Can I Change My 650 Word Common Application Essay After Submitting It?

Updated: November 2020 from the original posted in July 2018

The short answer is yes…with an *.  [See Below]

But, like any life-impacting decision, the short answer doesn’t account for the complexities of choosing a college.  And, the last three words are what’s most important to keep in mind:  YOU, the applicant, are the one who’s doing the choosing of the college.  However, most college applicants overlook their own agency and responsibility, instead believe the college is choosing them

Then, endeavoring for the “best” chances to be admitted, students believe they should form the stories they’re telling in their essays to what the college admissions officers “want to hear”, which is an extension of a learned mindset in the academic meritocracy. Students are taught to write according to a grading rubric and the teachers’ expectations, seeking to earn the highest grades so they can compete for admissions to a college of their choice.

Yet, in college admissions, chasing an acceptance rather than matching the university with their aptitude and life’s purpose, students can make strategic missteps, including malinvesting in a college.

First possible misstep: applicants forgo the opportunity to know more about themselves.  Inherent to the college essay writing process is self-reflection through which students gain confidence in their ability and their purpose in the world.  Knowing their aptitude, then students can define their personal vision to use as a “roadmap” to make more effective choices during college

Furthermore, students can choose a college where they will most likely strengthen confidence in their aptitude, building greater potential for economic prosperity, especially in times of economic distress. Passion is the radiance of aptitude which can easily be recognized by employers who seek to hire the most apt person for the job.

Second possible misstep: During the fall, when college applications are due, seniors are already living through a complicated, inherently stressful transition period in their young lives. Yet, they must also navigate through their everyday circumstances—homework, holiday obligations (which will be even more complex given the current COVID-induced health emergency), family, extracurricular commitments, friends and in 2020, the challenges of “attending” digital high school—in order to essentially craft their autobiographical Magnum Opus

If that same senior writes several versions of a 650 word Common Application essay, essentially attempting to write multiple masterpieces in just three-ish months, they might just be creating a recipe for stress.

Third possible misstep: if an applicant is accepted or denied with a “tailored” essay, how will the student know if they’ve been accepted for or denied based on their own merits?  The “what-ifs” can become a nagging doubt, long after the admissions decision is rendered, undermining any lasting confidence in their place in the world.

One senior shared that she would rather be denied admissions on who she really is than still be denied admissions while trying to be someone who she wasn’t.  At least then, even in her disappointment, she would know that it was just not meant to be.

Editing and re-editing and re-editing again the 650 word essay can be one of those “just because you can, doesn’t mean you should” kind of situations. Be discriminating

And, why not?  It’s your life which is affected—both in the short term with the stress of crafting multiple essays, and in the long term, the potential opportunity costs of not being true to yourself.

*Once the 650 Word Common Application essay is submitted to a college, the essay can not be altered for that particular college’s application.  However, for subsequent applications waiting to be submitted, students can change and edit the 650 Word Common Application statement.

To learn more about Creative Marbles Consultancy’s collaborative college admissions essay editorial advising, visit us at

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About Jill Yoshikawa, Ed M, Partner of Creative Marbles Consultancy

Jill Yoshikawa, EdM, Harvard ’99, a seasoned, 25 year educator and consultant, is meticulous in helping clients navigate all aspects of the educational experience, no matter the level of complexity. She combines educational theory with experience to advise families, schools and educators. A UCSD and Harvard graduate, as well as a former high school teacher, Jill works tirelessly to help her clients succeed.
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