The Common Application offers six different essay prompts for you to choose from as you write your personal statement. This is fantastic news! However, sometimes having lots of choices can be overwhelming and confusing. Here are some general tips to help you get started.
Start by making a list of the five or six things that are most important to you and that you feel you could talk about on paper, in a conversation, over coffee, etc. for a really long time. This list can include people, places, things, ideas, events, issues, and more. Next, think about what kind of information is found in the other sections of your application. Is there something new that you want to communicate about yourself? Is there a particularly meaningful activity or piece of information that you have listed that you would like to say more about? As you look over this preliminary list, see if any of the topics jump out at you and make your heart flutter a little more than usual. That could be a match made in heaven. Next, look at the list of Common Application essay prompts. Which one fits the topic that you’ve chosen the best? As you begin writing, if you feel like the prompt you have chosen doesn’t quite work or fit your topic, don’t worry. There are five others to choose from.
Option #1: Evaluate a significant experience, achievement, risk you have taken, or ethical dilemma you have faced and its impact on you.
Get your specific on. This prompt is asking for one specific experience, achievement, or risk. Anecdotes are key. For this essay prompt, you will be talking about a specific moment in your life. Become a storyteller, and have fun telling the story. Add some color and detail. You can even spice it up with some dialogue to really set the scene. Make sure the experience you have chosen really is significant. Don’t feel like you have to be totally positive. You can describe a moment when you failed at something or did something wrong. Just be sure to spend a good deal of time pointing out what you learned from the experience and how you grew from it as a result.
This essay prompt is a great option if you've had a truly significant experience, achievement, or risk. The way we see it, there are two kinds of significant. Below, we outline them both and give a few examples:
You've done something that is obviously a big deal in the scope of your community, state, country, or the world. Such as:
Advocated for and constructed a park, community center, or community space in your neighborhood or hometown. Led or helped significantly on a project of local, state, national, or international concern. Been recognized at the local, state, national, or international level for dance, acting, music, painting, sculpture, photography, design, etc. Been recognized at the state, national, or international level for athletics, writing, speaking, debate, etc. You've done something that's a big deal in the context of your life, because it shows a great deal of personal growth. You've come a long way, baby. Writing on this prompt is a good way to put your maturity and personal growth on display. Some great essays can come out of this sort of personal reflection. Here are a few examples of things that you might write on:
You decided to transfer to a different school in search of better opportunities. You stood up in a difficult situation for something you believed was right even though you were under pressure to keep quiet. Standing up to your peers can be a really tough thing to do, and can mean risking your reputation and friendships. Similarly, standing up to an authority figure, like a boss or a teacher, can be very significant. You chose to tell the truth, even if it meant making life difficult for yourself or others. You made a...