What are your chances of acceptance?

Your chance of acceptance
Duke University
Duke University
Your chancing factors
Unweighted GPA: 3.7
SAT: 720 math
| 800 verbal


Low accuracy (4 of 18 factors)

Can You Use the Same Essay for Different College Applications?

What’s Covered:


It’s no secret that the college process is grueling. It requires that you put an extensive amount of work into every aspect of every application. It’s natural to want to find ways to save time and energy. This is an especially tempting prospect when it comes to your college essays. Consequently, many high schoolers wonder if they can reuse their essays for different colleges.


The short answer is “It depends.” The long answer is a bit more complex. Below are some of the different scenarios for reusing college essays and best practices for each.


Can You Reuse Your Common App or Coalition Application Essay? Yes!


It’s perfectly okay to use the same essay for both the Common App and Coalition Application. In fact, you can use the same essay for any application that requires a lengthy personal statement—like ApplyTexas—since the prompts are broad.


Given the number of colleges that now accept the Common App and Coalition Application, this will greatly expedite your application process and lessen the burden of the essay-writing process.


Can You Reuse Your Supplemental Essays? Maybe


There are some instances in which you can reuse supplemental essays for different schools, but you must do so carefully.


For example, you should not reuse a college-specific essay for things like the “Why This College?” prompt or related prompts. You also can’t reuse essays that you wrote in response to prompts about specific programs or majors. However, in both instances, it’s often possible to reuse parts of the essay, such as when you’re describing why you have a specific personal interest.


For example, take a look at this prompt from NYU:


We would like to know more about your interest in NYU. What motivated you to apply to NYU? Why have you applied or expressed interest in a particular campus, school, college, program, and or area of study? If you have applied to more than one, please also tell us why you are interested in these additional areas of study or campuses. We want to understand—Why NYU? (400 words)


Because this prompt is very specific to NYU and your interest in the school, you definitely can’t repurpose the essay for another application. However, you might be able to take aspects of the essay and reuse them, such as talking about specific contributions you hope to make to the community—after all, you probably want to make similar ones at other schools.


You’ll want to make sure you’re always framing these contributions as school-specifically as possible—mentioning particular clubs or opportunities at NYU. For example, if you’re interested in attending NYU’s Institute of Performing Arts, you may express an interest in joining their Hammerkatz sketch comedy group. If you were to reuse this section of the essay, you’d want to find the equivalent at the school you’re repurposing the essay for.


Keep in mind that if you can simply change the school name in a college-specific essay and it still works if you apply it to another school’s prompt, then your response isn’t specific enough. You will need to name opportunities specific to each school, and if you decide to repurpose parts of your essays, remember to change the corresponding details.


Another essay prompt you’ll likely encounter is the “Why This Major?” question, which asks why you’re choosing to pursue a particular discipline. Whether or not it’s included in the prompt, you do need to address why you’d like to study that program at that school. That means your essay, at least in part, needs to be specific to the school and can’t be reused for another.


Consider this prompt for Yale University:


Students at Yale have plenty of time to explore their academic interests before committing to one or more major fields of study. Many students either modify their original academic direction or change their minds entirely. As of this moment, what academic areas seem to fit your interests or goals most comfortably? Please indicate up to three from the list provided.


Tell us about a topic or idea that excites you and is related to one or more academic areas you selected above. Why are you drawn to it? (200 words or fewer)


Here, you’re being asked not only why you want to explore your intellectual and academic interests, but you’re also asked to tailor your answer specifically to Yale’s programming. This means you might be able to reuse some parts of the essay for another school, but some areas may be more challenging to repurpose or impossible to reuse altogether. For example, Yale’s Computer Science and Psychology program is relatively unique to the school.


On the other hand, some programs are essentially universal—like business, engineering, and communications, for example—and you may be able to reuse large portions of your essay. Just make sure to remove any mention of other colleges and their attributes and tweak your responses to be as specific as possible to the school you’re applying to.


One example of an essay you can reuse is one written in response to a prompt along the lines of “Describe one of your extracurriculars”, like this one from Harvard:


Briefly describe any of your extracurricular activities, employment experience, travel, or family responsibilities that have shaped who you are. (200 words)


Since this prompt asks you about your pursuits that aren’t tied to your interest in Harvard, it’s probably fine to reuse the essay if another college has a similar prompt. Just make sure you’re fully responding to the particular prompt, as even with these common prompts, sometimes schools like to add their own unique flair.


You should also pay attention to the word count, as you may have to expand or cut your essay when adapting it to another school’s prompt. If the second school has a very similar prompt but requires 250 words instead of 150, you should add more detail, as you don’t want to let 100 words go to waste—that’s almost half the word count!


An essay that’s too short will make it look like you don’t care about the school in question. Conversely, an essay that’s too long will get cut off in most application platforms, or it will make it look like you can’t follow instructions.


The Bottom Line on Reusing Essays


Time is precious in the college process, and you can certainly save yourself some by reusing your essays if you come across a similar prompt more than once. However, you should be careful not to do so at the expense of the essay’s specificity and quality.


Remember, your essay package at each school should present a comprehensive picture of who you are, without overlap from one essay to the next.


So, if you’re reusing an “Extracurricular” essay about golf, for example, and the school also has a question about your leadership skills, you don’t want to also write about what you’ve learned from being captain of your golf team. On the other hand, if you have another school on your list with a leadership prompt and no “Extracurricular” essay, you could definitely write about your golf captainship.


Ultimately, what matters most is that schools don’t feel like you’re two-timing them. So, make sure that each essay you write feels like its own singular piece of writing, and, if a school has multiple supplements, that each essay enhances, rather than repeats, the others.


Where to Get Feedback on Your College Essays


Maybe you’re recycling an essay and wondering if you’ve done enough to reflect the new prompt, or you’ve written a brand new one and can’t decide whether it’s working. Situations like these inspired us to create our free Peer Essay Review tool, where you can get a free review of your essay from another student. You can also improve your own writing skills by reviewing other students’ essays.


If you want a college admissions expert to review your essay, advisors on CollegeVine have helped students refine their writing and submit successful applications to top schools. Find the right advisor for you to improve your chances of getting into your dream school!

Short Bio
A graduate of Northeastern University with a degree in English, Tim Peck currently lives in Concord, New Hampshire, where he balances a freelance writing career with the needs of his two Australian Shepherds to play outside.