This essay was previously on the standard Common Application, but was removed starting in the —15 application season.
Instead, some colleges, like Georgetown University , choose to include a variation of this essay among their supplements by asking students to discuss an activity and its significance to their life or course of study. Avoid writing about things like scoring the winning goal, topics of public consciousness like natural disasters, or something that happened to you in middle school. Some students choose to write about things like sex or romantic relationships in order to stand out; yet, these topics fail to add substance or depth to an application.
Successful Essay Topics A successful essay will reveal something about you that the admissions reader may not have already known, and will show how you interact with family and friends and demonstrate your beliefs or explore your passions. A great essay also provides readers with a vivid picture. When crafting an essay, think of it as offering admissions readers a window into a certain event or story. 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.
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! 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! 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.
Smeared blood, shredded feathers. Clearly, the bird was dead. But wait, the slight fluctuation of its chest, the slow blinking of its shiny black eyes. No, it was alive. I had been typing an English essay when I heard my cat's loud meows and the flutter of wings. I had turned slightly at the noise and had found the barely breathing bird in front of me. The shock came first. Mind racing, heart beating faster, blood draining from my face. I instinctively reached out my hand to hold it, like a long-lost keepsake from my youth.
But then I remembered that birds had life, flesh, blood. Dare I say it out loud? Here, in my own home? Within seconds, my reflexes kicked in. Get over the shock. Gloves, napkins, towels. How does one heal a bird? I rummaged through the house, keeping a wary eye on my cat. Donning yellow rubber gloves, I tentatively picked up the bird. Never mind the cat's hissing and protesting scratches, you need to save the bird.
You need to ease its pain. But my mind was blank. I stroked the bird with a paper towel to clear away the blood, see the wound. The wings were crumpled, the feet mangled. A large gash extended close to its jugular rendering its breathing shallow, unsteady. The rising and falling of its small breast slowed.
Was the bird dying? No, please, not yet. Why was this feeling so familiar, so tangible? The long drive, the green hills, the white church, the funeral. The Chinese mass, the resounding amens, the flower arrangements. Me, crying silently, huddled in the corner. The Hsieh family huddled around the casket. So many apologies.
The body. Kari Hsieh. Still familiar, still tangible. Hugging Mrs. Retaining the essay prompts provides the added benefit of consistency for students, counselors, parents, and members during the admissions process. Plus, with essay prompts remaining the same, students rolling over their existing Common App accounts have more time to plan and prepare their applications prior to the final year of high school.
Counselors looking to get a head start with application workshops this year can take advantage of Common App Ready , a suite of on-demand resources, training videos, and infosheets, details everything students, counselors, and families need to know about using the Common App. This resource includes details on application creation, detailed descriptions of each section, and submission requirements. What prompted your thinking?
What was the outcome? A more tenable alternative here could be to discuss a time that you went against social norms, whether it was by becoming friends with someone who seemed like an outcast or by proudly showing off a geeky passion. And if you ever participated in a situation in tandem with adults and found some success i.
Another way to answer this prompt is to discuss a time when you noticed a need for change. In a similar way, if you led a fundraiser and recognized that advertising on social media would be more effective than the traditional use of printed flyers, you could write about a topic along those lines as well.
Focus on what action or experience caused you to recognize the need for change and follow with your actions and resulting outcome. As a whole, this prompt lends itself to reflective writing, and more specifically, talking the reader through your thought processes.
In many cases, the exploration of your thought processes and decision-making is more important than the actual outcome or concept in question. A good brainstorming exercise for this prompt would be to write your problem on a sheet of paper and then develop various solutions to the problem, including a brief reason for justification. The more thorough you are in justifying and explaining your solutions in the essay, the more compelling your response will be.
One of our consultants penned her experience of growing up with a unique name, and feeling pressured to be different from others. She would sacrifice her wishes and preferences just to make the unconventional choice. Finally, she challenged this idea of being different for the sake of being different to discover her real interests. She must be from somewhere exotic. She must be musical and artsy. When I was little, these sentiments felt more like commands than assumptions.
I thought I had to be the most unique child of all time, which was a daunting task, but I tried. I was the only kid in the second grade to color the sun red. During snack time, we could choose between apple juice and grape juice.
I liked apple juice more, but if everyone else was choosing apple, then I had to choose grape. This was how I lived my life, and it was exhausting. After 8th grade, I moved to Georgia. I panicked. If there was no normal, how could I be unique? I realized that I had spent so much energy going against the grain that I had no idea what my true interests were.
It was time to find out. I joined the basketball team, performed in the school musical, and enrolled in chorus, all of which were firsts for me. I did whatever I thought would make me happy. And it paid off.
He was my first friend in the New World. Within two months I was calling them mom and dad.
Gradually, my confidence in my American identity grew as I recognized my ability to answer most of her questions. One important thing to note: the topic of identity can easily lack originality if you cover a common experience such as feeling divided between cultures, or coming out. But I could still save the bird. But wait, the slight fluctuation of its chest, the slow blinking of its shiny black eyes. When I was little, these sentiments felt more like commands than assumptions.
The key is explaining your thought process and growth following the event to highlight how your thinking has changed. Over colleges and universities use the Common Application , which has one required essay, called the personal statement. At thirteen, I saw the ancient, megalithic structure of Stonehenge and walked along the Great Wall of China, amazed that the thousand-year-old stones were still in place. My frantic actions heightened my senses, mobilized my spirit.
Whatever topic you land on, the essentials of a standout college essay still stand: 1. Prompt 6: What captivates you? I love spending hours at a time practicing the characters and I can feel the beauty and rhythm as I form them. My brain and my body competed.
She would sacrifice her wishes and preferences just to make the unconventional choice. Framing the prompt in this way allows you to tackle heavier questions about ethics and demonstrate your self-awareness.
Having a long discussion about life or philosophy with your father could also suffice, thus sparking more thoughts about your identity. This essay was previously on the standard Common Application, but was removed starting in the —15 application season. Then, in high school, I developed an enthusiasm for Chinese. Instead, some colleges, like Georgetown University , choose to include a variation of this essay among their supplements by asking students to discuss an activity and its significance to their life or course of study. Our grandparents, with whom we lived as children in Daegu, a rural city in South Korea, showered my brother with endless accolades: he was bright, athletic, and charismatic.