Common college application essay prompts examples

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Contact Common Application Essay Prompts: A Guide Looking for help with the Common Application Essay? Stacey Brook, Founder and Chief Advisor Hello, students and parents of the future class of ! The time has come. All of these changes are good news for applicants, who are freer than ever to explore essay topics of all tones, styles, and subjects, and who now have a few extra cues at their fingertips to help ignite their creativity.

These personal stories and feats of insight will again be relegated to words, which equates to a little more than a single-spaced page. Because we are committed to getting you the most timely and comprehensive essay advice on the interweb, we have made a guide to help you navigate the ins and outs of all seven prompts. Before you dive or cannonball! In fact, in our instructional video series and private advising, we encourage applicants to root around for their most meaningful stories first and consider the prompts later.

This is a process we call the Backwards Brainstorm, and you can learn more about it here. For now, the main point we want you to take away is this: What matters is the story you want to tell. And that you floss at least every other day—trust us, it will pay off in the long run. We are as sure as ever that every single one of you has a valuable story or two or twelve! All it takes is ample time for reflection and a little writerly elbow grease to find it. So take a peek at what the application has in store for you, absorb what these prompts are really asking, and then forget about them really!

Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story. What about your history, personality, hobbies, or accomplishments might be worth highlighting for an admissions officer? It can be something as small as seeing an episode of a television show are you living life in the Upside Down? Some questions to ask yourself as you brainstorm: What about my history or background sets me apart from my peers?

How do I define myself? How do the people who are closest to me define me? What have I achieved that has been integral in molding my character and ambitions? What, in my seventeen years on this earth, has helped shape the person I am today? And some examples to consider: Does your crazy, dyed-blue hair define you? Did going to a Picasso exhibit inspire you to start an art collection that has since expanded beyond the borders of your bedroom?

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Or of being raised by your siblings? Or of being part of a family made up of stepsisters and stepbrothers?

Common college application essay prompts examples

The lessons we take from obstacles we encounter can be fundamental common college application essay prompts examples later success. Recount a time when you faced a challenge, setback, or failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience? The obstacles you choose to explore can vary widely in nature, especially with the recent additions that allow students to explore challenges and setbacks in addition to failures. They can be as serious as being tormented by bullies, as ingrained as the financial issues that have plagued your family for years, or as seemingly pedestrian as a mistake that costs you a tip while waiting tables.

Still, if you can isolate an incident of trial in your life and how you learned from it, this can be a rewarding prompt to explore. Some key questions to consider: How do you deal with hardship? What qualifies as a challenge or setback in your life and world? Are you the kind of person who can rebound—who turns every experience, good or bad, into one from which you can learn something?

What experiences might illustrate this quality? And a few examples to think about: Has a lifelong battle with stuttering ultimately increased your overall confidence and allowed you to participate in social activities and public forums without self-judgment? Did a series of setbacks on your road to becoming a child actor introduce you to screenwriting, your professional goal and biggest passion? Did your failure to follow directions lead you to a botched home science experiment root beer explosion! Overall, try to keep these stories as positive as possible.

Reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea. What prompted your thinking? What was the outcome? This prompt requires a student to speak passionately about beliefs and ideology, which are often onerous subjects that can be difficult to mold into compact stories. It can be one of the hardest questions to steer in a positive, productive direction without traveling into preachy, overly didactic territory. This is also a more precarious prompt than most in that students need to carefully assess the risks of espousing beliefs that might be polarizing for the readers of their applications.

Applicants who can articulate their thoughts and feelings while showcasing malleability and willingness to thoughtfully consider the ideas of others will likely stand out as valuable additions to any campus. If this prompt jumps out at you because you have a very specific story to tell or opinion to voice, run with it!

Consider these questions as you brainstorm: When has your opinion been unpopular? Why are you the kind of person who is willing to stand up for what you believe in? What is important to you on a fundamental level of morals and values? How passionate are you about the things you believe in?

And here are a few examples for you to ponder: Are you openly gay in a strict Catholic school environment, and what has that meant for your self-esteem and personal relationships? Did you work as an intern on a political campaign caught at the center of a scandal? How did you react? Did you challenge the idea of horror as a throwaway genre by executing an extensive research paper on the subject, launching a horror movie club at school, and arranging the most elaborate, best-received haunted house your neighborhood has ever seen?

Your essay does not have to be focused around a fundamentally serious or groundbreaking issue see the horror genre example above. What matters most when responding to this prompt is that you have strong convictions about the belief or idea you are trying to convey, and that you examine the personal effects of this ethos on your life and world.

For this reason, Prompt 3 can be a great vehicle for showcasing your consideration, persuasive skills, and passions to admissions. It can be an intellectual challenge, a research query, an ethical dilemma-anything that is of personal importance, no matter the scale. Explain its significance to you and what steps you took or could be taken to identify a solution. Students should think about everything from more traditional obstacles they have had to overcome to the small predicaments that have inspired them to think about what they really value.

Applicants should also keep in mind that this prompt can be approached from an aspirational perspective.

While this prompt may seem to have a lot of moving parts, it also opens the door for some incredibly imaginative approaches to the personal essay. During the school year, I try to squeeze in as much lab time as I can. We've written a guide for each test about the top 5 strategies you must be using to have a shot at improving your score. Initially, my big-brother role was mostly that of helpful assistant, who dutifully gave her a bottle or held her. So avoid the pitfall of writing about what you think will impress the admission office versus what truly matters to you. These are some of the questions to which this prompt seeks answers and insight. Ten hours a week is about all I can manage, but I appreciate the quality of the time I can spend working with my colleagues. Angular people lopsidedly focused on a particular subject, speaking with fluency in that one subject.

Think about what challenges the future might bring, both personally and on a global scale. How might you be part of meaningful progress and problem-solving moving forward? Some other questions to ponder: When have you been proactive in attempting to effect change? What inspires you to action? What kind of mark would you like to leave on the world? How do you think you can positively contribute to a cause that is important to you? If you had the power to make a lasting impact in any area at all, what would it be? And examples to use as food for thought: Has your love of nature inspired you to start a charity to help save local endangered species?

Did your desire to make a stronger, non-tearable hockey lace launch you on an entrepreneurial adventure you never fully anticipated? Has your commitment to pursuing medical research inspired you to contact your favorite professors and researchers looking for summer lab positions, and to read every scientific paper you can get your hands on? It is important that the problem you choose is linked to your life and world in a meaningful way.

The whole purpose of this essay-writing exercise is to reveal something valuable about yourself to admissions, so be sure to link the problem you highlight to your passions, actions, or aspirations. Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others. Thank you very much. There are a few things to note when unpacking this prompt. A formal event or accomplishment might include anything from obvious landmarks like birthdays or weddings, to achievements like earning an award or receiving a promotion.

More informal examples might include something as simple as meeting a special person in common college application essay prompts examples life, taking a car ride, or eating a particularly meaningful meal. We have often found that smaller, less formal events make for more surprising and memorable essays, but as with any of the other prompts, as long as you can answer with originality and put a unique twist on your subject matter, all ideas, formal or informal, big or small, are fair game.

Some other things to consider: How do you react to periods of transition? What click here a change in your perspective? What were the moments in life that fundamentally changed you as a person?

When did you learn something that made you feel more adult, more capable, more grown up? Did your expansion of a handmade stationery hobby into a full-fledged business give you the motivation and wherewithal to combat the effects of a debilitating illness? Have you learned to love the football team playback sessions that force you to routinely examine your mistakes but also to welcome constructive criticism and point yourself toward self-improvement?

Did a summer-long role as the U. President in a mock government and diplomacy exercise bring out leadership skills you never knew you had? How did this change the way you interact and connect with others? The most important thing to keep in mind when searching for these moments is the element of growth, understanding, and transformation.

The event, accomplishment, or realization you discuss should be something that helped you understand the world around you through a different, more mature lens. And, as with Prompt 4, be sure to answer all parts of the question. Describe a topic, idea, or concept you find so engaging that it makes you lose all track of time. Why does it captivate you? What or who do you turn to when you want to learn more? College, one could argue, is largely about the pursuit of knowledge, so you can imagine it would be quite appealing for an admissions officer to have a meter for your level of self-motivated learning, along with a better understanding of how and why you choose to pay attention to the things that intrigue you.

This is a full-on peek into your brain: How resourceful are you when your curiosity is piqued to the fullest? The answer to this prompt should also reveal something to admissions about the breadth or depth of your interests. How consumed are you by this passion you are choosing to pursue academically?

What floats your boat? Do you have an appetite for knowledge about something specific? What do you love, and why do you love it? What lengths have you gone to in order to acquire new information about or experiences related to a topic of interest? How do you typically seek to enrich your knowledge when something appeals to you?

Do you have a favorite corner or the library or internet? A mentor who is open to answering your burning questions? What about the process of learning, especially about subjects that call out to you, is satisfying? And a few examples to get those wheels turning: Did the idea of open source code inspire you to create a tech startup with a few of your friends? What projects do you work on, and why is the idea of sharing information still so revolutionary? Did getting an internship at an accounting firm inspire you to start each day by checking the markets?

Do you participate in a mock trading club that allows you to use the expertise you gather from culling through economic news and analysis online and beyond? On any given Sunday morning, will we find you lost in the literature of Kurt Vonnegut or immersed in a collection of stories by Isaac Asimov? Have you taught yourself to master the compositions of Mozart and Beethoven and break down the songs of Bruno Mars by ear in your spare time? We know someone who did this—really.

Let your freak flag fly within reason, obvs. This prompt is about the pursuit of knowledge and your desire to proactively challenge yourself. Whether you are devouring the classics on your Kindle or nerding out over the perfect cheese for calzone-making, your attachment to a subject may inspire admissions to want to learn more about it…and you.

Vulcan collfge his forge. We are as sure as ever that every single one of you has a valuable story or two or twelve! To learn more about you, some admissions committees will ask you to write about your background and major influences. Pick your topic accordingly. This essay is designed to get at the heart of how you think and what makes you tick. Whatever topic you land on, the essentials of a standout college essay still stand:

Share an essay on any topic of your choice. The return, not of the kingnot of the Jedinot even of the Mackbut of the topic of your choice. Feared by some, coveted by others, and legendary in its existence, regardless of where you stand on the issue, this is a newsworthy edition to the Common App prompt choices. For years, students have been treating Prompt 1 which asks about your background, etc. Regardless of the reason, applicants around the world likely let out a big exhale when they saw they could serve up a big scoop of Prompt 7 to admissions this year.

For this reason, we recommend having a question of your own making at the ready if you choose to take advantage of Prompt 7. What are the stories that come up over and over again, at the dinner table or in the cafeteria with your friends, that might give admissions some insight into who you are and what is important to you?

  • What qualifies as a challenge or setback in your life and world?
  • Stacey Brook, Founder and Chief Advisor Hello parents and students!
  • How do you think you can positively contribute to a cause that is important to you?

If you had ten minutes alone in a room with an admissions officer, what would you want to talk about or tell him or her about yourself? What would you bring to a college campus that no one else would or could? And a few examples of potential subjects and their related custom!

Were you born with a congenital eye defect that literally and metaphorically affects how you see the world? How is your perspective on the world unique? Do you spend 40 minutes each Friday night tutoring a class of elementary school students in Cambodia? How has that impacted the way you mete out your time and assess your commitments? What is the value of 40 minutes? Did your parents let your older brother choose your name?

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What was his inspiration? Please tell us your name is Gaston. What does your name represent for you? How has it impacted your interactions in the world? If that is the case, fear not! Use some of the other prompts as starting points for your brainstorming and freewriting journeys. Begin keeping a diary now! Now that you have read our handy-dandy prompt guide and understand what admissions is looking for from these prompts, you could very well have a notebook filled with ideas that are ripe for expansion by the time you sit down to write. Trying to back into a more specific prompt option may inspire an interesting spin on the story you are trying to tell—one you may not have thought of otherwise.

If, after careful consideration, your magic essay topic does not work within the confines of Promptsyou are in luck. The glorious, all-encompassing Prompt 7 will be here to catch you. Remember, admissions wants a glimpse of your personality, your values, your interests and your passions. They want to get an idea of what kind of attitude and energy you will bring to the classroom and campus life.

So take a few minutes to probe your memories, collect your stories and strike up that creative core. Every student has a fabulous essay inside of them — these prompts can help you find yours. Contact us for information on rates and more!

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4 Comments
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