Common app college essay

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Last updated by Hilary Cairns Last updated July 8, Are you: A Student. A Counselor. The best essays focus on self-analysis, rather than spending a disproportionate amount of time merely describing a place or event. Analysis, not description , will reveal the critical thinking skills that are the hallmark of a promising college student. The current prompts are the result of much discussion and debate from the member institutions who use the Common Application. The essay length limit stands at words the minimum is words , and students will need to choose from the seven options below.

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The essay prompts are designed to encourage reflection and introspection. If your essay doesn't include some self-analysis, you haven't fully succeeded in responding to the prompt. According to the folks at the Common Application , in the admissions cycle, Option 7 topic of your choice was the most popular and was used by Second most popular was Option 5 discuss an accomplishment with In third place was Option 2 on a setback or failure.

Class of 2020 College Essay, Common Application and Coalition Application Work

Always keep in mind why colleges are asking for an essay: they want to get to know you better. Nearly all selective colleges and universities as well as many that aren't overly selective have holistic admissions, and they consider many factors in addition to numerical measures such as grades and standardized test scores. Your essay is an important tool for presenting something you find important that may not come across elsewhere in your application.

Make sure your essay presents you as the type of person a college will want to invite to join their community. 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.

What is it that makes you you?

The prompt gives you a lot of latitude for answering the question since you can write a story about your "background, identity, interest, or talent. You could write about an event or series of events that had a profound impact on your identity. Your "interest" or "talent" could be a passion that has driven you to become the person you are today.


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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.

Your future starts here

How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience? This prompt may seem to go against everything that you've learned on your path to college. It's far more comfortable in an application to celebrate successes and accomplishments than it is to discuss setbacks and failure. At the same time, you'll impress the college admissions folks greatly if you can show your ability to learn from your failures and mistakes.

Essays That Worked | Undergraduate Admissions | Johns Hopkins University

Be sure to devote significant space to the second half of the question—how did you learn and grow from the experience? Introspection and honesty are key with this prompt. Reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea. Many struggle with the balance between writing creative, witty responses and sounding cheesy and forced.

When tackling these odd application essay prompts , remember the main goal of the admissions essay — to reveal something not obvious about yourself. These essays are about you, not what you think the college wants to hear, so keep your interests in mind! If supplemental essays are good gauges for demonstrated interest, this particular type of essay is the most important.


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When answering this essay question, use specific details.