7 Expert Tips for the Common App Essay
Editor & Writer
www.bestcolleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.
Turn Your Dreams Into Reality
Take our quiz and we'll do the homework for you! Compare your school matches and apply to your top choice today.
- The Common App college essay is required by most Common App schools.
- This personal essay plays a critical role in many institutions' admission decisions.
- Admissions experts' biggest tips include writing how you speak and focusing on details.
Each year, over a million high school seniors apply for college through the Common Application . This online system enables you to submit one application to multiple schools, meaning you only have to fill out everything once — including a personal statement .
The Common App essay gives colleges the opportunity to learn more about you as a person and what's important to you. You should use this space to tell your story and reveal different facets of your personality.
Here, we explain what the Common App essay entails before diving into admissions experts' biggest tips for crafting a memorable personal statement.
What Is the Common App Essay?
The Common App essay is the main personal statement you'll submit to colleges that use the Common App and require the essay.
You can find the Common App essay prompts and instructions by navigating to the "Common App" tab on your Common App account and clicking on "Writing." You'll get to choose one of seven prompts to respond to, and your essay must be between 250 and 650 words long.
This statement gives you the chance to delve deeper into your interests, experiences, passions, and strengths. You can discuss almost anything you want, provided your topic addresses the prompt you've chosen. There are also no rules on style or how to tell your story.
You must submit the Common App essay to all colleges that require it, though some may ask you to submit one or more supplemental essays as well.
The application form provides you with a box in which to type your essay; however, it's strongly recommended that you compose your essay in Microsoft Word, Google Docs, or another word processor before copying and pasting your final draft into this box.
How Important Is the Common App Essay?
The Common App essay is a key part of your college application. According to a 2019 study by the National Association for College Admission Counseling , 56.4% of colleges surveyed considered the personal statement moderately or considerably important. Highly selective institutions tended to place more emphasis on the essay.
"The more selective the college, the more the essay matters," explained Elizabeth Benedict, a former Princeton writing instructor and the founder and president of Don't Sweat the Essay Inc .
Benedict, who spoke with BestColleges about the Common App essay, has helped students around the world apply to college for over a decade.
"Applying to a hyper-selective college with mediocre or uneven grades and a fabulous essay will likely not get you into that college, [whereas] applying to a hyper-selective college with top grades and scores, outstanding extracurriculars, and a mediocre essay could sink your application," she said.
While most experts agree that a strong Common App essay won't necessarily secure you admission into a highly selective college — especially if your grades and test scores aren't up to par — a well-written statement could act as a tipping point in your favor.
According to Benedict, this often happens at small liberal arts colleges , which tend to take a more holistic admissions approach .
Experts' Top 7 Common App Essay Tips
Admissions officers, higher education administrators, education consultants, and college admissions advisors like Benedict have many tricks for approaching the Common App essay. Here are some of their biggest tips.
1. Don't Mistake a Rare Topic for an Effective Topic
Many students assume their Common App essay must revolve around a unique topic that no other applicant has ever written about, but this is a myth.
"Overuse of a topic doesn't make it a bad topic," Whitney Soule told U.S. News & World Report . Soule currently serves as Bowdoin College's dean of admissions and student aid.
"It's not just about the topic," echoes Jennifer Gayles , director of admissions at Sarah Lawrence College, "but why it's important to you and how you can showcase who you are as a student and an individual through that topic."
Choosing the right Common App essay topic can be tricky, but it's extremely important. "Students I work with run the gamut from having a good idea to having absolutely no idea what to write about," Benedict said. "Often in our brainstorming session, an idea will pop up in discussion, and I'll say, 'That's a good idea,' and the student will be surprised."
To identify potential essay topics, Benedict proposes asking yourself a series of questions. Have you experienced a turning point in your life? Are you deeply passionate about a particular subject?
Ultimately, your essay should excite and inspire you, as well as those who read it. "If an essay topic makes your heart beat fast, that's a good sign," said Benedict.
2. Pick the Best Essay Prompt for You
Not all Common App essay prompts are created equal. Of the seven prompts, some will no doubt work better for you than others.
Lisa Mortini, assistant director of admissions at New York University Abu Dhabi, asks students to think about what version of themselves they want to present to schools and to trust their instincts.
"Don't just jump on the first prompt you read and start writing," she writes in a blog post for NYU. "Ask yourself: Are you excited to talk to us about a specific achievement? Do you want to give us insight into a hardship you faced and conquered?"
In essence, work backward: Start with a topic and then see which essay prompt fits it the best.
This is the same advice given by Thea Hogarth of College Essay Advisors : "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."
3. Use Your Space Wisely
Students tend to go one of two ways with the Common App essay: They either write way too much and struggle to trim it down, or they write way too little and end up sounding superficial and generic.
The Common App essay word count range is 250-650 words. But just how long should your statement be? Admissions Blog advises aiming for around 500 words. And former Tufts University admissions officer Becky Leichtling concurs.
"The most common 'personal statement' length is in the ballpark of 500 words," Leichtling writes for Bright Horizons College Coach . "I consider 500 the 'sweet spot,' but don't stress if you write an essay closer to 430 or 620 [words] that you're honestly proud of."
4. Fill Your Story With Details
Details are everything when it comes to the Common App essay, which is why so many experts suggest anchoring your essay in a single anecdote or story.
"Specific anecdotes are your friend when drafting your Common App personal statement," Shirag Shemmassian, founder of Shemmassian Academic Consulting, writes on his company's website . "Try to think of a story you often tell people that shows something about you."
Meredith Reynolds, associate director of admissions at Tufts, similarly recommends that applicants emphasize specifics in their essays. "By focusing on details, you set yourself apart," she says.
In terms of structure, Benedict advises approaching the Common App essay one step at a time. "Break down the topic to the smallest pieces you can and write a paragraph about each," she said.
In other words, discuss specific moments from your life. Relate conversations you've had. Describe how something felt or looked. It's the details in your story — not the topic itself — that will help you stand out the most.
5. Channel Your Authentic Voice
The Common App essay is unlike most essays you've written for school. Instead of analyzing a piece of literature or a historical event, you must showcase your identity. As such, the words you use should sound like they actually come from you — not a thesaurus or an English teacher.
"[Students] are used to writing academic essays and trying to impress with big words and formal-sounding constructions," Benedict said when asked about the most common mistake students make on the Common App essay. "The best essays have a conversational voice — not a stiff, academic one."
Educational consultant Ian Fisher agrees . In a blog post offering language tips for college essays, Fisher expounds on the importance of writing in a way true to how you talk in real life.
"You're going to have to fight the urge to 'impress' your admissions reader with the big words you've learned from your SAT practice," he writes.
Students should, however, avoid using any derogatory, offensive, or inappropriate language. Fisher recommends using words like "debate" instead of "fight" and "undeveloped" instead of "stupid."
Likewise, students should refrain from relying on cliches. This includes phrases such as "happily ever after," "beggars can't be choosers," and "crack of dawn." Benedict advises getting someone to "cliche-proof" your essay.
6. Get Feedback
Before submitting your Common App essay, show it to someone who will not only offer feedback but also edit and proofread your writing.
Shemmassian suggests giving your draft to "a trusted admissions counselor, English teacher, or other advisor." Meanwhile, Reynolds says you should "show your essay to two people — one who is a strong writer, and one who knows you really well."
All recommendations from experts share a common thread: Getting feedback on your Common App essay should be a top priority.
7. Don't Neglect Supplemental Essays
Lots of competitive universities require the Common App essay in addition to supplemental essays and/or short answers. If you have other essays to submit, don't spend all your time working on the Common App essay. After all, all essays can impact your admission chances.
"At the most selective colleges and universities, there are usually supplemental essays as well, and those are part of the overall package, and they are very important," Benedict said.
She also discussed how a great Common App essay combined with weak supplemental essays could reflect poorly on your application and increase your risk of getting rejected .
"I can't stress enough the importance of the supplemental essays," Benedict continued. "For the most selective universities, all of the essays taken together present a 'package' of who you are." And how you choose to put together that package is up to you.
Elizabeth Benedict is the founder and president of Don't Sweat the Essay Inc. , which has been helping students apply to college around the U.S. and all over the world for a dozen years. Elizabeth is a best-selling novelist, a prolific journalist, and an editor of many books. She has taught writing at Princeton, Columbia, MIT, Swarthmore, and the Iowa Writers' Workshop. Her clients are regularly admitted to top universities and their first-choice colleges.
Feature Image: FG Trade / E+ / Getty Images
Explore More College Resources
How to Write a Body Paragraph for a College Essay
College application deadlines for fall 2024 admission.
BestColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.
Compare Your School Options
View the most relevant schools for your interests and compare them by tuition, programs, acceptance rate, and other factors important to finding your college home.
Have a language expert improve your writing
Check your paper for plagiarism in 10 minutes, generate your apa citations for free.
- Knowledge Base
- College essay
Common App Essays | 7 Strong Examples with Commentary
Published on November 19, 2021 by Kirsten Courault . Revised on May 31, 2023.
If you’re applying for college via the Common App , you’ll have to write an essay in response to one of seven prompts.
Table of contents
What is the common application essay, prompt 1: background, identity, interest, or talent, prompt 2: overcoming challenges, prompt 3: questioning a belief or idea, prompt 4: appreciating an influential person, prompt 5: transformative event, prompt 6: interest or hobby that inspires learning, prompt 7: free topic, other interesting articles, frequently asked questions about college application essays.
The Common Application, or Common App , is a college application portal that is accepted by more than 900 schools.
Within the Common App is your main essay, a primary writing sample that all your prospective schools will read to evaluate your critical thinking skills and value as a student. Since this essay is read by many colleges, avoid mentioning any college names or programs. Instead, save tailored answers for the supplementary school-specific essays within the Common App.
Regardless of your prompt choice, admissions officers will look for an ability to clearly and creatively communicate your ideas based on the selected prompt.
We’ve provided seven essay examples, one for each of the Common App prompts. After each essay, we’ve provided a table with commentary on the essay’s narrative, writing style and tone, demonstrated traits, and self-reflection.
Prevent plagiarism. Run a free check.
This essay explores the student’s emotional journey toward overcoming her father’s neglect through gymnastics discipline.
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.
When “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” began to play, it was my signal to lay out a winning floor routine. Round off. Back handspring. Double back layout. Stick!
Instead, I jolted off the floor, landing out of bounds. Over the past week, I hadn’t landed that pass once, and regionals were only seven days away. I heaved a heavy sigh and stomped over to the bench.
Coach Farkas saw my consternation. “Mona, get out of your head. You’re way too preoccupied with your tumbling passes. You could do them in your sleep!”
That was the problem. I was dreaming of tumbling and missing my landings, waking up in a cold sweat. The stress felt overwhelming.
“Stretch out. You’re done for tonight.”
I walked home from the gym that had been my second home since fourth grade. Yet my anxiety was increasing every time I practiced.
I startled my mom. “You’re home early! Wait! You walked? Mona, what’s going on?!”
I slumped down at the kitchen table. “Don’t know.”
She sat down across from me. “Does it have anything to do with your father texting you a couple of weeks ago about coming to see you at regionals?”
“So what?! Why does it matter anymore?” He walked out when I was 10 and never looked back. Still, dear ol’ Dad always had a way of resurfacing when I least expected him.
“It still matters because when you hear from him, you tend to crumble. Or have you not noticed?” She offered a knowing wink and a compassionate smile.
I started gymnastics right after Dad left. The coaches said I was a natural: short, muscular, and flexible. All I knew was that the more I improved, the more confident I felt. Gymnastics made me feel powerful, so I gave it my full energy and dedication.
The floor routine became my specialty, and my performances were soon elevating our team score. The mat, solid and stable, became a place to explore and express my internal struggles. Over the years, no matter how angry I felt, the floor mat was there to absorb my frustration.
The bars, beam, and vault were less forgiving because I knew I could fall. My performances in those events were respectable. But, the floor? Sometimes, I had wildly creative and beautiful routines, while other times were disastrous. Sadly, my floor routine had never been consistent.
That Saturday afternoon, I slipped into the empty gym and walked over to the mat. I sat down and touched its carpeted surface. After a few minutes, my cheeks were wet with the bitter disappointment of a dad who only showed up when it was convenient for him. I ruminated on the years of practices and meets where I had channeled my resentment into acrobatics and dance moves, resolved to rise higher than his indifference.
I saw then that my deepest wounds were inextricably entangled with my greatest passion. They needed to be permanently separated. While my anger had first served to launch me into gymnastics, before long, I had started serving my anger.
Anger is a cruel master. It corrupts everything it touches, even something as beautiful as a well-choreographed floor routine.
I changed my music days before regionals. “The Devil” no longer had a place in my routine. Instead, I chose an energetic cyberpunk soundtrack that inspired me to perform with passion and laser focus. Dad made an obligatory appearance at regionals, but he left before I could talk to him.
It didn’t matter this time. I stuck every landing in my routine. Anger no longer controlled me. I was finally free.
Word count: 601
This essay shows how the challenges the student faced in caring for her sister with autism resulted in an unexpected path forward in her education.
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?
I never had a choice.
My baby sister was born severely autistic, which meant that every detail of our home life was repeatedly adjusted to manage her condition. I couldn’t go to bed without fearing that Mindy would wake up screaming with that hoarse little voice of hers. I couldn’t have friends over on weekends because we never knew if our entire family would need to shift into crisis mode to help Mindy regain control.
We couldn’t take a family vacation because Mindy would start hitting us during a long car ride when she didn’t want to sit there anymore. We couldn’t even celebrate Christmas like a normal family because Mindy would shriek and run away when we tried to give her presents.
I was five years old when Mindy was born. For the first ten years, I did everything I could to help my mom with Mindy. But Mom was depressed and would often stare out the window, as if transfixed by the view. Dad was no help either. He used his job as an excuse to be away from home. So, I tried to make up for both of them and rescue Mindy however I could whenever she needed it.
However, one day, when I was slowly driving Mindy around with the windows down, trying to lull her into a calmer state, we passed two of my former classmates from middle school. They heard Mindy growling her disapproval as the ride was getting long for her. One of them turned to the other and announced, “Oh my God! Marabeth brought her pet monster out for a drive!” They laughed hysterically and ran down the street.
After that day, I defied my parents at every turn. I also ignored Mindy. I even stopped doing homework. I purposely “got in with the wrong crowd” and did whatever they did.
My high school counselor Ms. Martinez saw through it all. She knew my family’s situation well. It didn’t take her long to guess what had probably happened.
“Marabeth, I get it. My brother has Down syndrome. It was really hard growing up with him as a brother. The other kids were pretty mean about it, especially in high school.”
I doubted she understood. “Yeah. So?”
“I’m guessing something happened that hurt or embarrassed you.”
“I’m so sorry. I can only imagine how you must have felt.”
It must have been the way she said it because I suddenly found myself sobbing into my trembling, cupped hands.
Ms. Martinez and I met every Friday after that for the rest of the year. Her stories of how she struggled to embrace living with and loving her brother created a bridge to my pain and then my healing. She explained that her challenges led her to pursue a degree in counseling so that she could offer other people what no one had given her.
I thought that Mindy was the end of my life, but, because of Ms. Martinez’s example and kindness, I can now see that Mindy is a gift, pointing me toward my future.
Now, I’m applying to study psychology so that I can go on to earn my master’s degree in counseling. I’m learning to forgive my parents for their mistakes, and I’m back in Mindy’s life again, but this time as a sister, not a savior. My choice.
Word Count: 553
This essay illustrates a student’s courage in challenging his culture’s constructs of manhood and changing his course while positively affecting his father in the process.
Reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea. What prompted your thinking? What was the outcome?
“No son of mine is gonna march around a football field wearing tail feathers while all the real men are playing football!”
I took a step backward and tried not to appear as off-balance as I felt. In my excitement, I had blurted out more information than my father could handle:
“Dad! I made the marching band as a freshman! Nobody does that—I mean nobody!”
As soon as I had said it, I wished I could recall those words. How could I forget that 26 years earlier, he had been the starting wide receiver for the state-champion Tigers on the same field?!
Still, when I opened the email on that scorching hot August afternoon, I was thrilled that five months of practicing every possible major and harmonic minor scale—two octaves up and two octaves down—had made the difference. I had busted reed after reed, trying not to puff my cheeks while moving my fingers in a precise cadence.
I knew he had heard me continually practicing in my room, yet he seemed to ignore all the parts of me that were incongruous with his vision of manhood:
Ford F-150 4x4s. Pheasant hunting. The Nebraska Cornhuskers.
I never had to wonder what he valued. For years, I genuinely shared his interests. But, in the fall of eighth grade, I heard Kyle Wheeling play a saxophone solo during the homecoming marching band halftime show. My dad took me to every football game to teach me the plays, but that night, all I could think about was Kyle’s bluesy improv at halftime.
During Thanksgiving break, I got my mom to drive me into Omaha to rent my instrument at Dietze Music, and, soon after, I started private lessons with Mr. Ken. Before long, I was spending hours in my room, exploring each nuance of my shiny Yamaha alto sax, anticipating my audition for the Marching Tigers at the end of the spring semester.
During those months of practice, I realized that I couldn’t hide my newfound interest forever, especially not from the football players who were going to endlessly taunt me. But not all the guys played football. Some were in choir and theater. Quite a few guys were in the marching band. In fact, the Marching Tigers had won the grand prize in their division at last year’s state showdown in Lincoln.
I was excited! They were the champions, and I was about to become a part of their legacy.
Yet, that afternoon, a sense of anxiety brewed in my belly. I knew I had to talk to him.
He was sweeping the grass clippings off of the sidewalk. He nodded.
“I need to tell you something.”
He looked up.
“I know that you know about my sax because you hear me practicing. I like it a lot, and I’m becoming pretty good at it. I still care about what you like, but I’m starting to like some other things more. I hope you’ll be proud of me whatever I choose.”
He studied the cracks in the driveway. “I am proud of you. I just figured you’d play football.”
We never talked about it again, but that fall, he was in the stands when our marching band won the state championship in Lincoln for the second time. In fact, for the next four years, he never left the stands during halftime until the marching band had performed. He was even in the audience for every performance of “Our Town” at the end of my junior year. I played the Stage Manager who reveals the show’s theme: everything changes gradually.
I know it’s true. Things do change over time, even out here in central Nebraska. I know because I’ve changed, and my dad has changed, too. I just needed the courage to go first.
Word count: 626
The student demonstrates how his teacher giving him an unexpected bad grade was the catalyst for his becoming a better writer.
Reflect on something that someone has done for you that has made you happy or thankful in a surprising way. How has this gratitude affected or motivated you?
I stared in disbelief at the big red letter at the top of my paper: D.
Never in my entire high school career had I seen that letter at the top of any paper, unless it was at the beginning of my first name.
I had a 4.796 GPA. I had taken every pre-AP and AP course offered. My teachers had praised my writing skills! However, Mr. Trimble didn’t think so, and he let me know it:
“Darwin, in the future, I believe you can do better if you fully apply yourself.”
I furiously scanned the paper for corrections. Not even one! Grammar and syntax? Perfect. Spelling? Impeccable. Sentence and paragraph structure? Precise and indisputable, as always.
Was he trying to ruin my GPA? Cooper was clearly his favorite, and we were neck and neck for valedictorian, which was only one year away. Maybe they were conspiring to take me down.
Thankfully, AP Composition was my last class. I fled the room and ran to my car. Defiant tears stained my cheeks as I screeched my tires and roared out of the parking lot. When I got home, I shoved in my AirPods, flopped on my bed, and buried my head under the pillow.
I awoke to my sister, Daria, gently shaking my arm. “I know what happened, D. Trimble stopped me in the hall after school.”
“I’m sure he did. He’s trying to ruin my life.”
“That’s not what he told me. You should talk to him, D.”
The next day, although I tried to avoid Mr. Trimble at all costs, I almost tripped over him as I was coming out of the bathroom.
“Darwin, can we talk?”
He walked me down the hall to his room. “Do you know that you’re one of the best writers I’ve ever had in AP Comp?”
“Then why’d you do it?”
“Because you’re better than you know, Darwin. You impress with your perfect presentations, and your teachers reward you with A’s and praise. I do frequent the teacher’s lounge, you know.”
“So I know you’re not trying.”
I locked eyes with him and glared.
“You’ve never had to try because you have a gift. And, in the midst of the acclaim, you’ve never pushed yourself to discover your true capabilities.”
“So you give me a D?!”
“It got your attention.”
“You’re not going to leave it, are you?”
“Oh, the D stands. You didn’t apply yourself. You’ll have to earn your way out with your other papers.”
I gained a new understanding of the meaning of ambivalence. Part of me was furious at the injustice of the situation, but I also felt strangely challenged and intrigued. I joined a local writer’s co-op and studied K. M. Weiland’s artistic writing techniques.
Multiple drafts, track changes, and constructive criticism became my new world. I stopped taking Mr. Trimble’s criticism personally and began to see it as a precious tool to bolster me, not break me down.
Last week, the New York Public Library notified me that I was named one of five finalists for the Young Lions Fiction Award. They described my collection of short stories as “fresh, imaginative, and captivating.”
I never thought I could be grateful for a D, but Mr. Trimble’s insightful courage was the catalyst that transformed my writing and my character. Just because other people applaud you for being the best doesn’t mean you’re doing your best .
AP Composition is now recorded as an A on my high school transcript, and Cooper and I are still locked in a tight race for the finish line. But, thanks to Mr. Trimble, I have developed a different paradigm for evaluation: my best. And the more I apply myself, the better my best becomes.
Word Count: 627
This student narrates how she initially went to church for a boy but instead ended up confronting her selfishness by helping others.
Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others.
Originally, I went to church not because I was searching for Jesus but because I liked a boy.
Isaac Ono wasn’t the most athletic boy in our class, nor was he the cutest. But I was amazed by his unusual kindness toward everyone. If someone was alone or left out, he’d walk up to them and say hello or invite them to hang out with him and his friends.
I started waking up at 7:30 a.m. every Sunday morning to attend Grace Hills Presbyterian, where Isaac’s father was the pastor. I would strategically sit in a pew not too close but close enough to Isaac that when the entire congregation was instructed to say “Peace be with you,” I could “happen” to shake Isaac’s hand and make small talk.
One service, as I was staring at the back of Isaac’s head, pondering what to say to him, my hearing suddenly tuned in to his father’s sermon.
“There’s no such thing as a good or bad person.”
My eyes snapped onto Pastor Marcus.
“I used to think I was a good person who came from a respectable family and did nice things. But people aren’t inherently good or bad. They just make good or bad choices.”
My mind raced through a mental checklist of whether my past actions fell mostly into the former or latter category.
“As it says in Deuteronomy 30:15, ‘I have set before you today life and good, death and evil.’ Follow in the footsteps of Jesus and do good.”
I glanced to my left and saw Margaret, underlining passages in her study Bible and taking copious notes.
Months earlier, I had befriended Margaret. We had fourth-period Spanish together but hadn’t interacted much. She was friends with Isaac, so I started hanging out with her to get closer to him. But eventually, the two of us were spending hours in the Starbucks parking lot having intense discussions about religion, boys, and our futures until we had to return home before curfew.
After hearing the pastor’s sermon, I realized that what I had admired about Isaac was also present in Margaret and other people at church: a welcoming spirit. I’m pretty sure Margaret knew of my ulterior motives for befriending her, but she never called me out on it.
After that day, I started paying more attention to Pastor Marcus’s sermons and less attention to Isaac. One year, our youth group served Christmas Eve dinner to the homeless and ate with them. I sat across from a woman named Lila who told me how child services had taken away her four-year-old daughter because of her financial and living situation.
A few days later, as I sat curled up reading the book of James, my heart suddenly felt heavy.
“If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and filled,’ without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that?”
I thought back to Pastor Marcus’s sermon on good and bad actions, Lila and her daughter, and the times I had passed people in need without even saying hello.
I decided to put my faith into action. The next week, I started volunteering at the front desk of a women’s shelter, helping women fill out forms or watching their kids while they talked with social workers.
From working for the past year at the women’s shelter, I now know I want to major in social work, caring for others instead of focusing on myself. I may not be a good person (or a bad one), but I can make good choices, helping others with every opportunity God gives me.
Word count: 622
This essay shows how a student’s natural affinity for solving a Rubik’s cube developed her self-understanding, academic achievement, and inspiration for her future career.
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?
The worst part about writing is putting down my Rubik’s cube so that I can use my hands to type. That’s usually the worst part of tackling my to-do list: setting aside my Rubik’s cube. My parents call it an obsession. But, for me, solving a Rubik’s cube challenges my brain as nothing else can.
It started on my ninth birthday. I invited three friends for a sleepover party, and I waited to open my presents right before bed. Wrapping paper, ribbons, and bows flew through the air as I oohed and aahed over each delightful gift! However, it was the last gift—a 3 x 3 x 3 cube of little squares covered in red, green, blue, yellow, white, and orange—that intrigued me.
I was horrified when Bekka ripped it out of my hands and messed it all up! I had no idea how to make all the sides match again. I waited until my friends were fast asleep. Then, I grabbed that cube and studied it under my blanket with a flashlight, determined to figure out how to restore it to its former pristine state.
Within a few weeks, I had discovered the secret. To practice, I’d take my cube with me to recess and let the other kids time me while I solved it in front of them. The better I became, the more they gathered around. But I soon realized that their attention didn’t matter all that much. I loved solving cubes for hours wherever I was: at lunch, riding in the car, or alone in my room.
Cross. White corners. Middle-layer edges. Yellow cross. Sune and anitsune.
The sequential algorithms became second nature, and with the assistance of a little black digital timer, I strove to solve the cube faster , each time attempting to beat my previous record. I watched speed solvers on YouTube, like Australia’s Feliks Zemdegs and Max Park from Massachusetts, but I wasn’t motivated to compete as they did. I watched their videos to learn how to improve my time. I liked finding new, more efficient ways of mastering the essential 78 separate cube-solving algorithms.
Now, I understand why my passion for my Rubik’s cube has never waned. Learning and applying the various algorithms soothes my brain and centers my emotions, especially when I feel overwhelmed from being around other people. Don’t get me wrong: I like other people—just in doses.
While some people get recharged by spending time with others, I can finally breathe when I’m alone with my cube. Our psychology teacher says the difference between an extrovert and an introvert is the situations that trigger their brains to produce dopamine. For me, it’s time away, alone, flipping through cube patterns to set a new personal best.
Sometimes, the world doesn’t cooperate with introverts, requiring them to interact with many people throughout the day. That’s why you’ll often find me in the stairwell or a library corner attempting to master another one of the 42 quintillion ways to solve a cube. My parents tease me that when I’ve “had enough” of anything, my fingers get a Rubik’s itch, and I suddenly disappear. I’m usually occupied for a while, but when I finally emerge, I feel centered, prepared to tackle my next task.
Secretly, I credit my cube with helping me earn top marks in AP Calculus, Chemistry, and Physics. It’s also responsible for my interest in computer engineering. It seems I just can’t get enough of those algorithms, which is why I want to study the design and implementation of cybersecurity software—all thanks to my Rubik’s cube.
Just don’t tell my parents! It would ruin all the fun!
Word count: 607
In this free topic essay, the student uses a montage structure inspired by the TV show Iron Chef America to demonstrate his best leadership moments.
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.
Iron Chef America: College Essay Edition
The time has come to answer college’s most difficult question: Whose story shows glory?
This is … Iron Chef America: College Essay Edition!
Welcome to Kitchen Stadium! Today we have Chef Brett Lowell. Chef Brett will be put to the test to prove he has what it takes to attend university next fall.
And the secret ingredient is … leadership! He must include leadership in each of his dishes, which will later be evaluated by a panel of admissions judges.
So now, America, with a creative mind and empty paper, I say unto you in the words of my teacher: “Let’s write!”
Appetizer: My first leadership experience
A mountain of mismatched socks, wrinkled jeans, and my dad’s unironed dress shirts sat in front of me. Laundry was just one of many chores that welcomed me home once I returned from my after-school job at Baskin Robbins, a gig I had taken last year to help Dad pay the rent. A few years earlier, I wasn’t prepared to cook dinners, pay utility bills, or pick up and drop off my brothers. I thought those jobs were reserved for parents. However, when my father was working double shifts at the power plant and my mom was living in Tucson with her new husband, Bill, I stepped up and took care of the house and my two younger brothers.
Main course: My best leadership experience
Between waiting for the pasta water to boil and for the next laundry cycle to be finished, I squeezed in solving a few practice precalculus problems to prepare for the following week’s mathletics competition. I liked how the equations always had clear, clean answers, which calmed me among the mounting responsibilities of home life. After leading my team to the Minnesota State Finals for two years in a row, I was voted team captain. Although my home responsibilities often competed with my mathlete duties, I tried to be as productive as possible in my free time. On the bus ride home, I would often tackle 10 to 20 functions or budget the following week’s meals and corresponding grocery list. My junior year was rough, but both my home and my mathlete team needed me.
Dessert: My future leadership hopes
The first thing I ever baked was a chocolate cake in middle school. This was around the time that Mom had just moved out and I was struggling with algebra. Troubles aside, one day my younger brother Simon needed a contribution for his school’s annual bake sale, and the PTA moms wouldn’t accept anything store-bought. So I carefully measured out the teaspoons and cups of various flours, powders, and oils, which resulted in a drooping, too-salty disaster.
Four years later, after a bakery’s worth of confections and many hours of study, I’ve perfected my German chocolate cake and am on my way to mastering Calculus AB. I’ve also thrown out the bitter-tasting parts of my past such as my resentment and anger toward my mom. I still miss having her at home, but whenever I have a baking question or want to update her on my mathlete team’s success, I call her or chat with her over text.
Whether in school or life, I see problems as opportunities, not obstacles, to find a better way to solve them more efficiently. I hope to continue improving my problem-solving skills next fall by majoring in mathematics and statistics.
We hope you’ve enjoyed this tasting of Chef Lowell’s leadership experiences. Next fall, tune in to see him craft new leadership adventures in college. He’s open to refining his technique and discovering new recipes.
Word count: 612
If you want to know more about academic writing , effective communication , or parts of speech , make sure to check out some of our other articles with explanations and examples.
- Writing process
- Transition words
- Passive voice
- How to end an email
- Ms, mrs, miss
- How to start an email
- I hope this email finds you well
- Hope you are doing well
Parts of speech
- Personal pronouns
The Common App essay is your primary writing sample within the Common Application, a college application portal accepted by more than 900 schools. All your prospective schools that accept the Common App will read this essay to understand your character, background, and value as a potential student.
Since this essay is read by many colleges, avoid mentioning any college names or programs; instead, save tailored answers for the supplementary school-specific essays within the Common App.
When writing your Common App essay , choose a prompt that sparks your interest and that you can connect to a unique personal story.
No matter which prompt you choose, admissions officers are more interested in your ability to demonstrate personal development , insight, or motivation for a certain area of study.
To decide on a good college essay topic , spend time thoughtfully answering brainstorming questions. If you still have trouble identifying topics, try the following two strategies:
- Identify your qualities → Brainstorm stories that demonstrate these qualities
- Identify memorable stories → Connect your qualities to these stories
You can also ask family, friends, or mentors to help you brainstorm topics, give feedback on your potential essay topics, or recall key stories that showcase your qualities.
A standout college essay has several key ingredients:
- A unique, personally meaningful topic
- A memorable introduction with vivid imagery or an intriguing hook
- Specific stories and language that show instead of telling
- Vulnerability that’s authentic but not aimed at soliciting sympathy
- Clear writing in an appropriate style and tone
- A conclusion that offers deep insight or a creative ending
Cite this Scribbr article
If you want to cite this source, you can copy and paste the citation or click the “Cite this Scribbr article” button to automatically add the citation to our free Citation Generator.
Courault, K. (2023, May 31). Common App Essays | 7 Strong Examples with Commentary. Scribbr. Retrieved October 4, 2023, from https://www.scribbr.com/college-essay/common-app-examples/
Is this article helpful?
Other students also liked, college essay examples | what works and what doesn't, how to apply for college | timeline, templates & checklist, how to write a diversity essay | tips & examples.
Choose Your Test
Sat / act prep online guides and tips, complete strategies: common app essay prompts (2023-24).
You can write about almost anything and make it work, so if you have an idea, don't let the fact that it doesn't fit neatly into one of these categories stop you. Treat these breakdowns as jumping-off points to help you start brainstorming , not the final word in how you need to approach the essay.
Make Sure You Look at This Year's Prompts
The Common App changes its prompts fairly frequently , so make sure you're familiar with the most up-to-date versions of the Common App essay questions . If you have friends or siblings who applied in past years, don't assume that you can take the exact same approaches they did.
This guide will go over the details of all seven current prompts, but first let's talk about some overall advice.
Want to write the perfect college application essay? Get professional help from PrepScholar.
Your dedicated PrepScholar Admissions counselor will craft your perfect college essay, from the ground up. We'll learn your background and interests, brainstorm essay topics, and walk you through the essay drafting process, step-by-step. At the end, you'll have a unique essay that you'll proudly submit to your top choice colleges.
Don't leave your college application to chance. Find out more about PrepScholar Admissions now :
4 Tips For Finding Your Best Common App Essay Topic
As you're brainstorming and preparing to write your Common App essay, you'll want to keep these tips in mind.
First, it means that you genuinely care about the topic and want to write your college essay on it— no one ever wrote a great essay on a topic that they felt they had to write about .
Second, it means that the topic shows off a quality or trait you want to highlight for the admissions committee . For example, say I wanted to write about my summer job with the Parks Department. It's not enough to simply tell a story about my feud with a raccoon that kept destroying all the progress I made repairing a bench; I would need to make it clear what that experience ;shows about my character (perseverance) and explain what it ;taught me (that there are some things in life you simply can't control).
Remember that the most important thing is that your essay is about you . This advice might sound obvious, but when you're used to writing academic essays, it can be tricky to dive deep into your own perspective.
#2: Take Your Time
Give yourself plenty of time to brainstorm and write so you don't feel rushed into jotting down the first thing you can come up with and sending it right off. We recommend starting the writing process two months in advance of your first college application deadline .
On a similar note, you should take the essay seriously: it's an important part of your application and worth investing the time in to get right. If you just dash something off thoughtlessly, admissions officers will recognize that and consider it evidence that you aren't really interested in their school.
#3: Avoid Repetition
Your essay should illustrate something about you beyond what's in the rest of your application . Try to write about a topic you haven't talked about elsewhere, or take a different angle on it.
A college essay is not a resume —it's the best opportunity to show off your unique personality to admissions committees. Pick your topic accordingly.
#4: Get Specific
The best topics are usually the narrowest ones: essays focused on a single interaction, a single phrase, or a single object. The more specific you can get, the more unique your topic will be to you.
Lots of people have tried out for a school play, for example, but each had their own particular experience of doing so. One student saw trying out for the role of Hamlet as the culmination of many years of study and hard work and was devastated not to get it, while another was simply proud to have overcome her nerves enough to try out for the chorus line in West Side Story . These would make for very different essays, even though they're on basically the same topic.
Another benefit of a specific topic is that it makes coming up with supporting details much easier. Specific, sensory details make the reader feel as if they're seeing the experience through your eyes, giving them a better sense of who you are.
Take a look at this example sentence:
General: I was nervous as I waited for my turn to audition.
Specific: As I waited for my name to be called, I tapped the rhythm of "America" on the hard plastic chair, going through the beats of my audition song over and over in my head.
The first version could be written by almost anyone; the second version has a specific perspective—it's also intriguing and makes you want to know more.
The more specific your essay topic is, the more clearly your unique voice will come through and the more engaging your essay will be.
Breaking Down the 2022-23 Common App Essay Prompts
Now that we've established the basic ideas you need to keep in mind as you brainstorm, let's go through the 2022-23 Common App essay questions one at a time and break down what admissions committees are looking for in responses.
Keep in mind that for each of these questions, there are really two parts . The first is describing something you did or something that happened to you. The second is explaining what that event, action, or activity means to you . No essay is complete without addressing both sides of the topic.
Next, it had to have had some sort of real impact so you can explain how your gratefulness affected you. This means that, even if the event itself was small, it had to have brought about some sort of lasting change in how you live your life.
To start, brainstorm times when something went better than expected/you were happily surprised by an outcome/you were especially grateful/someone restored your faith in humanity. Remember, this has to be, overall, a positive situation, as you're being asked about an event that made you happy or grateful. This is in contrast to prompts 2 and 3 which focus more on challenges you've faced.
Once you have your list, eliminate any instances that didn't affect or motivate you. The key part of this prompt is explaining the impact of your gratitude, so you need to write about a time when gratitude made you do something you normally wouldn't have done. This could be focusing on self-care/self-improvement, paying it forward by helping someone else, shifting your values, etc. Colleges want to see how you changed because of this event.
For example, say you decide to write about your first time traveling through an airport alone. You're not sure where to go, and all the workers look busy and like they're just waiting for their break. You're wandering around, lost, too shy to ask someone for help, when a gruff-looking employee comes up and asks if you need something. When you admit you don't know how to find your gate, they take the time to walk you to it, show you which screen to watch so you know when to board, and tell you to come get them if you need any more help. It's much more help than you thought anyone would give you.
Because of that person's actions (and this is the key part), you now always keep an eye out for people who look lost or confused and try to help them because you know how intimidating it can be to be out of your depth. You also know that many times people feel embarrassed to ask for help, so you need to make the first move to help them. If you have a specific example of you helping someone in need as a result, including that will make the essay even stronger.
Avoid scenarios where you were the first person to help another. The prompt is asking about a time someone was kind to you, and then you reacted in response to that. You need to have the grateful moment first, then the change in behavior.
Additionally, avoid examples where someone treated you badly but you rose above it. This is a situation where someone was kind to you, and you decided to keep that kindness going.
Common App Essay Prompt 6: Your Passion
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?
This prompt is asking you to describe something you're intellectually passionate about .
But in addition to describing a topic of personal fascination and why you're so interested in it, you need to detail how you have pursued furthering your own knowledge of the topic . Did you undertake extra study? Hole yourself up in the library? Ask your math team coach for more practice problems?
Colleges want to admit students who are intellectually engaged with the world. They want you to show that you have a genuine love for the pursuit of knowledge .
Additionally, by describing how you've learned more about your chosen topic, concept, or idea, you can prove that you are self-motivated and resourceful .
Pretty much any topic you're really interested in and passionate about could make a good essay here, just as long as you can put can put an intellectual spin on it and demonstrate that you've gone out of your way to learn about the topic.
So It's fine to say that the topic that engages you most is football, but talk about what interests you in an academic sense about the sport. Have you learned everything there is to know about the history of the sport? Are you an expert on football statistics? Emphasize how the topic you are writing about engages your brain.
Don't pick something you don't actually care about just because you think it would sound good.
If you say you love black holes but actually hate them and tortured yourself with astronomy books in the library for a weekend to glean enough knowledge to write your essay, your lack of enthusiasm will definitely come through.
Common App Essay Prompt 7: Your Choice
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.
You can write about anything for this one!
Since this is a choose-your-own-adventure prompt, colleges aren't looking for anything specific to this prompt .
However, you'll want to demonstrate some of the same qualities that colleges are looking for in all college essays: things like academic passion, maturity, resourcefulness, and persistence. What are your values? How do you face setbacks? These are all things you can consider touching on in your essay.
If you already have a topic in mind for this one that doesn't really fit with any of the other prompts, go for it!
Avoid essays that aren't really about you as a person. So no submitting your rhetorical close-reading of the poem "Ode on a Grecian Urn" you wrote for AP English!
However, if you want to write about the way that "Ode on a Grecian Urn" made you reconsider your entire approach to life, go ahead.
Want to build the best possible college application?
We can help. PrepScholar Admissions is the world's best admissions consulting service. We combine world-class admissions counselors with our data-driven, proprietary admissions strategies . We've overseen thousands of students get into their top choice schools , from state colleges to the Ivy League.
We know what kinds of students colleges want to admit. We want to get you admitted to your dream schools .
Learn more about PrepScholar Admissions to maximize your chance of getting in.
The Common App Essay Questions: 5 Key Takeaways
We've covered a lot of ground, but don't panic. I've collected the main ideas you should keep in mind as you plan your Common App essay below.
#5: Don't Worry About What You Think You're Supposed to Write
There is no single right answer to these prompts , and if you try to find one, you'll end up doing yourself a disservice. What's important is to tell your story—and no one can tell you what that means because it's unique to you.
Many students believe that they should write about resume-padding activities that look especially impressive, such as volunteering abroad. These essays are often boring and derivative because the writer doesn't really have anything to say on the topic and assumes it'll speak for itself.
But the point of a personal statement isn't to explain what you've done; it's to show who you are .
Take the time to brainstorm and figure out what you want to show colleges about yourself and what story or interest best exemplifies that quality.
For more background on college essays and tips for crafting a great one, check out our complete explanation of the basics of the personal statement .
Make sure you're prepared for the rest of the college application process as well with our guides to asking for recommendations , writing about extracurriculars , taking the SAT , and researching colleges .
Want to improve your SAT score by 160 ;points or your ACT score by 4 points? We've written a guide for each test about the top 5 strategies you must be using to have a shot at improving your score. Download it for free now:
Alex is an experienced tutor and writer. Over the past five years, she has worked with almost a hundred students and written about pop culture for a wide range of publications. She graduated with honors from University of Chicago, receiving a BA in English and Anthropology, and then went on to earn an MA at NYU in Cultural Reporting and Criticism. In high school, she was a National Merit Scholar, took 12 AP tests and scored 99 percentile scores on the SAT and ACT.
Student and Parent Forum
Our new student and parent forum, at ExpertHub.PrepScholar.com , allow you to interact with your peers and the PrepScholar staff. See how other students and parents are navigating high school, college, and the college admissions process. Ask questions; get answers.
Ask a Question Below
Have any questions about this article or other topics? Ask below and we'll reply!
Improve With Our Famous Guides
- For All Students
The 5 Strategies You Must Be Using to Improve 160+ SAT Points
How to Get a Perfect 1600, by a Perfect Scorer
Series: How to Get 800 on Each SAT Section:
Score 800 on SAT Math
Score 800 on SAT Reading
Score 800 on SAT Writing
Series: How to Get to 600 on Each SAT Section:
Score 600 on SAT Math
Score 600 on SAT Reading
Score 600 on SAT Writing
Free Complete Official SAT Practice Tests
What SAT Target Score Should You Be Aiming For?
15 Strategies to Improve Your SAT Essay
The 5 Strategies You Must Be Using to Improve 4+ ACT Points
How to Get a Perfect 36 ACT, by a Perfect Scorer
Series: How to Get 36 on Each ACT Section:
36 on ACT English
36 on ACT Math
36 on ACT Reading
36 on ACT Science
Series: How to Get to 24 on Each ACT Section:
24 on ACT English
24 on ACT Math
24 on ACT Reading
24 on ACT Science
What ACT target score should you be aiming for?
ACT Vocabulary You Must Know
ACT Writing: 15 Tips to Raise Your Essay Score
How to Get Into Harvard and the Ivy League
How to Get a Perfect 4.0 GPA
How to Write an Amazing College Essay
What Exactly Are Colleges Looking For?
Is the ACT easier than the SAT? A Comprehensive Guide
Should you retake your SAT or ACT?
When should you take the SAT or ACT?
Get the latest articles and test prep tips!
Looking for Graduate School Test Prep?
Check out our top-rated graduate blogs here:
GRE Online Prep Blog
GMAT Online Prep Blog
TOEFL Online Prep Blog
Holly R. "I am absolutely overjoyed and cannot thank you enough for helping me!”
What are your chances of acceptance?
Calculate for all schools, your chance of acceptance.
Your chancing factors
How to Write the Common Application Essays 2023-2024 (With Examples)
The Common App essay is one of the most important parts of your application, but it can be extremely daunting if you’re not familiar with creative writing or what admissions officers are looking for.
In this blog post, we’ll provide advice on how to break down these prompts, organize your thoughts, and craft a strong, meaningful response that admissions officers will notice. If you’d like more free personalized help, you can get your essays reviewed and explore school-by-school essay help on CollegeVine.
Why the Common App Essay Matters
Admissions is a human process. While admissions committees look at grades, test scores, and extracurriculars, there are five students that have great qualifications in those areas for every spot in a university’s class. As an applicant, you need an admissions counselor to choose you over everyone else — to advocate specifically for you.
This is where essays come in; they are an opportunity for you to turn an admissions counselor into an advocate for your application! Of your essays, the Common App is the most important since it is seen by most of the colleges to which you apply. It is also your longest essay, which gives you more space to craft a narrative and share your personality, feelings, and perspective.
It’s not hyperbole to say that getting the Common App essay right is the single most important thing you can do to improve your chances of admission as a senior.
Overview of the Common App
The Common App essay is the best way for admissions committees to get to know you. While SAT scores, your past course load, and your grades provide a quantitative picture of you as a student, the Common App essay offers adcoms a refreshing glimpse into your identity and personality. For this reason, try to treat the essay as an opportunity to tell colleges why you are unique and what matters to you.
Since your Common App essay will be seen by numerous colleges, you will want to paint a portrait of yourself that is accessible to a breadth of institutions and admissions officers (for example, if you are only applying to engineering programs at some schools, don’t focus your Common App on STEM at the expense of your other applications — save that for your supplemental essays).
In short, be open and willing to write about a topic you love, whether it is sports, music, politics, food, or watching movies. The Common App essay is more of a conversation than a job interview.
What Makes a Great Common App Essay?
A great Common App essay is, first and foremost, deeply personal. You are relying on the admissions committee to choose you over someone else, which they are more likely to do if they feel a personal connection to you. In your essay, you should delve into your feelings, how you think about situations/problems, and how you make decisions.
Good essays also usually avoid cliche topics . A couple overdone themes include an immigrant’s journey (particularly if you’re Asian American), and a sports accomplishment or injury. It’s not that these topics are bad, but rather that many students write about these subjects, so they don’t stand out as much. Of course, some students are able to write a genuine and unique essay about one of these topics, but it’s hard to pull off. You’re better off writing about more nuanced aspects of your identity!
You should also, of course, pay close attention to your grammar and spelling, use varied sentence structure and word choice, and be consistent with your tone/writing style. Take full advantage of the available 650 words, as writing less tends to mean missed opportunities.
Finally, it’s a good practice to be aware of your audience – know who you are writing for! For example, admissions officers at BYU will probably be very religious, while those at Oberlin will be deeply committed to social justice.
See some examples of great Common App essays to get a better idea of what makes a strong essay.
How your Common App Essay Fits with Your Other Essays
The Common App is one part of a portfolio of essays that you send to colleges, along with supplemental essays at individual colleges. With all of your essays for a particular college, you want to create a narrative and tell different parts of your story. So, the topics you write about should be cohesive and complementary, but not repetitive or overlapping.
Before jumping in to write your Common App essay, you should think about the other schools that you’re writing essays for and make sure that you have a strategy for your entire portfolio of essays and cover different topics for each. If you have strong qualifications on paper for the colleges you are targeting, the best narratives tend to humanize you. If you have weaker qualifications on paper for your colleges, the best narratives tend to draw out your passion for the topics or fields of study that are of interest to you and magnify your accomplishments.
Strategy for Writing the Common App Essays
Because the Common App essay is 650 words long and has few formal directions, organizing a response might seem daunting. Fortunately, at CollegeVine, we’ve developed a straightforward approach to formulating strong, unique responses.
This section outlines how to: 1) Brainstorm , 2) Organize , and 3) Write a Common App essay.
Before reading the prompts, brainstorming is a critical exercise to develop high-level ideas. One way to construct a high-level idea would be to delve into a passion and focus on how you interact with the concept or activity. For example, using “creative writing” as a high-level idea, one could stress their love of world-building, conveying complex emotions, and depicting character interactions, emphasizing how writing stems from real-life experiences.
A different idea that doesn’t involve an activity would be to discuss how your personality has developed in relation to your family; maybe one sibling is hot-headed, the other quiet, and you’re in the middle as the voice of reason (or maybe you’re the hot-head). These are simply two examples of infinitely many ideas you could come up with.
To begin developing your own high-level ideas, you can address these Core Four questions that all good Common App essays should answer:
- “Who Am I?”
- “Why Am I Here?”
- “What is Unique About Me?”
- “What Matters to Me?”
The first question focuses on your personality traits — who you are. The second question targets your progression throughout high school (an arc or journey). The third question is more difficult to grasp, but it involves showing why your personality traits, methods of thinking, areas of interest, and tangible skills form a unique combination. The fourth question is a concluding point that can be answered simply, normally in the conclusion paragraph, i.e., “Running matters to me” or “Ethical fashion matters to me.”
You can brainstorm freeform or start with a specific prompt in mind.
Sometimes, it can be helpful to start by jotting down the 3-5 aspects of your personality or experiences you’ve had on a piece of paper. Play around with narratives that are constructed out of different combinations of these essential attributes before settling on a prompt.
For example, you might note that you are fascinated by environmental justice, have had success in Model Congress, and are now working with a local politician to create a recycling program in your school district. You may also have tried previous initiatives that failed. These experiences could be constructed and applied to a number of Common App prompts. You could address a specific identity or interest you have associated with public advocacy, discuss what you learned from your failed initiatives, explore how you challenged the lack of recycling at your school, fantasize about solving waste management issues, etc.
Selecting a prompt that you identify with
For example, consider the following prompt: 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?
Perhaps you had been a dedicated and active member of your school’s debate team until one of your parents lost their jobs, leaving you unable to afford the high membership and travel dues. You decided to help out by getting a job after school, and responded to your familial hardship with grace and understanding (as opposed to anger). A few months later, and after speaking with your former debate coach and your parents, you set up a system to save up for your own trips so that you could still participate in debate!
In general, the most common mistake CollegeVine sees with Common App essays is that they aren’t deeply personal. Your essay should be specific enough that it could be identified as yours even if your name wasn’t attached.
If you get stuck, don’t worry! This is very common as the Common App is often the first personal essay college applicants have ever written. One way of getting unstuck if you feel like you aren’t getting creative or personal enough is to keep asking yourself “why”
For example: I love basketball…
- Because I like having to think on the fly and be creative while running our offense.
It can often help to work with someone and bounce ideas off them. Teachers are often a bad idea – they tend to think of essays in an academic sense, which is to say they often fail to apply the admissions context. Further, it is unlikely that they know you well enough to provide valuable insight. Friends in your own year can be a good idea because they know you, but you should be careful about competitive pressures applying within the same high school. Older friends, siblings, or neighbors who have successfully navigated the admissions process at your target universities (or good universities) strike that medium between no longer being competitive with you for admissions but still being able to help you brainstorm well because they know you.
Overall, there is no single “correct” topic. Your essay will be strong as long as you are comfortable and passionate about your idea and it answers the Core Four questions.
Common App essays are not traditional five-paragraph essays. You are free to be creative in structure, employ dialogue, and use vivid descriptions—and you should! Make sure that context and logic are inherent in your essay, however. From paragraph to paragraph, sentence to sentence, your ideas should be clear and flow naturally. Great ways to ensure this are using a story arc following a few major points, or focusing on cause and effect.
The traditional approach
This involves constructing a narrative out of your experiences and writing a classic personal essay. You are free to be creative in structure, employ dialogue, and use vivid descriptions—and you should! Make sure that context and logic are inherent in your essay, however. From paragraph to paragraph, sentence to sentence, your ideas should be clear and flow naturally. Great ways to ensure this are using a story arc following a few major points, or focusing on cause and effect.
The creative approach
Some students prefer to experiment with an entirely new approach to the personal essay. For example, a student who is passionate about programming could write their essay in alternating lines of Binary and English. A hopeful Literature major could reimagine a moment in their life as a chapter of War and Peace, adopting Tolstoy’s writing style. Or, you could write about a fight with your friend in the form of a third person sports recap to both highlight your interest in journalism and reveal a personal story. Creative essays are incredibly risky and difficult to pull off. However, a creative essay that is well executed may also have the potential for high reward.
Your Common App essay must display excellent writing in terms of grammar and sentence structure. The essay doesn’t need to be a Shakespearean masterpiece, but it should be well-written and clear.
A few tips to accomplish this are:
- Show, don’t tell
- Be specific
- Choose active voice, not passive voice
- Avoid clichés
- Write in a tone that aligns with your goals for the essay. For example, if you are a heavy STEM applicant hoping to use your Common App essay to humanize your application, you will be undermined by writing in a brusque, harsh tone.
“Show, don’t tell” is vital to writing an engaging essay, and this is the point students struggle with most. Instead of saying, “I struggled to make friends when I transferred schools,” you can show your emotions by writing, “I scanned the bustling school cafeteria, feeling more and more forlorn with each unfamiliar face. I found an empty table and ate my lunch alone.”
In many cases, writing can include more specific word choice . For example, “As a kid, I always played basketball,” can be improved to be “Every day after school as a kid, I ran home, laced up my sneakers, and shot a basketball in my driveway until the sun went down and I could barely see.”
To use active voice over passive voice , be sure that your sentence’s subject performs the action indicated by the verb, rather than the action performing onto the subject. Instead of writing “this project was built by my own hands,” you would say “I built this project with my own hands.”
Finally, avoid clichés like adages, sayings, and quotes that do not bring value to your essay. Examples include phrases like “Be the change you wish to see in the world” (it’s also important to know that sayings like these are often seriously misquoted—Gandhi did not actually utter these words) and lavish claims like “it was the greatest experience of my life.”
A few tips for the writing (and re-writing!) process
- If you have enough time, write a 950 word version of your personal statement first and then cut it down to the official word limit of 650. In many cases, the extra writing you do for this draft will contain compelling content. Using this, you can carve out the various sections and information that allow you to tell your story best.
- Revise your draft 3-5 times. Any more, you are probably overthinking and overanalyzing. Any less, you are not putting in the work necessary to optimize your Common App essay.
- It can be easy for you to get lost in your words after reading and rereading, writing and rewriting. It is best to have someone else do your final proofread to help you identify typos or sentences that are unclear.
Deciding on a Prompt
This section provides insights and examples for each of the 7 Common App essay prompts for the 2023-2024 cycle. Each of these prompts lends itself to distinct topics and strategies, so selecting the prompt that best aligns with your idea is essential to writing an effective Common App essay.
Here are this year’s prompts (click the link to jump to the specific prompt):
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, reflect on something that someone has done for you that has made you happy or thankful in a surprising way. how has this gratitude affected or motivated you, 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..
This prompt offers an opportunity to engage with your favorite extracurricular or academic subject, and it allows you to weave a narrative that displays personal growth in that area. An essay that displays your personality and a unique interest can be attention-grabbing, particularly if you have an unconventional passion, such as blogging about Chinese basketball or unicycling.
Don’t feel intimidated if you don’t have a passion that is immediately “unique,” however. Even an interest like “arctic scuba diving” will fail as an essay topic if it’s not written with insight and personality. Instead of attempting to impress the Admissions Officer by making up unusual or shocking things, think about how you spend your free time and ask yourself why you spend it that way. Also think about your upbringing, identity, and experiences and ask yourself, “What has impacted me in a meaningful way?”
Here Are A Few Response Examples:
Background – A person’s background includes experiences, training, education, and culture. You can discuss the experience of growing up, interacting with family, and how relationships have molded who you are. A background can include long-term interactions with arts, music, sciences, sports, writing, and many other learned skills. Background also includes your social environments and how they’ve influenced your perception. In addition, you can highlight intersections between multiple backgrounds and show how each is integral to you.
One student wrote about how growing up in a poor Vietnamese immigrant family inspired her to seize big opportunities, even if they were risky or challenging. She describes the emotional demand of opening and running a family grocery store. (Note: Names have been changed to protect the identity of the author and subjects in all the examples.)
The callouses on my mother’s hands formed during the years spent scaling fish at the market in Go Noi, Vietnam. My mother never finished her formal education because she labored on the streets to help six others survive. Her calloused hands not only scaled fish, they also slaved over the stove, mustering a meal from the few items in the pantry. This image resurfaces as I watch my mother’s calloused hands wipe her sweat-beaded forehead while she manages the family business, compiling resources to provide for the family.
Living in an impoverished region of Vietnam pushed my parents to emigrate. My two year-old memory fails me, but my mother vividly recounts my frightened eyes staring up at her on my first plane ride. With life packed into a single suitcase, my mother’s heart, though, trembled more than mine. Knowing only a few words of English, my mother embarked on a journey shrouded in a haze of uncertainty.
Our initial year in America bore an uncanny resemblance to Vietnam – from making one meal last the entire day to wearing the same four shirts over and over again. Through thin walls, I heard my parents debating their decision to come to the United States, a land where they knew no one. My grandparents’ support came in half-hearted whispers cracking through long-distance phone calls. My dad’s scanty income barely kept food on the table. We lived on soup and rice for what seemed an interminable time.
However, an opportunity knocked on my parents’ door: a grocery store in the town of Decatur, Mississippi, was up for rent. My parents took the chance, risking all of their savings. To help my parents, I spent most of my adolescent afternoons stocking shelves, mopping floors, and even translating. My parents’ voices wavered when speaking English; through every attempt to communicate with their customers, a language barrier forged a palpable presence in each transaction. My parents’ spirits faltered as customers grew impatient. A life of poverty awaited us in Vietnam if the business was not successful.
On the first day, the business brought in only twenty dollars. Twenty dollars. My mother and my father wept after they closed the shop. Seeing the business as a failure, my mom commenced her packing that night; returning to Vietnam seemed inevitable.
The next business day, however, sales increased ten-fold. More and more customers came each successive day. My mom’s tears turned into—well, more tears, but they were tears of joy. My mother unpacked a bag each night.
Fifteen years later, my parents now own Blue Bear Grocery. My parents work, work, work to keep the shelves stocked and the customers coming. The grocery store holds a special place in my heart: it is the catalyst for my success. My parents serve as my role-models, teaching me a new lesson with every can placed on the shelf. One lesson that resurfaces is the importance of pursuing a formal education, something that my parents never had the chance of.
When the opportunity to attend the Mississippi School for Mathematics and Science (MSMS) presented itself, I took it and ran, as did my parents by leaving Vietnam and by buying the store. Although I am not managing hundreds of products, I am managing hundreds of assignments at MSMS – from Mu Alpha Theta tutoring to lab reports to student government to British literature.
Had I not immigrated, my hands would be calloused from the tight grip of the knife scaling fish rather than from the tight grip on my pencil. My hands would be calloused from scrubbing my clothes covered in fish scales rather than from long hours spent typing a research paper.
Although the opportunities that my parents and I pursued are different, our journey is essentially the same: we walk a road paved with uncertainty and doubt with the prospect of success fortified by our hearts and our hands.
Identity – this can mean racial identity, sexual orientation, gender, or simply one’s place within a specific community (even communities as unique as, say, players of World of Warcraft). With the topic of racial identity, it’s important to remember the audience (college admissions counselors often lean progressive politically), so this might not be the best place to make sweeping claims about today’s state of race relations. However, reflecting on how your culture has shaped your experiences can make for a compelling essay. Alternatively, focusing on a dominant personality trait can also make for a compelling theme. For example, if you’re extremely outgoing, you could explain how your adventurousness has allowed you to learn from a diverse group of friends and the random situations you find yourself in. 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. If such experiences are integral to who you are, you should still write about them, but be sure to show us your unique introspection and reflection.
One student detailed how growing up as an American in Germany led to feelings of displacement. Moving to America in high school only exacerbated her feelings of rootlessness. Her transcultural experiences, however, allowed her to relate to other “New Americans,” particularly refugees. Helping a young refugee girl settle into the US eventually helped the writer find home in America as well:
Growing up, I always wanted to eat, play, visit, watch, and be it all: sloppy joes and spaetzle, Beanie Babies and Steiff, Cape Cod and the Baltic Sea, football and fussball, American and German.
My American parents relocated our young family to Berlin when I was three years old. My exposure to America was limited to holidays spent stateside and awfully dubbed Disney Channel broadcasts. As the few memories I had of living in the US faded, my affinity for Germany grew. I began to identify as “Germerican,” an ideal marriage of the two cultures. As a child, I viewed my biculturalism as a blessing. I possessed a native fluency in “Denglisch” and my family’s Halloween parties were legendary at a time when the holiday was just starting to gain popularity outside of the American Sector.
Insidiously, the magic I once felt in loving two homes was replaced by a deeprooted sense of rootlessness. I stopped feeling American when, while discussing World War II with my grandmother, I said “the US won.” She corrected me, insisting I use “we” when referring to the US’s actions. Before then, I hadn’t realized how directly people associated themselves with their countries. I stopped feeling German during the World Cup when my friends labeled me a “bandwagon fan” for rooting for Germany. Until that moment, my cheers had felt sincere. I wasn’t part of the “we” who won World Wars or World Cups. Caught in a twilight of foreign and familiar, I felt emotionally and psychologically disconnected from the two cultures most familiar to me.
After moving from Berlin to New York state at age fifteen, my feelings of cultural homelessness thrived in my new environment. Looking and sounding American furthered my feelings of dislocation. Border patrol agents, teachers, classmates, neighbors, and relatives all “welcomed me home” to a land they could not understand was foreign to me. Americans confused me as I relied on Urban Dictionary to understand my peers, the Pledge of Allegiance seemed nationalistic, and the only thing familiar about Fahrenheit was the German after whom it was named. Too German for America and too American for Germany, I felt alienated from both. I wanted desperately to be a member of one, if not both, cultures.
During my first weeks in Buffalo, I spent my free time googling “Berlin Family Seeks Teen” and “New Americans in Buffalo.” The latter search proved most fruitful: I discovered New Hope, a nonprofit that empowers resettled refugees, or “New Americans,” to thrive. I started volunteering with New Hope’s children’s programs, playing with and tutoring young refugees.
It was there that I met Leila, a twelve-year-old Iraqi girl who lived next to Hopeprint. In between games and snacks, Leila would ask me questions about American life, touching on everything from Halloween to President Obama. Gradually, my confidence in my American identity grew as I recognized my ability to answer most of her questions. American culture was no longer completely foreign to me. I found myself especially qualified to work with young refugees; my experience growing up in a country other than that of my parents’ was similar enough to that of the refugee children New Hope served that I could empathize with them and offer advice. Together, we worked through conflicting allegiances, homesickness, and stretched belonging.
Forging a special, personal bond with young refugees proved a cathartic outlet for my insecurities as it taught me to value my past. My transculturalism allowed me to help young refugees integrate into American life, and, in doing so, I was able to adjust myself. Now, I have an appreciation of myself that I never felt before. “Home” isn’t the digits in a passport or ZIP code but a sense of contentedness. By helping a young refugee find comfort, happiness, and home in America, I was finally able to find those same things for myself.
The above essay was written by Lydia Schooler, a graduate of Yale University and one of our CollegeVine advisors. If you enjoyed this essay and are looking for expert college essay and admissions advice, consider booking a session with Lydia .
Interests – Interest are basically synonymous to activities, but slightly broader (you could say that interests encompass activities); participation in an interest is often less organized than in an activity. For instance, you might consider cross country an activity, but cooking an interest. Writing about an interest is a way to highlight passions that may not come across in the rest of your application. If you’re a wrestler for example, writing about your interest in stand-up comedy would be a refreshing addition to your application. You should also feel free to use this topic to show what an important activity on your application really means to you. Keep in mind, however, that many schools will ask you to describe one of your activities in their supplemental essays (usually about 250 words), so choose strategically—you don’t want to write twice on the same thing.
Read a successful essay answering this prompt.
This prompt lends itself to consideration of what facets of your personality allow you to overcome adversity. While it’s okay to choose a relatively mundane “failure” such as not winning an award at a Model UN conference, another (perhaps more powerful) tactic is to write about a foundational failure and assess its impact on your development thereafter.
There are times in life when your foundation is uprooted. There are times when you experience failure and you want to give up since you don’t see a solution. This essay is about your response when you are destabilized and your actions when you don’t see an immediate answer.
For example, if you lost a friend due to an argument, you can analyze the positions from both sides, evaluate your decisions, and identify why you were wrong. The key is explaining your thought process and growth following the event to highlight how your thinking has changed. Did you ever admit your fault and seek to fix the problem? Have you treated others differently since then? How has the setback changed the way you view arguments and fights now? Framing the prompt in this way allows you to tackle heavier questions about ethics and demonstrate your self-awareness.
If you haven’t experienced a “big” failure, another angle to take would be to discuss smaller, repeated failures that are either linked or similar thematically. For example, if you used to stutter or get nervous in large social groups, you could discuss the steps you took to find a solution. Even if you don’t have a massive foundational challenge to write about, a recurring challenge can translate to a powerful essay topic, especially if the steps you took to overcome this repeated failure help expose your character.
One student described his ignorance of his brother’s challenges — the writer assumed that because his brother Sam was sociable, Sam was adjusting fine to their family’s move. After an angry outburst from Sam and a long late-night conversation, the writer realizes his need to develop greater sensitivity and empathy. He now strives to recognize and understand others’ struggles, even if they’re not immediately apparent.
“You ruined my life!” After months of quiet anger, my brother finally confronted me. To my shame, I had been appallingly ignorant of his pain.
Despite being twins, Max and I are profoundly different. Having intellectual interests from a young age that, well, interested very few of my peers, I often felt out of step in comparison with my highly-social brother. Everything appeared to come effortlessly for Max and, while we share an extremely tight bond, his frequent time away with friends left me feeling more and more alone as we grew older.
When my parents learned about The Green Academy, we hoped it would be an opportunity for me to find not only an academically challenging environment, but also – perhaps more importantly – a community. This meant transferring the family from Drumfield to Kingston. And while there was concern about Max, we all believed that given his sociable nature, moving would be far less impactful on him than staying put might be on me.
As it turned out, Green Academy was everything I’d hoped for. I was ecstatic to discover a group of students with whom I shared interests and could truly engage. Preoccupied with new friends and a rigorous course load, I failed to notice that the tables had turned. Max, lost in the fray and grappling with how to make connections in his enormous new high school, had become withdrawn and lonely. It took me until Christmas time – and a massive argument – to recognize how difficult the transition had been for my brother, let alone that he blamed me for it.
Through my own journey of searching for academic peers, in addition to coming out as gay when I was 12, I had developed deep empathy for those who had trouble fitting in. It was a pain I knew well and could easily relate to. Yet after Max’s outburst, my first response was to protest that our parents – not I – had chosen to move us here. In my heart, though, I knew that regardless of who had made the decision, we ended up in Kingston for my benefit. I was ashamed that, while I saw myself as genuinely compassionate, I had been oblivious to the heartache of the person closest to me. I could no longer ignore it – and I didn’t want to.
We stayed up half the night talking, and the conversation took an unexpected turn. Max opened up and shared that it wasn’t just about the move. He told me how challenging school had always been for him, due to his dyslexia, and that the ever-present comparison to me had only deepened his pain.
We had been in parallel battles the whole time and, yet, I only saw that Max was in distress once he experienced problems with which I directly identified. I’d long thought Max had it so easy – all because he had friends. The truth was, he didn’t need to experience my personal brand of sorrow in order for me to relate – he had felt plenty of his own.
My failure to recognize Max’s suffering brought home for me the profound universality and diversity of personal struggle; everyone has insecurities, everyone has woes, and everyone – most certainly – has pain. I am acutely grateful for the conversations he and I shared around all of this, because I believe our relationship has been fundamentally strengthened by a deeper understanding of one another. Further, this experience has reinforced the value of constantly striving for deeper sensitivity to the hidden struggles of those around me. I won’t make the mistake again of assuming that the surface of someone’s life reflects their underlying story.
This prompt is difficult to answer because most high schoolers haven’t participated in the types of iconoclastic protests against societal ills that lend themselves to an awe-inspiring response. 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.e., by blogging, starting a tutoring organization, or participating in political campaigns), you could discuss your experiences as a young person without a college degree in professional circles. However, avoid sounding morally superior (as if you’re the only person who went against this convention, or that you’re better than your peers for doing so).
Another way to answer this prompt is to discuss a time when you noticed a need for change. For example, if you wondered why medical records are often handwritten, or why a doctor’s visit can be long and awkward, maybe you challenged the norm in healthcare by brainstorming an electronic-recording smartphone app or a telemedicine system. 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. In short, this essay is very much about “thinking,” rumination, and inquisition. 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.
While this prompt may seem to be asking a simple question, your answer has the potential to provide deep insights about who you are to the admissions committee. Explaining what you are grateful for can show them your culture, your community, your philosophical outlook on the world, and what makes you tick.
The first step to writing this essay is to think about the “something” and “someone” of your story. It is imperative to talk about a unique moment in your life, as the prompt asks for gratitude that came about in a surprising way. You will want to write about a story that you are certain no one else would have. To brainstorm, ask yourself: “if I told a stranger that I was grateful for what happened to me without any context, would they be surprised?”
Note that the most common answers to this prompt involve a family member, teacher, or sports coach giving the narrator an arduous task ─ which, by the end of the story, the narrator becomes grateful for because of the lessons they learned through their hard work. Try to avoid writing an essay along these lines unless you feel that your take on it will be truly original.
Begin your essay by telling a creative story about the “something” that your “someone” did that made you thankful. Paint a picture with words here ─ establish who you were in the context of your story and make the character development of your “someone” thorough. Show the admissions committee that you have a clear understanding of yourself and the details of your world.
Keep in mind, however, that the essay is ultimately about you and your growth. While you should set the scene clearly, don’t spend too much time talking about the “something” and “someone.”
Your story should then transition into a part about your unexpected epiphany, e.g. “Six months after Leonard gave me that pogo stick, I started to be grateful for the silly thing…” Explain the why of your gratitude as thoroughly as you can before you begin to talk about how your gratitude affected or motivated you. Have a Socratic seminar with yourself in your head ─ ask yourself, “why am I grateful for the pogo stick?” and continue asking why until you arrive at a philosophical conclusion. Perhaps your reason could be that you eventually got used to the odd looks that people gave you as you were pogoing and gained more self-confidence.
Finally, think about how learning to be grateful for something you would not expect to bring you joy and thankfulness has had a positive impact on your life. Gaining more self-confidence, for example, could motivate you to do an infinite number of things that you were not able to attempt in the past. Try to make a conclusion by connecting this part to your story from the beginning of the essay. You want to ultimately show that had [reference to a snippet of your introduction, ideally an absurd part] never have happened, you would not be who you are today.
Remember to express these lessons implicitly through the experiences in your essay, and not explicitly. Show us your growth through the changes in your life rather than simply stating that you gained confidence. For instance, maybe the pogo stick gift led you to start a pogo dance team at your school, and the team went on to perform at large venues to raise money for charity. But before your pogo days, you had crippling stage fright and hated even giving speeches in your English class. These are the kinds of details that make your essay more engaging.
This prompt is expansive in that you can choose any accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked personal growth or new understanding.
One option is to discuss a formal accomplishment or event (whether it is a religious ritual or social rite of passage) that reflects personal growth. If you go this route, make sure to discuss why the ritual was meaningful and how specific aspects of said ritual contributed to your personal growth. An example of this could be the meaning of becoming an Eagle Scout to you, the accomplishment of being elected to Senior Leadership, or completing a Confirmation. In the case of religious topics, however, be sure to not get carried away with details, and focus on the nature of your personal growth and new understanding — know your audience.
Alternatively, a more relaxed way to address this prompt is using an informal event or realization, which would allow you to show more personality and creativity. An example of this could be learning how to bake with your mother, thus sparking a newfound connection with her, allowing you to learn about her past. Having a long discussion about life or philosophy with your father could also suffice, thus sparking more thoughts about your identity. You could write about a realization that caused you to join a new organization or quit an activity you did not think you would enjoy, as doing so would force you to grow out of your comfort zone to try new things.
The key to answering this prompt is clearly defining what it is that sparked your growth, and then describing in detail the nature of this growth and how it related to your perception of yourself and others. This part of the essay is crucial, as you must dedicate sufficient time to not undersell the description of how you grew instead of simply explaining the experience and then saying, “I grew.” This description of how you grew must be specific, in-depth, and it does not have to be simple. Your growth can also be left open-ended if you are still learning from your experiences today.
One student wrote about how her single mother’s health crisis prompted her to quickly assume greater responsibility as a fourteen-year-old. This essay describes the new tasks she undertook, as well as how the writer now more greatly cherishes her time with her mother.
Tears streamed down my face and my mind was paralyzed with fear. Sirens blared, but the silent panic in my own head was deafening. I was muted by shock. A few hours earlier, I had anticipated a vacation in Washington, D.C., but unexpectedly, I was rushing to the hospital behind an ambulance carrying my mother. As a fourteen-year-old from a single mother household, without a driver’s license, and seven hours from home, I was distraught over the prospect of losing the only parent I had. My fear turned into action as I made some of the bravest decisions of my life.
Three blood transfusions later, my mother’s condition was stable, but we were still states away from home, so I coordinated with my mother’s doctors in North Carolina to schedule the emergency operation that would save her life. Throughout her surgery, I anxiously awaited any word from her surgeon, but each time I asked, I was told that there had been another complication or delay. Relying on my faith and positive attitude, I remained optimistic that my mother would survive and that I could embrace new responsibilities.
My mother had been a source of strength for me, and now I would be strong for her through her long recovery ahead. As I started high school, everyone thought the crisis was over, but it had really just started to impact my life. My mother was often fatigued, so I assumed more responsibility, juggling family duties, school, athletics, and work. I made countless trips to the neighborhood pharmacy, cooked dinner, biked to the grocery store, supported my concerned sister, and provided the loving care my mother needed to recover. I didn’t know I was capable of such maturity and resourcefulness until it was called upon. Each day was a stage in my gradual transformation from dependence to relative independence.
Throughout my mother’s health crisis, I matured by learning to put others’ needs before my own. As I worried about my mother’s health, I took nothing for granted, cherished what I had, and used my daily activities as motivation to move forward. I now take ownership over small decisions such as scheduling daily appointments and managing my time but also over major decisions involving my future, including the college admissions process. Although I have become more independent, my mother and I are inseparably close, and the realization that I almost lost her affects me daily. Each morning, I wake up ten minutes early simply to eat breakfast with my mother and spend time with her before our busy days begin. I am aware of how quickly life can change. My mother remains a guiding force in my life, but the feeling of empowerment I discovered within myself is the ultimate form of my independence. Though I thought the summer before my freshman year would be a transition from middle school to high school, it was a transformation from childhood to adulthood.
This prompt allows you to expand and deepen a seemingly small or simple idea, topic, or concept. One example could be “stars,” in that you could describe stargazing as a child, counting them, recognizing constellations, and then transforming that initial captivation into a deeper appreciation of the cosmos as a whole, spurring a love of astronomy and physics.
Another example could be “language,” discussing how it has evolved and changed over the course of history, how it allows you to look deeper into different cultures, and how learning different languages stretches the mind. A tip for expanding on these topics and achieving specificity is to select particular details of the topic that you find intriguing and explain why.
For example, if you’re passionate about cooking or baking, you could use specific details by explaining, in depth, the intricate attention and artistry necessary to make a dish or dessert. You can delve into why certain spices or garnishes are superior in different situations, how flavors blend well together and can be mixed creatively, or even the chemistry differences between steaming, searing, and grilling.
Regardless of your topic, this prompt provides a great opportunity to display writing prowess through elegant, specific descriptions that leverage sensory details. Describing the beauty of the night sky, the rhythms and sounds of different languages, or the scent of a crème brûlée shows passion and captivation in a very direct, evocative way.
The key to writing this essay is answering the question of why something captivates you instead of simply ending with “I love surfing.” A tip would be to play off your senses (for applicable topics), think about what you see, feel, smell, hear, and taste.
In the case of surfing, the salty water, weightlessness of bobbing over the waves, and fresh air could cater to senses. Alternatively, for less physical topics, you can use a train of thought and descriptions to show how deeply and vividly your mind dwells on the topic.
Well-executed trains of thought or similar tactics are successful ways to convey passion for a certain topic. To answer what or who you turn to when you want to learn more, you can be authentic and honest—if it’s Wikipedia, a teacher, friend, YouTube Channel, etc., you simply have to show how you interact with the medium.
When brainstorming this particular essay, a tip would be to use a web diagram, placing the topic in the middle and thinking about branching characteristics, themes, or concepts related to the topic that are directly engaging and captivating to you. In doing so, you’ll be able to gauge the depth of the topic and whether it will suffice for this prompt.
In the following example, a student shares their journey as they learn to appreciate a piece of their culture’s cuisine.
As a wide-eyed, naive seven-year-old, I watched my grandmother’s rough, wrinkled hands pull and knead mercilessly at white dough until the countertop was dusted in flour. She steamed small buns in bamboo baskets, and a light sweetness lingered in the air. Although the mantou looked delicious, their papery, flat taste was always an unpleasant surprise. My grandmother scolded me for failing to finish even one, and when I complained about the lack of flavor she would simply say that I would find it as I grew older. How did my adult relatives seem to enjoy this Taiwanese culinary delight while I found it so plain?
During my journey to discover the essence of mantou, I began to see myself the same way I saw the steamed bun. I believed that my writing would never evolve beyond a hobby and that my quiet nature crippled my ambitions. Ultimately, I thought I had little to offer the world. In middle school, it was easy for me to hide behind the large personalities of my friends, blending into the background and keeping my thoughts company. Although writing had become my emotional outlet, no matter how well I wrote essays, poetry, or fiction, I could not stand out in a sea of talented students. When I finally gained the confidence to submit my poetry to literary journals but was promptly rejected, I stepped back from my work to begin reading from Whitman to Dickinson, Li-Young Lee to Ocean Vuong. It was then that I realized I had been holding back a crucial ingredient–my distinct voice.
Over time, my taste buds began to mature, as did I. Mantou can be flavored with pork and eggplant, sweetened in condensed milk, and moistened or dried by the steam’s temperature. After I ate the mantou with each of these factors in mind, I noticed its environment enhanced a delicately woven strand of sweetness beneath the taste of side dishes: the sugar I had often watched my grandmother sift into the flour. The taste was nearly untraceable, but once I grasped it I could truly begin to cherish mantou. In the same way the taste had been lost to me for years, my writer’s voice had struggled to shine through because of my self-doubt and fear of vulnerability.
As I acquired a taste for mantou, I also began to strengthen my voice through my surrounding environment. With the support of my parents, peer poets, and the guidance of Amy Tan and the Brontё sisters, I worked tirelessly to uncover my voice: a subtle strand of sweetness. Once I stopped trying to fit into a publishing material mold and infused my uninhibited passion for my Taiwanese heritage into my writing, my poem was published in a literary journal. I wrote about the blatant racism Asians endured during coronavirus, and the editor of Skipping Stones Magazine was touched by both my poem and my heartfelt letter. I opened up about being ridiculed for bringing Asian food to school at Youth Leadership Forum, providing support to younger Asian-American students who reached out with the relief of finding someone they could relate to. I embraced writing as a way to convey my struggle with cultural identity. I joined the school’s creative writing club and read my pieces in front of an audience, honing my voice into one that flourishes out loud as well.
Now, I write and speak unapologetically, falling in love with a voice that I never knew I had. It inspires passion within my communities and imparts tenacity to Asian-American youth, rooting itself deeply into everything I write. Today, my grandmother would say that I have finally unearthed the taste of mantou as I savor every bite with a newfound appreciation. I can imagine her hands shaping the dough that has become my voice, and I am eager to share it with the world.
Your GPA and SAT don’t tell the full admissions story
We’ll let you know what your chances are at your dream schools!
This prompt allows you to express what you want to express if it doesn’t align directly with the other prompts. While this prompt is very open-ended, it doesn’t mean you can adapt any essay you’ve written and think it will suffice. Always refer back to the Strategy section of this article and make sure the topic and essay of your choice addresses the Core Four questions necessary for a good Common App essay.
This prompt, more than the others, poses a high risk but also a high-potential reward. Writing your own question allows you to demonstrate individuality and confidence. Here, you can craft an innovative essay that tackles a difficult topic (for example, whether to raise or lower taxes) or presents information with a unique format (such as a conversation with an historical figure).
We encourage you to try something unconventional for this prompt, like comparing your personality to a Picasso painting, using an extended philosophical metaphor to describe your four years of high school, or writing in a poetic style to display your love of poetry. If you are extremely passionate about a topic or an expert in a certain area, for example Renaissance technology or journalism during World War II, you can use this prompt to show your authority on a subject by discussing it at a high level.
Be careful to frame the essay in a way that is accessible to the average reader while still incorporating quality evidence and content that would qualify you as an expert. As always, exercise caution in writing about controversial social or political topics, and always make sure to consider your audience and what they’re looking for in a student.
Sometimes an unconventional essay can capture Admissions Officers’ attention and move them in a profound way; other times, the concept can fly completely over their heads. Be sure to execute the essay clearly and justify your decision by seeking high-quality feedback from reliable sources. As always, the essay should demonstrate something meaningful about you, whether it is your personality, thought process, or values.
Here’s what the experts have to say about this prompt…
This prompt, like the others, is really asking you to tell the story of who you are. Your essay should be personal and should talk about something significant that has shaped your identity.
Here are a few broad themes that can work well: academic interest; culture, values, and diversity; extracurricular interests; and your impact on the community. You should highlight one of these themes using creative, vividly descriptive narrative. Make sure to not fall into the common pitfall of talking about something else -- an extracurricular activity, for example -- more than yourself.
A student I advised had a great idea to respond to this prompt -- an essay about how they do their best thinking while sitting on a tree branch near their home. Not only was it unique and personal, but it allowed the student to show what they think about, dream about, and value. That's the main goal for any applicant responding to prompt 7.
Alex Oddo Advisor on CollegeVine
All of the Common App prompts are broad in scope, but this one really takes the cake! I typically advise using the first six prompts as guardrails for your brainstorm, but in doing so, you may come up with a topic that doesn’t cleanly fit with any of the first six prompts. That’s where this prompt can come in handy.
Or, you might have an idea that’s really out there (like writing about your love of sonnets as a series of sonnets). Essentially, this prompt is a good fit for essays that are anywhere from slightly unconventional to extremely atypical.
If this all feels a bit confusing - don’t worry! How you write your story is much more important than what prompt you end up choosing. At the end of the day, these are just guides to help you cultivate a topic and are not meant to stress you out.
Priya Desai Advisor on CollegeVine
Students who want to complete the CommonApp’s seventh prompt need to have already gone through the other prompts and determined that their story cannot fit with those. Thus, generally speaking, I advise my students to not use the final prompt unless it is absolutely necessary.
If an admission officer believes that your essay could have been used with one of the other prompts, this may lead them to have a perception about you as a student that might not be accurate.
Nevertheless, as my colleagues have pointed out, what matters is the essay the most and not necessarily the prompt. That being said, the test of whether or not you as a student can follow directions is part of the prompt selection and how well you answer it. If you choose the final prompt and yet your answer could work with another available prompt, this will not put you in your best light.
In conclusion, only use this prompt when absolutely necessary, and remember that the purpose of the personal statement is to give the admissions officers a glimpse into who you are as a person, so you want to use this space to showcase beautiful you.
Veronica Prout Advisor on CollegeVine
Where to get your common app essay edited.
At selective schools, your essays account for around 25% of your admissions decision. That’s more than grades (20%) and test scores (15%), and almost as much as extracurriculars (30%). Why is this? Most students applying to top schools will have stellar academics and extracurriculars. Your essays are your chance to stand out and humanize your application. That’s why it’s vital that your essays are engaging, and present you as someone who would enrich the campus community.
Before submitting your application, you should have someone else review your essays. That’s why we created our free Peer Essay Review tool , where you can get a free review of your essay from another student. You can also improve your own writing skills by reviewing other students’ essays.
If you want a college admissions expert to review your essay, advisors on CollegeVine have helped students refine their writing and submit successful applications to top schools. Find the right advisor for you to improve your chances of getting into your dream school!
Related CollegeVine Blog Posts
- Affiliate Program
- UNITED STATES
- 台灣 (TAIWAN)
- TÜRKIYE (TURKEY)
- Academic Editing Services
- - Research Paper
- - Journal Manuscript
- - Dissertation
- - College & University Assignments
- Admissions Editing Services
- - Application Essay
- - Personal Statement
- - Recommendation Letter
- - Cover Letter
- - CV/Resume
- Business Editing Services
- - Business Documents
- - Report & Brochure
- - Website & Blog
- Writer Editing Services
- - Script & Screenplay
- Our Editors
- Client Reviews
- Editing & Proofreading Prices
- Wordvice Points
- Partner Discount
- Plagiarism Checker
- APA Citation Generator
- MLA Citation Generator
- Chicago Citation Generator
- Vancouver Citation Generator
- - APA Style
- - MLA Style
- - Chicago Style
- - Vancouver Style
- Writing & Editing Guide
- Academic Resources
- Admissions Resources
How to Answer the Common App Essay Prompts for 2023-2024
In 2023, the Common Application announced that the Common App essay prompts will remain unchanged from the 2022-2023 school year. The Common App essay prompts have remained almost the same for the past five years, but crafting a strong and compelling essay to respond to these prompts has remained as important as ever to getting into top schools
This article will explain how to choose the Common App prompts, organize your essay outline, and craft a compelling, concise response that college admissions officers will love. We also provide links to additional articles with details about writing the Common App essay for each specific prompt.
Which Common Application Essay prompt is best to choose?
One truth that most colleges won’t tell you is that the Common App essay prompts don’t matter that much to your admissions success. What actually matters choosing a compelling story and telling it in a compelling way. Whether they believe it or not, every college applicant has an interesting story to relay to admissions officers.
An important rule to keep in mind is to leave room in your essay to discuss the things you love and what drives you, both as a student and as a unique person. The Common App essay is similar to an open-ended job interview question like “How would you define yourself?” It isn’t just an answer on a test or job application.
So let’s look at the 2022-2023 Common App essay prompts, get an idea about what they are all about, and decide how to choose the best prompt that will allow you to communicate your personal story.
Common App Essay Prompts for 202 3-2024
The Common App essay prompts for the 2023-2024 cycle have not changed from previous years, with the exception of prompt #4. Each allows writers to take a different path and perspective on their lives and issues. Choosing the prompt that lines up best with the personal story of yourself you want to tell is the key to writing a great Common App essay.
Here are this year’s Common App essay 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?
- Reflect on something that someone has done for you that has made you happy or thankful in a surprising way. How has this gratitude affected or motivated you?
- 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.
How To Write Common App Prompt #1: Background, Identity, Interest, or Talent
Prompt #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.
Common App Prompt #1 has been around for many years and gives applicants as much flexibility as they could ask for in an essay prompt, with just enough direction to provide a scaffolding for their ideas. It is often known as the “choose your own adventure” prompt.
Focus on the keywords, “background,” “identity,” “interest,” and “talent,” and use them as launch points for your brainstorming. Does anything in your personality, hobbies, history, or personal accomplishments come to mind as being worthy of highlighting to an admissions officer? These categories could be something as minor as seeing a profoundly powerful film or as large as the struggle of acclimating to a new school, state, and/or country. The most important factor to consider for this prompt is that your subject and/or perspective is dynamic and specific to YOU and your narrative and to no other students.
Questions to ask yourself for Prompt #1:
- How does my background or history set me apart from my peers?
- What have I achieved that has been central to creating the person I am today?
- How do I define myself? How would my friends, family, and peers define me?
Examples to consider for Prompt #1:
- Has your family’s love of travel taken you to new places and shaped you as a “worldly scholar” wise for your age and subgroup?
- Does your love of old jazz define how you fit into society at large?
- Did going to a Warhol art exhibit inspire you to start an art collection that you have turned into a more expansive hobby or calling?
- What are the challenges and rewards of having biracial parents in your small town? Or of being an adoptee or a member of a family made up of non-traditional members?
How To Write Common App Prompt #2: The Setback Essay
PROMPT #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?
Essays about overcoming obstacles should focus more on solutions and mindset than on the problems themselves. Accordingly, Common App Essay Prompt #2 essays should focus on the student’s mental and emotional response, as well as the actions they took when confronted with a difficulty or hurdle. Showcase your qualities like determination, humility, and growth. The difficulties you choose to explore can be diverse, especially considering the addition of “challenges and setbacks” in addition to “failures.” They could be as serious as a death in the family, as practical and material as the financial issues that you or your family have faced, or as banal as a stupid mistake that cost you the winning place at a school contest.
However, students should avoid choosing challenges that are too trivial (not getting tickets to your favorite concert) or that illustrate dangerous or risky behavior (illegal activities or those that hurt others would certainly NOT be good topics for this essay prompt). But if you can isolate an event or trial in your life and show what you learned from it and how you grew, this prompt can encourage a powerful essay.
Questions to consider for Prompt #2:
- How do you usually respond to and deal with hardships or difficulties?
- What is your personal idea of a “setback or difficulty”?
- Do you rebound easily and turn your experiences into learning opportunities? Think of experiences that might highlight such qualities.
- Brainstorm and list some major challenges you’ve encountered in your life.
A few examples for your reference:
- Has a lifelong battle with seizures or another neurodivergent condition raised your overall confidence and allowed you to participate in activities without judging yourself too harshly?
- Did a long-term or serious health situation challenge you to take on more responsibilities than the average middle- or high-school student?
- Did several setbacks on your road to becoming a violin prodigy introduce you to public relations, being your own manager, and dealing with different kinds of people in the industry?
Keep your personal story as positive as possible and again, focus on how you overcame the challenge. You ultimately want to provide evidence to the admissions officials that you are more than ready for the challenges that college presents.
How To Write Common App Prompt #3: Challenging a Belief or Idea
PROMPT #3: Reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea. What prompted your thinking? What was the outcome?
Ironically, the “challenge” essay is one of the most challenging prompts the Common App essay presents, though it is now slightly easier with the addition of the option to discuss a time you merely questioned an idea instead of directly challenging it. The student must speak passionately about their beliefs and worldview, which are often difficult subjects to fit into short narratives. Thus, Common App Essay Prompt #3 can be one of the hardest questions to aim in a positive direction without making yourself sound condescending or judgmental of other views.
That being said, you can respond to this prompt in a way that is insightful and personal, as it was for a student who stood up to parents’ staunch position on one’s public expression of sexual identity. If you can articulate your thoughts and feelings while showing your willingness to earnestly consider the ideas of others, you will stand out as an excellent addition to any college campus. If this prompt jumps out at you and you can think of a time you challenged a belief and it made a difference, go for it!
Questions to consider while brainstorming:
- Was there a specific time you held an opinion that was unpopular among your family or peers?
- Why are you the type of person willing to stand up for your positions or values?
- What morals and values are most important to you on a fundamental level?
- What drives your interest in and position on these topics? Philosophy, your own religious background or culture, a popular media channel?
Some examples to get you started:
- Are you the only atheist member in a deeply religious household? How did this impact your personal relationships and interactions?
- Did you work as an intern on a campaign caught in a big scandal? Did your reaction show your values as an active member of the community?
- Did you challenge the notion that modern dance or art is not “artistic” by crafting an extensive research paper on the subject in a way that impressed (or horrified) your teachers?
You don’t need to focus on a fundamentally serious or controversial issue. What matters most when responding to this prompt is that you plainly show your strong convictions about the belief or idea you are trying to convey and examine how this position impacts your thinking and your actions. Prompt #3 can be useful in showcasing your argumentation, persuasive skills, and critical thinking to admissions officers.
How To Write Common App Prompt #4: Showing Gratitude
PROMPT #4: Reflect on something that someone has done for you that has made you happy or thankful in a surprising way. How has this gratitude affected or motivated you?
Common App Essay Prompt #4 asks students to talk about a time when they felt gratitude for something someone did. Gratitude has become a quality that individuals are encouraged to connect to and reflect on, which explains the commonality of essays on gratitude in college classes. This question offers students the opportunity to reflect on how gratitude impacts or directs their own lives, as well as how giving thanks for the little things in life can inspire and energize them.
Think about times when you have personally felt heard or seen as an individual. These could be moments when you felt an immense about of pride or encouragement. Think hard about what you appreciate in your life: material gifts, individual actions, or even simply a set of feelings someone aimed in your direction. The bestower of these feelings could be someone you know well, or it could be a public figure you have never met you has nevertheless changed your life for the better. Remember that this essay should primarily focus on how you process, appreciate and respond to the actions of others, which means you need to focus more on YOU than on the generous act or words themselves.
Consider these questions for Prompt #4:
- Do you ever “pay it forward” in your daily life? How, when, and why do you do this?
- How do you usually express thanks in your own life?
- Do you have any random acts of kindness that inspire you?
- Have you ever had your faith in humanity restored by someone’s deeds or speech?
- Is karma a driving force for your actions, or do you have some other cosmic reason for doing good?
Examples to use as guidance:
- Did a gesture from a stranger inspire you to continue doing good acts for others? How do you actually do these acts and how has it changed how you view giving?
- Do you feel appreciative of a public figure for the work they have done to raise awareness about issues that are important to you? How do you give back?
- Have you ever received a gift or token of value from someone that was completely unexpected? Why was this meaningful to you? How did you show gratitude? Did the unexpected, non-transactional aspect of the gift impact your perception of helping or encouraging others?
Link your story to your life and world in a concrete and meaningful way. Don’t forget to detail how this gift or act of kindness affected and motivates you today. After choosing your essay prompt, be sure to follow the instructions and answer all substantive parts of the question.
How To Write Common App Prompt #5: The Accomplishment Essay
PROMPT #5: Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others.
In Common App Essay Prompt #5 , the words “accomplishment” and “event” are somewhat open to interpretation. Therefore, an essay inspired by this question could address anything from a minor event to a major occurrence in your life. An event accomplishment might include birthdays or weddings, or perhaps big achievements like winning a competition or earning an esteemed award.
Informal examples could include meeting a person in your life who ended up being special; taking a fateful bus or train ride; or participating in a meal or social event that opened up your mind to other realities you hadn’t considered. Events that are smaller or less formal can actually lead to more surprising and memorable essays, but these must also be written with originality and add a personal or unique twist. The art of storytelling is important in this essay prompt.
Some other things to consider:
- How do periods of transition impact you in general? Are there actions or events that have inspired a change of heart or thought in your mind?
- Have you ever had a “eureka” moment that has fundamentally shifted how you view the world in some way?
- Did you ever learn a fact or hear a viewpoint that made you feel more capable or confident in voicing your own opinion and position?
Some example topics for this prompt:
- Did your expansion of a lemonade stand into a successful small business motivate you into raising funds for a friend or relative’s illness or encourage you to pay off a debt?
- Do you love sports playback video that forces you to examine your mistakes and take criticism that leads to self-improvement?
- How did serving soup each week at a homeless shelter for half a year help ground your views of social opportunity and giving? How did this impact how you connect with and serve other people?
Keep in the front of your mind the central elements of growth, understanding, and transformation. The realization or activity you write about should be something that helped you mature in your understanding of the world and other people.
How To Write Common App Prompt #6: an Engaging Topic, Idea, or Concept
PROMPT #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?
Since college is at root (at least historically) the pursuit of knowledge to enlighten yourself as an individual, it might be beneficial for an admissions officer to have an understanding of how you demonstrate self-motivated learning, as well as the reasons for why you pay attention to topics that fascinate you. Common App Essay Prompt #6 is a kind of window into your mind, showing how you process information and search for new sources of content and inspiration–or new positions to analyze and critique.
How does your interest demonstrate your willingness to investigate deeper into a given topic or idea? Your essay answer should also reveal the scope and depth of your intellectual or artistic interests. For example, if you’re interested in studying biochemistry, you might discuss a concept that illustrates how far your knowledge in this core domain extends to actual current findings and dialogues in science. How does this passion impact what you are choosing to pursue academically?
Some key questions to think about:
- What engages you generally? Do you have a thirst for some specific kind of knowledge? Or, what do you love to think about or engage in insofar as it nearly defines you as a person and thinker?
- What exact steps have you taken to acquire new information about or experiences that are related to your topic of interest? Have you gone out of your way to turn your interest into an activity or even a kind of profession?
- How do you actively enrich your knowledge when you find some appealing idea or topic? Hours spent weekly in the school library or with a teacher or mentor who can guide you in your academic pursuit could be great examples of this active enrichment.
- What is so satisfying about the process of learning and applying your knowledge to the conversation or to the discipline itself?
And a few examples to get those wheels turning:
- Did your learning about open source code move you to create a startup with a few like-minded peers? What related projects are you prepared to work on next?
- Did your advertising firm internship experience inspire you to do benchmarking and market research to create your own ads (even if they were only for yourself)?
- On a Saturday afternoon, could you be found perusing the classics and learning Latin at the same time? How else have you interacted with this literature and language?
- Perhaps you have an obsession with Italian food that is so strong it led you to study Italian cooking online through a master class. How is Italian food actually more scientific and interesting than the average person might think?
Whatever category or topic drives you to learn more and DO more, reflect on it, and then share it in colorful detail. This prompt deals with pursuing knowledge for knowledge’s sake, but also how this knowledge stokes your desire to challenge yourself in concrete ways.
How To Write Common App Prompt #7: Topic of Your Choice
PROMPT #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.
This prompt was first introduced to the 2017-2018 Common App prompts. Although Prompt #1 is similar to “choosing a topic of your choice,” Common App Essay Prompt #7 offers students a lot of freedom and flexibility to illustrate their character, background, growth, worldview, or any other important central facets important to being a college student. You could really take any number of directions with this essay prompt–but as always, be sure that you are addressing the prompt fully and not being too trivial (or cliche) in your subject matter and how you tell your narrative.
More brainstorming questions to consider:
What should admissions know about you that they couldn’t gather from your test scores, grades, and extracurriculars?
- Are there stories or issues that pop up often in your daily life that might give admissions officials some insight into who you are and what you stand for?
- What is your “elevator pitch”? If you had five minutes in a room alone with an admissions officer, what are the key points you would relay to them to convince them you are the best candidate?
- What would you bring to the campus of your target school that almost no other student could?
Some examples of potential subjects and their related prompts:
- Do you have a health defect that impacts how you view or interact with the world and people around you? ( Q:Why is your personal perspective unique and special?)
- Do you spend your free time teaching guitar lessons for free to children at the community center in your town? What do these interactions look like, what do they mean to you, and how have they affected your goals and direction? ( Q: Why is self-sacrifice a virtue and benefit in a college candidate?)
- Did your parents give you a highly unusual name that has colored how you are seen and how you move about the world? What were their reasons for giving this name to you? How has it made you a better student and person? ( Q: What does origin have to do with excellence?)
Some students find that choosing a “topic of your choice” is quite difficult because it offers too many options to choose from. But this should not prevent you from attempting this essay prompt if you have something interesting to say. You can use the other prompts as starting points to brainstorm ideas and free-write first.
Now that you have read our handy-dandy prompt guide and understand what admissions is looking for from these prompts, you could very well have a notebook filled with ideas that are ripe for expansion by the time you sit down to write.
So don’t worry about having too many ideas, or not having enough ideas, especially at the beginning of the topic selection process. Once you figure out what you’d like to say (and maybe even after you draft the crux of the essay itself), see if your concept fits one of the first six prompts. Trying to tailor your essay to a more specific prompt option may inspire an interesting spin on the story you are trying to tell—one you may not have thought of otherwise. Form influences content. If, after careful consideration, your magic essay topic does not work within the confines of Prompts 1-6, you are in luck. The glorious, all-encompassing Prompt #7 will be here to catch you.
A Detailed Plan for Writing the 2023-2024 Common App Essay Prompts
The Common App essay has a maximum word count of 650 words, and the Common Application site does not provide any further instructions on how to write the essays, such as organization and amount of time to spend on each essay section. Fortunately, we at Wordvice have some experience with crafting impactful essays. The following is a brief summary of how to approach the Common App essay, regardless of which essay prompt you ultimately choose to write on.
1. Brainstorming your Common App essay topics
Brainstorming is crucial to writing any creative or personal essay. Before you even pick an essay prompt, consider a “high level” passion you have and all the ways in which you interact with it and how it shapes you as a person. For example, using “computer programming” as a central idea, you could stress your love of coding for various reasons and how that has impacted the projects you have done and continues to shape your self-identity (i.e., as a “programmer”).
Another idea might be to discuss how you have developed in relation to your other family members. Perhaps you have a relationship with two of your siblings that has come to define you and how to interact with people in general: maybe your younger sister is a “dreamer,” while your older brother is a “technician,” and as a middle child, finding out where you belong in this family dynamic led you to a way of thinking that differentiates you from most other candidates. Formative stories could be quite interesting and instantly give the reader a window into who you are.
To develop your own central idea, answer the four essential questions that apply to all Common App essay prompts:
- Address your personality traits and anything else about you that tells something about who you are. This question can be answered in any number of ways: discussing a formative event or circumstance, a hobby, a time you overcame great difficulty, or a profound learning experience.
- Distinguish yourself by showing your uniqueness. You don’t need to explicitly state why you are different from others–rather, show this in your story details.
- In paragraph form and using concrete details, give the reader a strong idea about what is important to you: family, work ethic, success, money, etc.
- Don’t forget to include some of the essential qualities that will make you a great student: time management, great communication, interest in topics, etc. Again, you can evidence these strengths in your story details rather than telling the reader THAT you are good at X, Y, and Z.
Start brainstorming by writing down a few aspects of your personality or experiences you find central to your development. Think about some basic narratives you could tell that use different combinations of these aspects before you actually choose a prompt.
For instance, you could note that you are in love with classical philosophy, made varsity on the debate team, and are now working with a local community organizer on a political issue that is important to you. Then organize these experiences into a very rough structure that will make it easier for you to choose the best Common App prompt.
An example narrative from these aspects: You discuss a specific interest you currently have associated with this community work; discuss what you have learned and the failures and successes you have had; explore how you could make a bigger difference, if only you were a lawyer or official advocate, etc. In contemplating these personal aspects, you are already beginning the organization step, which is crucial to composing a great essay.
2. Choosing a Common App essay prompt that best fits you
There is no “best” common app essay prompt that will guarantee your acceptance into top schools. However, choosing a prompt that first you well will help you craft a more convincing narrative for admissions committees.
Consider the following prompt for instance (Common App Essay Prompt # 2):
This is a prompt that might work great if you can think of any salient challenges or obstacles that helped shape who you are today. Perhaps you were a high-profile member of your high school’s speech team, but you were sidelined by a financial crisis in your household. To help your family overcome this hardship, you got a part-time job and had to quit the speech team. However, your speech coach recognized your talent and dedication and allowed you to practice on your own time.
This story would show that you are a dedicated son or daughter willing to help out your struggling parents and sacrifice your time to do so. It also shows that you have negotiation skills that help you overcome difficulties–a valuable personal trait for a college student.
Remember to show who you are in your essay!
One of the most common mistakes that students writing the Common App Essay make is not including enough of themselves in their essay content. Your admissions essay should be personal enough that a reader who knows you would identify the applicant as you even without looking at your name or application form details.
If you find yourself getting lost in what to write, don’t panic. This is a common feeling, as an admissions essay is often the first REALLY important personal essay candidates will have written. One method of removing your essay writer’s block is to ask yourself “why?” whenever you might not know what you write next.
For example, here is what your inner monologue might look like as you walk yourself through some questions:
“I have always loved biology.”
- Why do I love biology?
“Because I enjoy learning facts about living organisms.”
- Why do I enjoy this?
“Because I have always wanted to take things apart and see how they work from the inside.”
- Why is this important to who I am?
“It is indicative of my approach to all of my passions, including academic interests.”
By following this kind of “stream-of-consciousness” dialogue, you can get to the bottom of some of your motivations, actions, fears, and other aspects that define a person’s identity.
It can also help to bounce your essay ideas off of a friend or family member. Closer friends can make for a good sounding board since they know a lot about your personality, likes, skills, drives, and ambitions. This might help you choose the most appropriate essay prompt for you.
3. Organizing your essay’s story
There are a couple of different approaches to take when it comes to organizing and outlining your essay. Feel free to be creative with your structure and use descriptions. You could even employ dialogue if it helps you tell a story better.
However, your essay still needs to flow logically and naturally at the level of the sentence and even paragraph. You can achieve this by structuring chronologically, making a story arc, or beginning en media res (in the middle of your story) to hook the reader, and then moving back to a former period to unveil your complete narrative.
Some applicants prefer to take a wholly different and “experimental” approach to writing a personal essay. For instance, a student with a passion for theatre and fiction writing could write a “scene” in dialogue form (like a Samual Beckett play) that represents two parts of their personality. A mathematics expert could use an algorithm or algebraic formula as a metaphor for their life and draft their essay using that structure.
Writing a more creative essay can certainly be risky, and it isn’t easy for most writers to pull off–even for professional authors! However, this just means that if your essay is well-executed and gets your point across, and shows the reader who you are, you will be highly rewarded for it in the end with high marks from adcoms.
4. Write a Common App essay that is clear and focused
- Show, don’t tell–rather than telling the reader simply that you “love science,” prove it by describing how many hours you spend per week in your room reading science books.
- Use lots of concrete detail–the more vivid detail, the better
- Avoid using cliched language or stories–using a tired personal essay story is one of the most application essay errors writers make.
- Make your tone fit the goals of the essay. For instance, if you are a straight-A student with no extracurriculars, you might want to use your essay to show the officials how much of a laid-back person you are in real life.
Final Thoughts on the Common App Essay Prompts and Answers
The main objective of any Common App essay is to impart a lasting, authentic portrayal of yourself on your reader. Whenever you feel stuck, refer back to the four Core Questions that a Common App essay must answer. And above all, always make sure that the ideas and analysis in your essay reflect the characteristics you want to reflect to the admissions officers at your target schools.
We hope these essay-writing strategies and tips help you write a powerful and winning admission essay. And remember that, as one of the best admissions editing services out there, Wordvice is there for you after your draft with essay editing services to ensure that your essay is compelling and makes the maximum impact on college admissions officers. Check out the complete list of English editing and proofreading services we offer.
Best of luck writing your Common Application essay for the 2023-2024 school year!
Ideal College Application Essay Length
Can you go over the Common App length limit? How long should your essay be?
- Essay Samples & Tips
- College Admissions Process
- College Profiles
- College Rankings
- Choosing A College
- Application Tips
- Testing Graphs
- College Financial Aid
- Advanced Placement
- Homework Help
- Private School
- College Life
- Graduate School
- Business School
- Distance Learning
- Ph.D., English, University of Pennsylvania
- M.A., English, University of Pennsylvania
- B.S., Materials Science & Engineering and Literature, MIT
The 2019-20 version of the Common Application has an essay length limit of 650 words and a minimum length of 250 words. This limit has remained unchanged for the past several years. Learn how important this word limit is and how to make the most of your 650 words.
Key Takeaways: Common Application Essay Length
- Your Common Application essay must be between 250 words and 650 words.
- Don't assume shorter is better. A college requires an essay because they want to learn more about you.
- Never go over the limit. Show that you can follow instructions and that you know how to edit.
How Strict Is the Limit?
Many wonder whether they can go over the limit, even if only by a few words. What if you feel that you need more space to communicate all of your ideas clearly?
650 words is not a lot of space in which to convey your personality, passions, and writing ability to the people in admissions offices—and the title and any explanatory notes are also included in this limit. The holistic admissions processes of most schools prove that colleges really do want to get to know the person behind your test scores and grades . Since the essay is one of the best places for showcasing who you are, is it worth it to go over?
Most experts recommend adhering to the limit. The Common Application will even prompt its applicants if they exceed the word count to prevent them from going over. Most admissions officers have stated that, while they will read all essays in their entirety, they are less inclined to feel that essays over 650 accomplish what they set out to do. In short: any of the prompts can and should be answered in 650 words or fewer.
Choosing the Right Length
If everything from 250 to 650 words is fair game, what length is best? Some counselors advise students to keep their essays on the shorter end, but not all colleges place the most value in succinctness.
The personal essay is the most powerful tool at your disposal for showing readers your personality without meeting them. If you've chosen a focus that reveals something meaningful about you, you're probably going to need more than 250 words to create a thoughtful, introspective, and effective essay. However, it isn't essential to hit the 650 mark, either.
From the Admissions Desk
"There is no need to meet the full word count  if the essay captures what the student would like to share. Visually, you want to make sure the essay looks complete and robust. As a general rule, I would suggest the essay be between 500-650 words."
–Valerie Marchand Welsh Director of College Counseling, The Baldwin School Former Associate Dean of Admissions, University of Pennsylvania
Each of the Common App essay prompts creates different writing challenges, but no matter which option you choose, your essay should be detailed and analytical, and it should provide a window into some important dimension of your interests, values, or personality. Ask yourself: Will the admissions officers know me better after reading my essay? Chances are, an essay in the 500- to 650-word range will accomplish this task better than a shorter essay
In general, the length of an essay does not determine its effectiveness. If you have answered the prompt in its entirety and feel proud of your work, there is no need to stress about any particular word count. Do not pad your essay with filler content and tautologies to stretch it out, and on the flip side, don't leave important sections out in the interest of keeping the essay brief.
Why You Shouldn't Go Over the Essay Length Limit
Some colleges will allow you to exceed the limit set by the Common Application, but you should avoid writing more than 650 words in all cases for the following reasons:
- College students adhere to guidelines : If a professor assigns a five-page paper, they don't want a 10-page paper and you don't have 55 minutes to take 50-minute exams. The message that you send to a college when you write a powerful essay in 650 words or fewer, even when they accept longer submissions, is that you can succeed under any conditions.
- Essays that are too long can leave a negative impression: Essays over 650 may make you appear over-confident. The word counts have been established by experts for a reason and writing more than you are allowed might make it seem like you think what you have to say is more important than other applicants, who have to follow the rules. Avoid seeming self-important by stopping yourself from going overboard.
- Good writers know how to edit and cut : Any college writing professor would tell you that most essays become stronger when they are trimmed. There are almost always words, sentences, and even entire paragraphs that don't contribute to an essay and can be omitted. As you revise any essay you write, ask yourself which parts help you to make your point and which get in the way—everything else can go. Use these 9 style tips to tighten up your language.
College admissions officers will read essays that are too long but may consider them to be rambling, unfocused, or poorly-edited. Remember that your essay is one of many and your readers will wonder why yours is longer when it doesn't need to be.
- The Length Requirements for the Common Application Essay in 2020-21
- How Long Should Your Common Application Short Answer Essay Be?
- The 2021-22 Common Application Essay Prompts
- Private School Application Essay Tips
- Common Application Essay on a Meaningful Place
- Common Supplemental Essay Mistakes
- Common Application Short Answer Tips
- "Grandpa's Rubik's Cube"—Sample Common Application Essay, Option #4
- 2020-21 Common Application Essay Option 4—Solving a Problem
- Common Application Essay Option 2 Tips: Learning from Failure
- Tips for Writing a Winning College Application Essay
- 5 Tips for a College Admissions Essay on an Important Issue
- Common Application Essay, Option 1: Share Your Story
- Tips for Writing an Essay on an Event That Led to Personal Growth
- Should an Application Essay Be Single-Spaced or Double-Spaced?
- How to Write a Great College Application Essay Title
By clicking “Accept All Cookies”, you agree to the storing of cookies on your device to enhance site navigation, analyze site usage, and assist in our marketing efforts.
- Applying to Uni
- Health & Relationships
- Money & Finance
- U.S Universities
- Vocational Qualifications
- Budgeting, Money & Finance
- Health & Relationships
- Jobs & Careers
- Studying & Revision
- University & College Admissions
Guide to GCSE Results Day
Finding a job after school or college
In this section
Choosing GCSE Subjects
GCSE Work Experience
GCSE Revision Tips
Why take an Apprenticeship?
Applying for an Apprenticeship
What is an Apprenticeship?
Choosing an Apprenticeship
Real Life Apprentices
A Level Results Day 2023
AS Levels 2023
Clearing Guide 2023
Applying to University
SQA Results Day Guide 2023
BTEC Results Day Guide
Vocational Qualifications Guide
Sixth Form or College
Post 18 options
Finding a Job
Should I take a Gap Year?
Gap Year Guide
Gap Year Blogs
Applying to Oxbridge
Applying to US Universities
Choosing a Degree
Choosing a University or College
Personal Statement Editing and Review Service
Guide to Freshers' Week
Top Rated Personal Statements
Personal Statements By Subject
Writing Your Personal Statement
Postgraduate Personal Statements
International Student Personal Statements
Gap Year Personal Statements
Personal Statement Length Checker
Personal Statements By University
Personal Statement Changes 2024
Personal Statement Template
Types of Postgraduate Course
Writing a Postgraduate Personal Statement
- Choosing A College
Ivy League Universities
- Common App Essay Examples
- Universal College Application Guide
How To Write A College Admissions Essay
- College Rankings
- Admissions Tests
Fees & Funding
- Budgeting For College
Platinum Express Editing and Review Service
Gold Editing and Review Service
Silver Express Editing and Review Service
UCAS Personal Statement Editing and Review Service
Oxbridge Personal Statement Editing and Review Service
Postgraduate Personal Statement Editing and Review Service
You are here
- Choosing A Major
- Ivy League Universities Guide
- USA College Fees
- What is the Common App?
- Filling Out The Common Application
- Common App Deadlines
- Common App FAQs
- Common App Essay Prompts
- Choosing a Common App Essay Topic
- Common App Essay Brainstorming
- Writing The Common App Essay Introduction
- Writing The Common App Essay Conclusion
- Common App Essay Format
- Common App Essay Structure
Common App Essay Word Limit
- Common App Essay Editing
- Common App Essay Tips
- Common App Essay FAQs
- How To Write A College Essay
- College Essay Examples
- Online Degrees
- Applying For College Graduation
- Graduate School
- Applying to UK universities
The maximum number of words you can submit for your Common App essay is 650 . It must also be a minimum of 250 words .
If your essays do not adhere to these guidelines, you will not be able to submit your essay online using the Common Application system.
Remember that the Common App essay is designed to test your ability to write clearly and concisely, so it's in your best interest to work to these word limits.
To try and hit this word limit, take a look at our sections on the Common App Format and Structure , which will help you organise the content of your essay coherently.
The information here will help you see what is missing/needs adding to, and which parts could be cut.
Our collection of Common App Essay Examples can also help you decide which information to include in your essay, and keep your word count down.
For more tips and advice on putting together your common application for college, please see:
- Common Essay Prompts
- Choosing A Common App Essay Topic
- Common App Essay Introduction
- Common App Essay Conclusion
- Editing Your Essay
Are there word limits?
Jun 28, 2023 • knowledge, information.
There are no strict word limits on the UChicago Supplement essays. For the extended essay (where you choose one of several prompts), we suggest that you aim for around 650 words. While we won't, as a rule, stop reading after 650 words, we're only human and cannot promise that an overly wordy essay will hold our attention indefinitely. For the “Why UChicago?” essay, we suggest about 250-500 words. The ideas in your writing matter more than the exact number of words you use!
2021-2022 Common App Essay Prompts
- Facebook icon
- Twitter icon
- Linkedin icon
The Common App essay prompts will remain the same for 2021-2022 with one exception. We will retire the seldom used option about solving a problem and replace it with the following:
- Reflect on something that someone has done for you that has made you happy or thankful in a surprising way. How has this gratitude affected or motivated you?
We will also retain the optional COVID-19 question within the Additional Information section.
The new prompt is inspired by scientific research on gratitude and kindness , specifically the benefits of writing about the positive influence of other people in our lives.
This mindset resonates with Common App President & CEO Jenny Rickard. “Particularly at this challenging time, we can help students think about something positive and heartfelt in their lives,” she explains. “And we can do it explicitly.”
“Particularly at this challenging time, we can help students think about something positive and heartfelt in their lives. And we can do it explicitly.” Jenny Rickard, President & CEO, Common App
In crafting the new option, we relied on the expertise of counselors and admission officers on our Outreach and Application Advisory Committees, along with input from psychology and gratitude researchers. Together, these educators understand the ingredients of a successful essay prompt. The final language they helped to shape balances flexibility with direction. They believe the new choice will generate stories that students are inspired to write and that colleges are excited to read.
An essay prompt can’t erase the loss and anxiety of the last 12 months, but it can validate the importance of gratitude and kindness. We hope students see the new prompt for what it is intended to be: an invitation to bring some joy into their application experience.
Below is the full set of essay prompts for 2021-2022.
- 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?
- Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others.
- 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.
“As a member of the Common Application Advisory Committee, I appreciated learning about the careful and deliberative process, involving a variety of counseling and student stakeholders, to recommend these revisions to the essay prompts. During these difficult times, it will be encouraging for students and those reviewing these essay responses to be reminded of the joy and hope that generosity and gratitude can foster.” Sacha Thieme, Assistant Vice Provost & Executive Director of Admissions, Indiana University
Celebrating Student Parent Month: Common App members making a difference
Highlights from the Illuminate 2023 conference
Ready, set, college fair
What is the common app essay word limit?
Table of Contents
This question might stir in the mind of most of the students. Here you will get the answer. The common app essay is an essay that helps the admission committee to know more about you. In a nutshell, this essay is a college admission essay. Students have to write such essays and submit them to different universities. After that admission committee read them and decide whether to give admission to students or not. The common application essay provides a glimpse of your personality and identity. Therefore, while writing this essay never compromise with quality and content. Let the college know why are you unique and why admission matters to you. Also, keep a check over the common app essay word limit while writing it. Neither it should look like an exaggerated one, nor it should lack the information.
Students who don’t have any idea regarding the common application essay can take online assignment help . There are various reliable Admission essay help services who will write a perfect application essay for you and strengthen your chances of getting admission. Now let’s move further and know more about the technicalities of this essay.
In this article, I’ll cover everything related to common app essay such as:
What should be the common app essay word limit?
- Updated prompt list of application essay.
- Tips to write a perfect common app essay.
- Smart words to use in essays for admission.
- Questions to ask yourself while writing a common app essay.
So, do not miss the guide as every point will cover crucial information about the admission essay. I hope after completing the reading of the blog, you will get a good insight into the application essay.
The article further discusses strategies for common app essay word limit, what type of smart words to use in essays and tips to write college admission essays.
If you are planning to write an application essay yourself, then you should know about its word limit. Knowing the common app essay word limit will help you in framing the right essay for admission. Though the exact range of common app essay word limit varies for different students. But the average range should be between 250 to 300 words. This length is the appropriate one. Even when you submit the essay online, the website won’t receive more than 600 words essay.
Students are in the habit of writing long essays. Even I too suggest writing essays to explain everything. But in college application essay you need to be to the point and answer the topics mentioned in the common app essay prompt. Students can see the updated list of common app essay prompt below in the article.
Updated prompt list of application essay
Students may have an interesting background story, interest, identity or hidden talent. Such talent or story needs to be shared with the admission committee. If you also have any meaningful things to share, then you should do it in your application essay.
Share your obstacles and what you have learned from them. Obstacles bring success for most of us. How we handled the situation during tough times make us strong and confident. Therefore, it is imperative to share such things in the college application essay. This will surely help you and put a good impression on the admission faculty.
Tell them something that you have challenged in the past. You might have a past where you have challenged the authority or a belief. Discuss the outcome in your admission essay.
You can describe the research that you have completed in the past. Discuss your problem and findings. Explain why the research holds importance. Mention the steps you had taken in finding the solution to the problem.
If you have achieved something in the past, let them know. Discussing accomplishment will convey your abilities. Also, it indicates your personal growth. Therefore, one should write it in the essay for creating a good impression on the admission faculty.
These are the prompts for a successful application essay. While writing on any of these remembers the word count. The common app essay word limit should remain between 250 to 300 words. If you want to extend it, don’t go more than 500 words.
Tips to write a perfect common app essay
There are a few things that you need to keep in mind while writing the college admission essay for college application essays.
Don’t think big
While creating a common application essay for getting the admission you have to keep things small. You have to write a reflection story. Never think a big plot, keep it short. Common app application essay word limit should not be crossed or else it will lose its purpose. First, think about an event that is real. It can be any winning moment, a story you have read and has a great impact over you. Remember to provide your reflection in the essay or else it will be of no use for the admission faculty. You can also take help from online experts if you are not able to write an essay.
Write all your points and then edit them
When you are writing an essay, you might end up getting confused. The reason for such confusion is that we start editing while writing. Don’t do this. Best write up will come up from the stream of consciousness. Never break it. Write everything that is coming to your mind and let your creativity flow. Once you are done with all the points, proofread and edit the essay. You will surely end up writing a brilliant piece of essay when you have an abundance of ideas.
Put emphasis on details and on writing style
While writing an essay, you need to be creative and explanatory. Remember to keep the explanation short and crisp. For instance, 1. I go to the gym every morning. 2. Every morning I lift weights at the gym to give a good shape to my body. Both the sentences describing the same activity. But if you see in the first sentence, you are just telling the reader your routine. Whereas, in the second sentence one can see the passion you have for fitness. Such creativity and level of writing can help in creating a good impression on the admission faculty.
Create an image in the reader’s mind
If you want your essay to be effective and appealing make sure you can create an image in admission faculties’ minds. You are not sitting in front of them, they can’t see you but can see your words for sure. Never write simply, be creative in writing. Furthermore, provide a vivid description of the event. It should be realistic and overwhelming to readers.
Remember all these tips while composing an application essay for taking admission in the college of your choice. Remember one thing, you will never get any other chance. Therefore, make the most use of the first chance that you are getting. You can buy online essay help in order to receive the scoring essays in one go. Professional writers know what the professor wants to see in your college essay . Thus you will get the work as that can help you with the admission.
Smart words to use in essays for admission
If you are planning to take admission in Australia, you need an application essay for it. But before writing an essay you must have a good knowledge of vocabulary to be used in it. Application essays are different from other types of essays. Thus have their own vocabulary. Below I am mentioning a few words that may play an important role in the college application essay.
- Born leader
- Take-charge (person)
The list cannot be short, if you want more words to express yourself, then you can take help from huffpost.com . You will get a good range of words for your essay. While making good use of vocabulary, keep in mind the common app essay word limit.
Questions to ask yourself while writing a common app essay
Before attempting to compose an application essay, you need self-awareness. Self-awareness brings self-reflection in your essay. Therefore, I am listing a few questions that you can ask yourself while writing the common app essay.
- How my history or past information makes me different from others?
- What are the major challenges faced by you in life? How those challenges helped you in achieving success.
- What are my achievements and how those achievements have changed me as a person?
- How people around me think about me? How do they perceive me?
- Can you learn something out of any bad experience? What are the learnings you have from the bad phase of your life?
- What are the steps you took when you were faced with the challenges in your life?
- How to deal with challenges in life?
- What are the changes that you want to bring in this world?
- Can you adapt to a changing environment? Are you a rigid person?
- What is your contribution to society?
So, be ready with these questions and then try to write an admission essay for yourself. You will surely end up with quality content.
Get help from the professionals for your application essay
Allassignmenthelp.com can help you by providing an expressive application essay. We are in academic writing for more than 10 years. We have helped a lot of students in academics as well as with admission. You can buy the online essay from us in order to get admission to your dream college. When you take admission essay help online from us, you will get the following benefits.
We will give your story the right vocabulary. To make your story a good reflection of yours you need to use the right combination of words and phrases. Our writers will help you in framing a perfect essay as per your demands.
Originality in the essay
An application essay is of no use if it is not original. If you write someone else story as yours, admission faculty will easily catch you. When you take help from us, we will portray your true self.
Low-cost high performance
We have a professional team of academic writers. They will never ask an exorbitant sum of money while helping you. You will get the best quality of essay which will get you in the college.
You will get quick service from us. Our expert writers never miss the deadlines and provide you with the work without any delay. Therefore, you can achieve your dreams with our help.
Common App essay word count
<p>The common app just says that the main essay should be 250 words or more. Does anyone have any input as to how long an average essay is, approximately? For some reason, I was told 500 words, but now I'm hearing closer to 700 or 800. Any advice would be appreciated!</p>
<p>the average is usually 500-700, 800 is kinda on the edge. as long as you get your point across in a reasonable range (from the minimum to about 800) size doesn't really matter.</p>
<p>Thanks Mizlissa! It's good to know I wasn't just pulling numbers out of nowhere. :)</p>
<p>My word count was just over 700.</p>
<p>brevity is the soul of wit people.</p>
<p>ur welcome million$baby</p>
<p><em>gulp</em> I wish I had found this thread 3 days ago . . . my essay had about 1200 words . . . because there was no maximum, I thought as long as it wasn't longer than 2 pages I should be ok . . . there was a lot of passion in it I think, and it wasn't overly wordy or anything, I just had a lot to say . . . should I be freaking out now???</p>
Search sat scores, search act scores, search gpa’s, subscribe to our newsletter.
Stay informed with the latest from the CC community, delivered to you, for free.
CONNECT WITH US
© 2023 College Confidential, LLC. All Rights Reserved.
- Services Paper editing services Paper proofreading Business papers Philosophy papers Write my paper Term papers for sale Term paper help Academic term papers Buy research papers College writing services Paper writing help Student papers Original term papers Research paper help Nursing papers for sale Psychology papers Economics papers Medical papers Blog
Essay word counter: the best solution to getting the right length of your essay.
When working on your assignments, you can only be sure of getting the best grades by strictly following all the instructions. “I have to do my coursework to the top of my abilities” is a thought that might instill worry in you. But one of the requirements in most assignments, word count, is fairly easy to keep track of. As you're writing an essay, it is important to stick to the required word count for this particular type of paper. But how do you know it? How many words in an essay? Here are all the answers:
How Many Words are in My Essay?
It depends on the type of essay you are working on. For example, a one-page essay should be approximately 550 words or longer, depending on your department’s requirements. However, if you have been writing your essay and have probably hit midway, it might be important to check the number of words to assess progress. This is critical to ensuring your writing stays within the recommended length. To know the number of words for your essay, you should consider using the essay word counter.
How Many Words Is the Average College Essay?
An average college essay is 400-700 words , which is about five paragraphs. When you see the length requirements for a difficult paper you might immediately think “I just want to pay someone to do my essay .” But don't worry, sometimes even a 1,000 words isn't that much when you enjoy your topic and do the research. Make sure to pay special attention to your lecturer's instructions because some might require specific pages or paragraphs. However, the 400 – 700 words range sound wide, right? This range is meant to cater for writers who prefer either short or longer paragraphs.
Even though the answer to the question, “how many words in a college essay?” is distinct, you need to ensure that all the key points on your topic are covered. For example, when writing a persuasive essay, make sure to bring out the main points and counterarguments.
Once you are through writing the college essay, you should make sure to confirm the number of words using a reliable tool, such as the essay word counter, before submitting it.
How Many Words Is the Common App Essay?
Like an average essay, an application essay is another flexible type of write-up of 250-650 words , which students write when seeking admission to colleges of their choice. Ensure to be extra careful when determining how many words is a college essay for admission because it is part of the grading system.
When writing an application essay, do not simply assume that shorter is always better. Instead, you should think of how many words is a good essay, which allows you to express your personality, writing skills, and passions. We recommend that you target 500 - 600 words. To know this, you need to use the word counter tool, which is fast, reliable, and accurate.
How Many Words Is a Two Page Essay?
Now that we have answered the question “How many words is a 5 paragraph essay?,” it is time to move on to the next one, a two page essay, which starts from 500 words . However, it is very important to consider whether your paper is single or double spaced.
A single page which is single-spaced should be about 500 words or 250 words if it is double spaced. When working on two pages, you need to hit double the number of words you would do for a single page, meaning 1,000 words single spaced or 500 words double spaced. To be sure that your paper is within the right range, make sure to use the online word counter for essay.
How to Use Our Word Counter for Essay
Whether you are working on a short or a longer essay, the first thing is determining how many words should a college essay be. For example, you should have the answer to the questions, “How many words should a 5 paragraph essay be?” and “How many words is the average essay?” by looking at the prompts given by your teacher. Then, make sure to use the essay counter tool. Here is a demonstration:
- Write your essay and format it well
- Visit the online word counter on their website
- Copy the entire text of your essay, and paste it on the word count interface
The good thing about using the word counter tool is that it allows you to do more than check the number of words. In addition, you can check grammar and improve your writing. Grammar is as important as word count, and should also be at the best level possible. And if after all of this you're ever thinking “I should get a professional to do my paper for me ,” and you actually do, then you won't have to worry about following all the instructions, because the writer will do all the work for you!
50,000 of your peers already have an advantage.
Copyright © 2013-2023 MyPaperDone.com