If you’re wondering whether standardized test scores matter in college admissions, allow us to clear that up for you: they do. Grades also matter… a lot. Extracurricular activities matter too, as do recommendations. But one of the most influential and truly personal components of a college application is the essay.
Writing an AMAZING college essay begins by selecting the right prompt. Get a head start on this process by reviewing the 2017-18 Common App essay prompts, with 7 exciting options to choose from:
Instructions. The essay demonstrates your ability to write clearly and concisely on a selected topic and helps you distinguish yourself in your own voice. What do you want the readers of your application to know about you apart from courses, grades, and test scores? Choose the option that best helps you answer that question and write an essay of no more than 650 words, using the prompt to inspire and structure your response. Remember: 650 words is your limit, not your goal. Use the full range if you need it, but don’t feel obligated to do so. (The application won’t accept a response shorter than 250 words.)
1. 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.
2. The lessons we take from obstacles we encounter can be fundamental to 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?
3. Reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea. What prompted your thinking? What was the outcome?
4. Describe a problem you’ve solved or a problem you’d like to solve. 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.
5. Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others.
6. 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?
7. Share an essay on any topic of your choice. It can be one you’ve already written, one that responds to a different prompt, or one of your own design.
An amazing college essay sets you apart from similar applicants, so choose your prompt wisely and devote enough time to craft your best work; summer between junior and senior year may be the perfect time to tackle this essential task. If you find these Common App prompts uninspiring, take a look at the Coalition application prompts. For further help conceiving and crafting your best possible admissions essays, we have some outstanding resources to recommend.