College admission essay prompts

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The common app essay prompts for 2018 are almost the same as their last year’s with only a few changes. Of the five well-known prompts, two are exactly the same and the other three have minor changes that were made to expand the breadth of potential answers. There are also two new prompts, one of which is a topic of your choice. In total, there are seven essay prompts to choose from for 2017–2018 college applicants.

The length for the essay still has to be about 650 words. This is enough space to make a powerful and quick impression on the admissions officers.

Below you will find a guide that will tell you all about college admission essay prompts and how to use them to write an efficient essay.

Keep in mind that the prompts are not as important as you think they are. The thing that matters is the story you want to tell. You most likely have a story that you would like to share with the admissions officers so don’t concentrate on the prompts too much.

Share your talent, background, identity, or interest that is meaningful to you

This prompt has been around for years and is a favorite of many students because it offers flexibility for an applicant to be creative with the writing. With this prompt, concentrate on such important words as identity, background, talent, and interest and use them as a starting point for your brainstorming. Think about your personality, history, accomplishments, or hobbies that you think are worth sharing with an admissions officer. You can write about something as small as a scene from a TV show or as large as the struggle of moving to a different country. Keep in mind that the topic and/or perspective is specific to you and who you are rather than someone else.

Brainstorming ideas for this prompt:

  • Think about your background or history that sets you apart from your peers
  • How do you define yourself? How do people who are close to you define you?
  • What have you achieved that has been important in formation of your character and ambitions?
  • What has helped you shape your personality?

Some other things to consider include:

  • Does your hair define you?
  • Did visiting a Picasso exhibition inspire you to begin an art collection?
  • Talk about the rewards and challenges of having same-sex parents

In general, this prompt is about telling your own adventure. It can be used to serve different subjects that you can’t talk about using other prompts.

Lessons you learn from your failures, challenges, or setbacks

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Everyone thinks that essays about overcoming difficult situations are the most effective ones when they concentrate on solutions rather than the problem itself. Therefore, when using this prompt, concentrate on a problem and show your qualities such as determination, resilience, and humility that helped you overcome an issue.

The obstacles you select to describe can vary especially with the latest additions that let students explore setbacks and challenges in addition to failures. You can write about something as serious as being bullied at high school or financial issues that have been a burden to your family for many years, or you can write about something as little as how a small mistake cost you a tip when you were waiting tables at a restaurant.

Even though there are many topics you can write about in this prompt, you need to be careful not to select those that may seem banal or that show a gap in a good judgment. If you can choose an incident in your life that taught you something useful, this is the prompt you should use for your essay. Some things to consider with this prompt include:

  • How do you overcome hard hardships?
  • What were some of the major challenges you faced in your life?
  • Do you turn your good and bad experiences in something you can learn from?
  • What qualifies as a setback or challenge in your life?

Several examples to consider:

  • Did your parent’s fragile health situation made you to take on more responsibilities?
  • Has a long fight with stuttering increased your general confidence and allowed you to take part in social events?
  • Did your failure as a child actor introduce you to screenwriting?

When choosing this prompt, try to make your story as positive as possible. You do not need to simply tell about the toughest times in your life. Instead concentrate and reflect on the lessons you have learned when overcoming obstacles.

Think about a time when you challenged or questioned an idea or belief

This is one of the most challenging prompts even though it has become more flexible by adding the option to discuss a situation when you questioned something instead of challenging it. With this prompt, you need to passionately speak about some ideology or beliefs, which are rather difficult subjects to put into short stories. If you choose this prompt, carefully assess the risks of not supporting beliefs that might be polarizing.

Your response to the prompt can be personal and sharp. If you can express your thoughts and feelings while showing willingness and flexibility to thoughtfully take into account the ideas of others, you will likely stand out as a valuable addition to the campus. If you have a very specific story to tell or an opinion to share, this prompt is for you.

Questions for brainstorming:

  • How passionate are you about the things you believe in?
  • What is significant to you on a fundamental level of values and morals?
  • Why are you willing to stand up for what you believe in?

A few examples to consider:

  • Are you a gay and open about it in your strict Catholic school environment? What did that mean to you?
  • Did your work on a political campaign that was caught at the center of a scandal? What was your reaction?

You do not have to write your essay on a very groundbreaking or serious issue. You need to show that you have strong beliefs about a certain idea you are trying to convey and that your examined the effects of this idea on your life. This is a great prompt to discuss your passions, skills, and consideration.

Talk about a problem you have solved or a problem you would like to solve

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This prompt will challenge your problem-solving skills and show how you can deal with challenges. This prompt also allows you to be creative leaving both the time and the scale for setting up a problem or a solution wide open.

Here, you can write about something like traditional obstacles or something that have inspired you to think about what you really value. You can also approach this prompt from an aspirational point of view. Do not simply choose from issues you have already dealt with. Instead think about the challenges the future may bring both on a global scale and to you personally.

Consider these questions:

  • What mark would you like to leave on the world?
  • What kind of power would you like to have to make a lasting impact?
  • How do you think you can contribute positively to a problem that is important to you?
  • Remember the time when you were proactive in trying to effect change

It is important to select the problem that has links to the world and your life in an important way. The goal of writing an essay is to show something valuable about yourself to the admissions officer, so make sure you connect the problem with your actions, passions, or aspirations. Also, list at least a few steps that you could take to solve a chosen issue.

Discussing events and accomplishments that promoted your personal growth

In the previous years, this prompt has asked students to reflect on their transition from childhood to adulthood. This year the question has been extended and asks about your personal growth in general.

When using this prompt, keep in mind that the words “event” and “accomplishment” are open to interpretation. Therefore, you can write about anything from a formal event to a very small situation. You can write about something like a wedding or a birthday party, or something like getting a promotion. It has been noted that less formal events make for more memorable and surprising essays. However, don’t forget to be original and include a unique twist on your subject. Telling about what you learned and how you developed will tell a lot about you to the admissions officer.

Ideas, topics, or concepts that are engaging to you

This is a new addition to the prompts. It highlights your inner nerd. It will be very interesting for the admissions officers to know how and why you selected to focus on things that are engaging to you. Here, you can tell about how you look for inspirations and new sources of content and how your process information.

When answering this prompt, you should also tell something to the admissions about the depth of your interests. Questions you may consider for this prompt include:

  • What is satisfying about the process of learning?
  • How do usually look for new information and knowledge that appeals to you?
  • What are you ready to do to get new information or experiences related to your interest?

Whatever you are interested in, embrace it. Tell about your pursuit of knowledge and your desire to change yourself proactively.

Topic of your choice

Some students fear this prompt, others are really looking forward to it.

For this prompt, you may be required to write your essay on the topic you want and use your own writing style. It is recommended to have a question of your own ready if you decide to use this prompt. It is also good to have it just in case.

Some of the questions you may consider for this prompt include:

  • What will you bring to a college campus that no one else could?
  • What would you want to talk about with the admissions officers if you had 10 minutes alone with him or her in a room?
  • What stories do usually come up over and over again when you talk with your friends?
  • What do you want the admissions officer to know about you that they wouldn’t get from your test scores, recommendations, or a transcript?

Even though it sounds great to be able to write about whatever you want, some students find themselves at a loss of words when choosing these options because it gives too much choice. Do not be afraid, simply use some of the prompts as beginning points for your brainstorming. Start keeping a diary and just write down the events, subjects, and memories as they come to your mind. Then you will be able to choose the topic that you will want to write about.

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