Give College Essay Academy a Try.
Our choices in life matter. Perhaps signing up for the right English class at the right time helped you discover your passion for literature. Maybe you decided to eat a day-old burrito for lunch, only to rue the decision a few short hours later. Occasionally you may turn left when you normally turn right. The world is full of options, big and small, but perhaps the largest and most daunting choice staring you in the face is: OMG WHICH COMMON APP PROMPT DO I PICK?
Yes, your quivering cursor may feel like it is about to seal your fate, and maybe you don’t even have a clue which prompt to pick. Fortunately, all you need is one simple trick to discover the perfect prompt for you. We use this strategy with students every year, and it hasn’t failed us yet. But before we walk you through the prompt selection process, let’s quickly review the prompts themselves because half the battle is seeing through to the essential questions hiding behind the choices.
Translation: What, in your seventeen years on this earth, has helped shape the person you are today? This catch-all prompt will fit just about any subject that doesn’t fit within the confines of the other four Common App prompts. Experiences large and small are welcome, as long as they still resonate in your life to this day. Our only request is that you pick a subject and/or perspective that is dynamic; specific to who you are and no one else.
Remember: a question about failure in the context of college admissions is, in fact, a question about success. Responses should aim to showcase resilience and determination. How do you deal with hardship? Try to keep these stories as positive as possible.
In other words: When has your opinion been unpopular? This is perhaps the most challenging prompt of the Common App’s selection, as it requires you to speak passionately about beliefs and ideology. These are amorphous topics that can be difficult to mold into a compact stories, but if this prompt jumps out at you because you have a very specific story to tell or opinion to voice, run with it.
Even though this is another “Big Ideas” question, remember: the whole purpose of this exercise is to reveal something valuable about yourself to admissions. You could also consider this prompt from an aspirational perspective: How might you positively contribute to a cause that is important to you? If you had the power to make a lasting impact in any area at all, what would it be? It is important that the problem you choose is linked to your life and world in a meaningful way.
Keep in mind: “accomplishment” and “event,” are words that leave themselves open to interpretation. This prompt offers endless choices and flexibility, and an essay inspired by it can tackle anything from a formal event to a very small occurrence.
Bury them like a squirrel. Forget them like a goldfish. That’s right: FORGET THEM. (For now.)
In our experience, the best way to write a stellar, original Common App essay is to work backwards. You’ve already uncovered what the prompts really mean, so once you have determined the story you really want to tell, you’ll know which prompt will make a good fit. All of the Common App options are broad enough to accommodate almost any story. So go ahead and take some cursory inspiration from these questions – then focus on the information you want to reveal and the gleaming personality characteristics you want to highlight and fit your accompanying tale to the prompts later.