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Common Application Essay Prompts

Over 500 colleges and universities use the Common Application for undergraduate admissions. The new Common Application includes five essay options. Here is an overview of some of them.

The first two options have been discussed here.

Option 3

‘Think about a time when you challenged a belief or idea. Why did you do that? Would you make the same decision again?’

Here the belief or idea could be yours, someone else’s or that of a group. A good essay on this topic needs to explore the difficulty of acting against a firmly held belief. The answer to the final question – will you make the same decision again? – need not necessarily be ‘yes’.

No matter how you approach this essay, it should include at least one of your core personal values. When they read about the belief you challenged, they should get a window into your personality.

Option 4:

‘Describe a place or environment where you are perfectly happy. What do you do there? Why is it meaningful to you?’

This question, too, can be approached in several different ways. The ‘place or environment’ could be a house, a park, a beach, a classroom, a family, a country, or even an imagined space. Think about where you are happy and then try to find out why you are happy there.

This essay also gives you an opportunity to share with the admissions officer what it is that you value.

Option 5:

‘Discuss an accomplishment or event that marked your transition from childhood to adulthood within your culture, community, or family.’

A single event or accomplishment is unlikely to transform you to an adult overnight. Maturity is usually a result of a long train of successes or failures. That said, this prompt gives you an excellent opportunity to discuss a single event/achievement that helped you grow as an individual. While writing the essay, your focus must be on analyzing your personal growth process. Avoid the temptation to brag about your achievements.