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Tips and strategies for Option 3 on the Common Applications

The third essay option on the Common Application asks you to reflect on a time when you challenged a belief.

Here is the prompt:

‘Reflect on a time when you challenged a belief or idea. What prompted you to act? Would you make the same decision again?’

This prompt has its focus on an idea or belief. Since these are broad terms, you can write about almost anything you have openly questioned. It could be anything – the color of your school uniform or the environmental impact of nuclear reactors. Of course, some ideas are better than others and will lead to better essays.

How to choose a good ‘idea or belief’?

If you are keen on this prompt, the first thing you need to do is to find an idea or belief that was worth challenging. The belief could be yours own, your family’s or the society’s where you live.

As you search for options, don’t forget the purpose of your essay. You are writing this essay because the college you have applied to use the Common Applications. Colleges that use the Common Applications follow a holistic admission system. That means besides your grades, they are interested in getting to know you as a person.

When the admissions officers read your essay they should get the impression that you will be an interesting addition to their campus. In your essay, you should present yourself as an analytical, thoughtful and open-minded person. Your essay should also reveal your passions, major interests or concerns. A winning essay will make them want to know more about you.

This wouldn’t be possible if you reflect upon a superficial idea or belief. Therefore, your idea should ideally center on an issue that is central to your identity.