In many cases, writing can include more specific word choice.
This section provides insights and examples for each of the 7 Common App essay prompts for the 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. 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.
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. 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.
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In addition, you can highlight intersections between multiple backgrounds and show how each is integral to you. One of our consultants 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: all of the following essay excerpts have been shortened and edited for this post. Names have also been changed to protect the identity of the author and subjects. My parents took the chance, risking all of their savings. 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 mother unpacked a bag each night. Fifteen years later, my parents now own Blue Ravine 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. So when the opportunity to attend the Mississippi School for Mathematics and Science presented itself, I took it and ran, as did my parents by leaving Vietnam and by buying the store.
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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. 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. 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 of our consultants 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. Helping a young refugee girl settle into the US eventually helped the writer find home in America as well:. After moving from Berlin to New York at age fifteen, my feelings of cultural homelessness thrived in my new environment. 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.
In between games and snacks, Laya 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. Together, we worked through conflicting allegiances, homesickness, and stretched belonging.
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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. 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. You should also feel free to use this topic to show what an important activity on your application really means to you. Read a successful essay answering this prompt. This prompt lends itself to consideration of what facets of your personality allow you to overcome adversity. There are times in life when your foundation is uprooted.
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. 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. To my shame, I had been appallingly ignorant of his pain. When my parents learned about The Smith Academy, we hoped it would be an opportunity for me to find not only an academically challenging environment, but also a community.
This meant transferring the family. And while there was concern about Sam, we all believed that given his sociable nature, moving would be far less impactful on him than staying put might be on me. But preoccupied with new friends and a rigorous course load, I failed to notice that the tables had turned.
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Sam had become withdrawn and lonely. While I saw myself as genuinely compassionate, I had been oblivious to the heartache of the person closest to me.
We stayed up half the night talking. 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 Sam was in distress once he experienced problems with which I directly identified. This experience has reinforced the value of constantly striving for deeper sensitivity to the hidden struggles of those around me.
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.
Another way to answer this prompt is to discuss a time when you noticed a need for change. 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. Try to use them for good and not for evil.
Think small: When writing the Common Application essay, too many students feel compelled to try and squeeze their entire life story into words. This, friends, is impossible. It is almost always better to think small first.
Find a story or event in your life that really meant something to you. Did you win a competition at the last second?
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Was your family stranded on vacation with no power for five days? Have you read something recently that blew your mind? Now ask yourself- are any of these stories representative of my larger, most valuable qualities? If you find yourself getting lost while writing, ask: what am I trying to say about myself, and am I using a specific, compelling example to tell my story?
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