How The Common Application Is Just Like Fast and the Furious

Fast and the Furious

What’s your favorite movie? Don’t overthink it—just the first thing that comes to your mind.

Did you say something predictable, but totally respectable, like…The Godfather?

A fine choice, for sure. Critically acclaimed, standing the test of time, not embarrassing to admit in front of anyone….

New question: what’s your guilty pleasure movie? The one you can watch over and over because it’s hilarious, maybe a little edgy or goofy, but brilliant and undervalued. (Mine is Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift. I don’t care what anyone says; it was the strongest of the franchise).

What the Common App has to do with Tokyo Drift…

Alright guys, here’s what this has to do with college essays: when you write your Common App, write your guilty pleasure movie essay, not your ‘favorite’ movie essay.

The crucial difference between the “favorite movie” and “guilty pleasure” labels is that the former is really all about how you want to be perceived by others—the only reason ‘guilty pleasure’ exists is because we’re all too gosh-darn nervous to say what we really like to watch, if we could pick ANYTHING we wanted. So we all walk around pretending The Godfather isn’t just a tiny bit boring; it’s just such a great film.

The only way you can maximize your Common App to its full capability is to scrap those urges to pick a topic or style that evokes The Godfather, when maybe you’re more of a Caddyshack kind of guy. Any aspiring filmmaker or screenwriter hears the advice: Make the movie you’ve always wanted to see. And since the Common App prompts are so broad, you have infinite choice in how you want your essay to come across.

Granted–maybe we haven’t all had the unique opportunity to pilot a freighter ship in deep space while the crew is slowly picked off by a terrifying extraterrestrial, or to shepherd an all-powerful ring to Mordor, or to be a boxer pushing 30, suddenly given the life-defining chance to face off against the world’s boxing champ, spinning off 7 sequels to make one of the most inspiring and entertaining franchises the world has ever seen….

And that’s okay, because:

You can make ANY story compelling, so long as you care about it

Say you want to talk about… football.

You know how many other people play football? Yeah, a lot, I know. All the better, in fact, because then you can show off your unique take on this topic, and make us think about football in a way we’ve never thought to.

Like any movie, we gotta settle on a few key elements:


Is it a nail-biter?
(3rd down, the linebackers were closing in on me, and I was 3 yards away….)

A journey of personal growth?
(I had to sweat for hours after practice to get off the bench, but refused to stop until I made it to starting quarterback…)

(And I caught the final pass—touchdown!!)


“I’m the best player on the team. However, I started as the worst.”

“Can you get an award for ‘most fumbled passes’?”

“The NFL’s transition from 501c3 nonprofit to trade association in 2015 will start a ripple effect such that professional sports has never seen before…”

So whatever is near n’ dear to your heart, whether it’s rescuing animals, ballet, Big Data, or root beer floats, don’t be afraid to proudly present that in your Common App—so long as you show you care, you’re more likely to get yourself an Oscar nod from our favorite Committee.

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Looking for more help with the Common App? Here are a few more resources from around our site!

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