How to Format Your Common Application Essay
by j9robinson | Aug 9, 2017 | Common Application, Commonly Asked Questions, How Format Common App Essay, Uncategorized | 1 CommentConfused on How to Format Your Common Application Essay? Here are 9 Hot Tips The 2017-18 Common Application opened for business earlier this week (August. 1). Chances are you will soon need to know how to format your common application essay. If you are on the ball,...
The Trouble with Boys and College Application Essays
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Common Application Prompt 6: Be Warned!
by j9robinson | Feb 18, 2017 | Common App: Prompt 6, Common Application, Uncategorized | 2 CommentsBig Red Flag on this New Common Application Prompt 6! The Common Application added two new prompts for 2017-18. Now students can choose from seven prompts (instead of five) to inspire their personal statement “Common App” essay. The seventh new...
New Common Application Prompts for 2017-18
by j9robinson | Feb 7, 2017 | Common App Prompt 7, Common Application, Common Prompts, The Common App, Uncategorized | 0 CommentsNew Common Application Prompts for 2017-18: TOPIC OF CHOICE IS BACK!! Great news for you college-bound juniors who are just starting to think about your college application essays. If you need to write your personal statement essay for The Common Application,...
How to Write a College Application Essay: In 3 Easy Steps
by j9robinson | Feb 19, 2016 | Essay Cheat Sheet, Jumpstart Guide!, Uncategorized | 6 CommentsAfter working with thousands of students from all over the world on writing the dreaded college application essay for the last eight years, I’ve finally been able to boil down the process to three simple steps. Yes, just three steps. If you follow these...
Common Application Essay Prompts and Strategies for 2016-17
by j9robinson | Feb 13, 2016 | Common Application, Uncategorized | 0 CommentsStand Out in Your Common Application Essay So you are ready to start writing your Common Application Essay? Congratulations! You have found the best source of specific tips and strategies on exactly how to brainstorm topics for each of the 5 prompts–and...
How Many Common Application Essays Should You Write?
by j9robinson | May 31, 2015 | Common Application, Uncategorized | 1 CommentShort Answer: ONE College Application Essay for The Common App The Common Application comes out officially August 1. But they already announced the changes for this coming 2015-16 season. The most important were changes to the five essay prompts. (You can write...
How to Answer Common Application Prompt 4: Free Tutorial Video
by j9robinson | May 30, 2015 | Common App: Prompt 4, Common Prompts, Uncategorized, Video Tutorials | 1 CommentThe folks at The Common Application added a new prompt this year and I love it. It asks you to write about a problem. What’s so great about a problem? Problems = Stories = Great Essays! This may be the only time having a juicy problem is a good thing. So take...
Pulling Your Hair Out Over The Common App? Here’s Some Relief
by j9robinson | Oct 17, 2013 | Common Application, Uncategorized | 2 CommentsStudents trying to submit their college applications–including their essays–to The Common Application are finding all sorts of glitches and problems this fall. Apparently, it’s a new system and some students have spent literally hours trying...
Hot Strategies for All Five of the New Common Application Prompts
by j9robinson | Jun 13, 2013 | Common Application, Common Prompts, The Common App, Uncategorized | 0 CommentsCollege Application Essays Which Prompt Will You Pick? UPDATE: Most of this information is still helpful and relevant. However, please see the changes in the NEW Common Application Prompts for 2015-16! If you are ready to brainstorm ideas for your Common...
Should You Take the Challenge of Prompt 3 of New Common App?
by j9robinson | Jun 13, 2013 | Common App: Prompt 3, Common Application, The Common App, Uncategorized | 3 CommentsCollege Application Essays: How to Answer Prompt 3 of the Common App. Who or What Have You Confronted Lately? When you read the five options for your Common Application essay, one prompt probably will appeal to you first off. Others you will skim and...
The Essay Tightrope: How Far to Push the New Common App Prompts
by j9robinson | Jun 10, 2013 | About Admissions Officers, Common Application, The Common App, Uncategorized | 2 CommentsIf you are working on your Common Application, you have five prompts (or essay questions) to choose from for your essay. The challenge is to pick the prompt that you can answer to write your best, most effective essay. In previous years, you had the option to...
Should You Choose Prompt 5 for Your Common App Essay? Maybe…
by j9robinson | Jun 6, 2013 | Common App: Prompt 5, Uncategorized | 2 CommentsPLEASE NOTE! This prompt has changed for 2017-18. This post is now obsolete, although you can still find helpful general information on how to think about prompts and write your essays. The revised prompt 5 is: Discuss an accomplishment, event,...
Oprah and Prompt 2 of The Common Application
by j9robinson | Jun 5, 2013 | Common App: Prompt 2, Common Application, The Common App, Uncategorized | 0 CommentsYesterday, I wrote about how you can answer Prompt #2 of The Common Application and write about recovering from a failure. Coincidentally, our favorite motivator Oprah Winfrey stood up in front of the graduating class at Harvard University just last weekend and...
The Beauty of Failure: How to Answer Prompt 2 of The Common Application
by j9robinson | Jun 4, 2013 | Common App: Prompt 2, Common Application, Common Prompts, The Common App, Uncategorized | 21 CommentsCollege Application Essays: Tell a Story to Answer Prompt 2 When Messing Up is a Good Thing I almost like Prompt #2 as much as Prompt #1 of the new essay questions for The Common Application: The lessons we take from failure can be fundamental to later success....
How to Answer Prompt #1 of the New Common Application
by j9robinson | May 22, 2013 | Common App: Prompt 1, Common Application, Common Prompts, How to Answer Prompt #1, Sample Essays, The Common App, Uncategorized | 39 CommentsCollege Admissions Essays: The Common App. Prompt #1 My Favorite Out of the seven prompts you can chose from to write your application essay for The Common Application, I like the first one a lot. (UPDATE: As of 2017, you can now write about any topic you want. See...
Common App Prompt 4: When Your Problem is a Good Thing!
by j9robinson | May 15, 2013 | Add a Twist, Common App: Prompt 4, Common Application, The Common App, Uncategorized | 66 CommentsHow to Answer Prompt 4 for the Common App for your College Application Essay Prompt 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...
College Essay Help from The Best: The New York Times
by j9robinson | Apr 17, 2013 | Choosing a Topic, Sample Essays, The Common App, Uncategorized | 0 CommentsMentor Essays for The Common App And Other College Application Essays If you are one of those students who understands how important these college admissions essays can be to landing in the school of your dreams, the New York Times just published a dream...
The New Common App Prompts: The Good, Bad and the Ugly
by j9robinson | Feb 20, 2013 | Common Application, Common Prompts, The Common App, Uncategorized | 1 CommentCollege Application Essays How To Answer the New Common App Questions The best news about his year’s Common Application (2015-16) is that you can still write about almost any topic you want—these prompts are very open-ended. And they also added a...
Find Your Defining Qualities
by j9robinson | Jan 21, 2013 | Personal Statements, The Common App, Uncategorized, Where to Start | 3 CommentsNo matter what the prompt asks for, almost any effective college essay should showcase one or several of what I call your “defining qualities.” If the prompt asks you to write a personal statement (for The Common App), tell about yourself or wants to know...
Get help writing your college application essays. 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).
2018-19 Common App Essays
Nearly 700 colleges accept the The Common Application, which makes it easy to apply to multiple schools with just one form. If you are using the Common App to apply for college admission in 2017, you will have 250–650 words to respond to ONE of the following 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.
- 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?
- Reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea. What prompted your thinking? What was the outcome?
- 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.
- Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others.
- 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?
- 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.
Tackling the Common App Essay Prompts
Prompt #1: Share your story.
Answer this prompt by reflecting on a hobby, facet of your personality, or experience that is genuinely meaningful and unique to you. Admissions officers want to feel connected to you and an honest, personal statement about who you are draws them in. Your love of superheroes, baking chops, or family history are all fair game if you can tie it back to who you are or what you believe in. Avoid a rehash of the accomplishments on your high school resume and choose something that the admissions committee will not discover when reading the rest of your application.
Prompt #2: Learning from obstacles.
You're trying to show colleges your best self, so it might seem counterintuitive to willingly acknowledge a time you struggled. But overcoming challenges demonstrates courage, grit, and perseverance! That’s why the last piece of this prompt is essential. The obstacle you write about can be large or small, but you must show the admissions committee how your perspective changed as a result.
Prompt #3: Challenging a belief.
Your answer to this question could focus on a time you stood up to others or an experience when your own preconceived view was challenged. Choose this prompt if you have a relevant—and specific!—experience to recount (and reflect on). A vague essay about a hot button issue doesn’t tell the admissions committee anything useful about YOU.
Prompt #4: Solving a problem.
This essay is designed to get at the heart of how you think and what makes you tick. Present a situation or quandary and show steps toward the solution. Admissions officers want insight into your thought process and the issues you grapple with, so explain how you became aware of the dilemma and how you tackled solving it. Don’t forget to explain why the problem is important to you!
Prompt #5: Personal growth.
Just like Prompt #2, the accomplishment or event you write about can be anything from a major milestone to a smaller "aha" moment. Describe the event or ccomplishment that shaped you but take care to also show what you learned or how you changed. Colleges are looking for a sense of maturity and introspection—pinpoint the transformation and demonstrate your personal growth.
Prompt #6: What captivates you?
This prompt is an invitation to write about something you care about. (So avoid the pitfall of writing about what you think will impress the admission office versus what truly matters to you). Colleges are looking for curious students, who are thoughtful about the world around them. The "what or who do you turn to when you want to learn more” bit isn't an afterthought—it's a key piece of the prompt. Make sure you explain how you pursue your interest, as well.
Prompt #7: Topic of your choice.
This question might be for you if you have a dynamo personal essay from English class to share or were really inspired by a question from another college’s application. You can even write your own question! Whatever topic you land on, the essentials of a standout college essay still stand: 1.) Show the admissions committee who you are beyond grades and test scores and 2.) Dig into your topic by asking yourself how and why. There isn’t a prompt to guide you, so you must ask yourself the questions that will get at the heart of the story you want to tell.
More College Essay Topics
Individual schools sometimes require supplemental essays. Here are a few popular application essay topics and some tips for how to approach them:
Describe a person you admire.
Avoid the urge to pen an ode to a beloved figure like Gandhi or Abraham Lincoln. The admissions committee doesn't need to be convinced they are influential people. Focus on yourself: Choose someone who has actually caused you to change your behavior or your worldview, and write about how this person influenced you .
Why do you want to attend this school?
Be honest and specific when you respond to this question. Avoid generalities like "to get a good liberal arts education” or “to develop career skills," and use details that show your interests: "I'm an aspiring doctor and your science department has a terrific reputation." Colleges are more likely to admit students who can articulate specific reasons why the school is a good fit for them beyond its reputation or ranking on any list. Use the college's website and literature to do your research about programs, professors, and other opportunities that appeal to you.
What is a book you love?
Your answer should not be a book report. Don't just summarize the plot; detail why you enjoyed this particular text and what it meant to you. What does your favorite book reveal about you? How do you identify with it, and how has it become personal to you?
Again, be honest in answering this question—don't choose a classic from your literature class or a piece of philosophy just because you think it will make you seem smarter. Writing fluently and passionately about a book close to you is always better than writing shakily or generally about a book that doesn't inspire you.
What is an extracurricular activity that has been meaningful to you?
Avoid slipping into clichés or generalities. Take this opportunity to really examine an experience that taught you something you didn't previously know about yourself, got you out of your comfort zone, or forced you to grow. Sometimes it's better to write about something that was hard for you because you learned something than it is to write about something that was easy for you because you think it sounds admirable. As with all essay questions, the most important thing is to tell a great story: how you discovered this activity, what drew you to it, and what it's shown you about yourself.
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