college I plan on attending without CollegeXpress! I've always been a person of ambition and have been dreaming of studying and working on my passion for law, legal studies, and political science. Washington College is where I plan on pursuing my career. My journey with my education has been difficult, and oftentimes, I was told I would never amount to much, but now I'm dual enrolled at Caroll Community College and have had experience in the fields I am dedicated to. Without the help of CollegeXpress (even in its early days), I would never have found Washington College and the information I need to apply and become a part of their community.

Lorena Bacallao

Lorena Bacallao

High School Class of 2022

CollegeXpress was the foundation of my college search process. Because of CollegeXpress, I was able to make a more informed and confident decision as to where it was best to pursue my higher education. I have recommended this website to fellow peers and for first-generation students like me. It’s a website I will continue to promote because of how simple it was to use and how many opportunities were offered to me at my fingertips!

College Matches