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What No One Will Tell You About the New Common App Essay Prompts

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Basic Info on the Common App Essay

What Excellent College Essays Have in Common
Tackling the Common App Essay Prompts
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Otherwise, you risk seeming self-indulgent. In general, I would recommend shooting for an essay between and words long. Editing is an important part of the essay writing process. Moreover, colleges interpret the questions generously — they're more concerned with learning something interesting about you than with whether your topic fits the question perfectly. Treat these breakdowns as jumping off points to help you start brainstorming , not the final word in how you need to approach the essay.

The Common App change to the prompts fairly frequently, so make sure you're familiar with the most up-to-date versions of the Common App essay questions. Want to write the perfect college application essay?

Get professional help from PrepScholar. Your dedicated PrepScholar Admissions counselor will craft your perfect college essay, from the ground up. We'll learn your background and interests, brainstorm essay topics, and walk you through the essay drafting process, step-by-step. At the end, you'll have a unique essay that you'll proudly submit to your top choice colleges. Don't leave your college application to chance. Find out more about PrepScholar Admissions now: As you're brainstorming and preparing to write your essay, you'll want to keep these tips in mind.

You'll have to search for the best topic, just like this bird is searching for food. The point of a personal statement is to, well, make a personal statement , that is to say, tell the reader something about yourself. As such, your topic needs to be something meaningful to you. What does it mean for a topic to be "meaningful to you"? First, it means that you genuinely care about the topic and want to write your college essay on it — no one ever wrote a great essay on a topic that they felt they had to write about.

Second, it means that the topic shows off a quality or trait you want to highlight for the admissions committee. For example, say I wanted to write about my summer job with the Parks Department. Remember that the most important thing is that your essay is about you. Give yourself plenty of time to brainstorm and write, so you don't feel rushed into jotting something down about the first thing you can come up with and sending it right off.

If you just dash something off thoughtlessly, admissions officers will recognize that and consider it evidence that you aren't really interested in their school.

Try to write about a topic you haven't talked about elsewhere, or take a different angle on it. A college essay is not a resume — it's the best opportunity to show off your unique personality to admissions committees. Pick your topic accordingly. The best topics are usually the narrowest ones: The more specific you can get, the more unique your topic will be to you. Lots of people have tried out for a school play, for example, but each had their own particular experience of doing so.

Take a look at this example sentence. I was nervous as I waited for my turn to audition. As I waited for my name to be called, I tapped the rhythm of "America" on the hard plastic chair, going through the beats of my audition song over and over in my head.

The more specific your essay topic is, the more clearly your unique voice will come through and the more engaging your essay will be. Now that we've established the basic ideas you need to keep in mind as you brainstorm, let's go through the Common App essay questions one at a time and break down what admissions committees are looking for in responses.

Keep in mind that for each of these questions, there are really two parts. The second is explaining what that event, action, or activity means to you. 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. This prompt is very broad. Then this prompt could be a good one for you.

The key is that whatever you write about needs to be genuinely important to you personally, not just something you think will look good to the admissions committee. This question is really about showing admissions officers how your background has shaped you.

Can you learn and grow from your experiences? Everyone has more than one important trait, but in answering this prompt, you're telling admissions officers what you think is your most significant quality. You could write about almost anything for this prompt: Make sure to narrow in on something specific, though. You don't have room to tell your whole life story. Then I would tie it all together by explaining how my love of reading has taught me to look for ideas in unexpected places. You don't want your essay to read like a resume: Also try to avoid generic and broad topics: How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience?

This prompt is pretty straightforward. It's asking you describe a challenge or obstacle you faced or a time you failed and how you dealt with it. The part many students forget is the second half: This question really raises two issues: You'll face a lot of challenges in college, both academic and social.

Can you find a positive lesson in a negative experience? Colleges want to see an example of how you've done so. You need to address both parts of the question: Make sure you pick an actual failure or challenge — don't turn your essay into a humblebrag.

Also, don't write about something completely negative. Your response needs to show that you got something out of your challenge or failure and that you've learned skills to apply to other situations.

Spilling your coffee is not an appropriate failure, no matter how disastrous it may feel. What prompted your thinking? What was the outcome? There are two ways to approach this question. The obvious question this prompt raises is what your values are and whether you're willing to stand up for what you believe.

Whether you've reconsidered your own beliefs or asked others to reconsider theirs, it shows you've put genuine thought into what you value and why. Can you question someone else beliefs without belittling them? If not, don't write about this question. This prompt is really one where you either have a relevant story or you don't.

If there's a belief or idea that's particularly important to you, whether political or personal, this might be a good question for you to address. Seriously, though, what is wrong with you!? Make sure there's clear conflict and action in your essay. In general, I would avoid these kinds of topics unless you have a very compelling story. Regardless of what you're writing about, don't assume the reader shares your views. You also want to avoid coming off as petty or inflexible, especially if you're writing about a controversial topic.

It's great to have strong beliefs, but you also want to show that you're open to listening to other people's perspectives, even if they don't change your mind. 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.

The first part is very straightforward: However, you also need to "explain its significance to you. Even if you pick something seemingly minor to talk about, like fixing a dishwasher on your own, explaining why you wanted to do it yourself maybe because you like knowing how things work and how you did so maybe by asking other people for advice of maybe by looking up videos on YouTube will show admissions officers a lot about what you value and how you think. You will face inevitably face problems, both academic and personal, in these four years, and admissions officers want to see that you're capable of taking them on.

You certainly can do it, however; just make sure to have a compelling and concrete explanation for why this problem is important to you and how you came upon the solution you're proposing. Then, in writing his essay, he might focus on telling a story about how a man he met while volunteering in a homeless shelter inspired his idea to hire men and women living in shelters to work as liaisons in public spaces like libraries and parks to help homeless people get access to the services they need.

Avoid anything sweeping or general: As I mentioned above, you want to stick to concrete ideas and solutions that clearly relate to your own experiences. Simply writing down some of your ideas, no matter how great they are, isn't going to make for a very interesting essay. Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others.

Like prompt 1, this one is very general. Personal growth and maturity are complicated issues. You essay may touch on themes like personal responsibility and your role in the world and your community. You don't have to explain your whole worldview, but you need to give readers a sense of why this particular event caused significant growth for you as a person.

This prompt can also help you show either a your own sense of self-concept or b how you relate to others. Much like prompt 3, this question likely either appeals to you or doesn't.

Dedicated community service over a period of time can be a strong topic for an application essay. Volunteer day at the local park, or two weeks of school building in Africa, will probably not impress the admissions committee. They see many essays of this type. Not only is it difficult to stand out from the pack, but these experiences are often more about the experience than about you, or convey that money buys opportunity.

The admissions committee relies on essays to learn additional things about you such as your initiative, curiosity about the world, personal growth, willingness to take risks, ability to be self directed, motivation and ability to make the most of a situation. They are interested in your personal qualities such as leadership, confidence, ability to work in a team, strength of character, resilience, sense of humor, ability to get along with others and what you might add to the campus community.

In short, use your essays to showcase a side of you not visible from other parts of the application. Peruse the Entire Application. Many applications, especially for some of the more competitive schools, are complex and require multiple essays and short answers. For example, if you have five key areas you wish to cover, and there are five essays, try to strategically focus on one area in each essay. Resist the temptation to be a sesquipedalian or come across as a pedantic fop!

Use caution when showing off your extensive vocabulary. You risk using language improperly and may appear insecure or overly eager to impress. Check Your Ego at the Door. While self doubt is generally undesirable, a bit of humility can be well received, especially in an essay about overcoming adversity. Few students have a perfect resume, which is apparent in the application. Drawing attention to weakness in an essay is generally not a good idea, unless you were able to overcome a weakness, and make it a strong suit.

Errors can doom your otherwise excellent application. Make sure you schedule sufficient time for a thorough review. When possible, have at least one other person proofread your essay. They may catch something important that you missed. Again, read your essay out loud. An impressive essay generally contains a strong opening, well organized content, and a powerful closing. Start with an outline and design your essay paragraph by paragraph.

Make sure you include enough background information about whatever topic you are writing about so that the reader can put it into context. For example, one student wrote an excellent essay about a horrible first day of school, but forgot to include that he had just moved to town, from halfway around the world, and was struggling with English.

Resist the temptation to run off and start writing. Experts will tell you that up-front planning of your essays is well worth the time invested. Research the College Before Writing the Essay. Almost every school has its own identity and mission. Some universities even have a slogan. Others have niche areas of study that they like to promote.

Pay attention to what is important to the particular school and, when appropriate, consider including it in some manner in your essay. Invest in a Strong Introduction. Admissions people read a lot of essays and may not be energetic and fresh when yours reaches the top of their pile.

2018-19 Common App Essays

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Find this year's Common App writing prompts and popular essay questions used by individual colleges. The college essay is your opportunity to show admissions officers who you are apart from your grades and test scores (and to distinguish yourself from the rest of a very talented applicant pool). The Common Application Essay Prompts 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.

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With the application cycle soon underway, the CollegeVine essay team wanted to share our best strategies on how to write the all-important and often-intimidating Common App essays. This year, The Common App announced that prompts will remain unchanged from the cycle. Writing the Common Application essay can be tough. Check out our 6 simple common app essay tips, effective tricks and strategies to help you write a good - no, a great college essay! Score our Exclusive Video Brainstorming Guide and more!