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❶My family experience taught me to face a serendipitous world with confidence.

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Basic Info on the Common App Essay
What Excellent College Essays Have in Common

Lots of people have tried out for a school play, for example, but each had their own particular experience of doing so. Take a look at this example sentence. I was nervous as I waited for my turn to audition.

As I waited for my name to be called, I tapped the rhythm of "America" on the hard plastic chair, going through the beats of my audition song over and over in my head. The more specific your essay topic is, the more clearly your unique voice will come through and the more engaging your essay will be. Now that we've established the basic ideas you need to keep in mind as you brainstorm, let's go through the Common App essay questions one at a time and break down what admissions committees are looking for in responses.

Keep in mind that for each of these questions, there are really two parts. The second is explaining what that event, action, or activity means to you. 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. This prompt is very broad.

Then this prompt could be a good one for you. The key is that whatever you write about needs to be genuinely important to you personally, not just something you think will look good to the admissions committee. This question is really about showing admissions officers how your background has shaped you. Can you learn and grow from your experiences? Everyone has more than one important trait, but in answering this prompt, you're telling admissions officers what you think is your most significant quality.

You could write about almost anything for this prompt: Make sure to narrow in on something specific, though. You don't have room to tell your whole life story.

Then I would tie it all together by explaining how my love of reading has taught me to look for ideas in unexpected places. You don't want your essay to read like a resume: Also try to avoid generic and broad topics: How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience?

This prompt is pretty straightforward. It's asking you describe a challenge or obstacle you faced or a time you failed and how you dealt with it. The part many students forget is the second half: This question really raises two issues: You'll face a lot of challenges in college, both academic and social. Can you find a positive lesson in a negative experience? Colleges want to see an example of how you've done so. You need to address both parts of the question: Make sure you pick an actual failure or challenge — don't turn your essay into a humblebrag.

Also, don't write about something completely negative. Your response needs to show that you got something out of your challenge or failure and that you've learned skills to apply to other situations. Spilling your coffee is not an appropriate failure, no matter how disastrous it may feel. What prompted your thinking? What was the outcome? There are two ways to approach this question. The obvious question this prompt raises is what your values are and whether you're willing to stand up for what you believe.

Whether you've reconsidered your own beliefs or asked others to reconsider theirs, it shows you've put genuine thought into what you value and why. Can you question someone else beliefs without belittling them? If not, don't write about this question. This prompt is really one where you either have a relevant story or you don't. If there's a belief or idea that's particularly important to you, whether political or personal, this might be a good question for you to address.

Seriously, though, what is wrong with you!? Make sure there's clear conflict and action in your essay. In general, I would avoid these kinds of topics unless you have a very compelling story. Regardless of what you're writing about, don't assume the reader shares your views.

You also want to avoid coming off as petty or inflexible, especially if you're writing about a controversial topic. It's great to have strong beliefs, but you also want to show that you're open to listening to other people's perspectives, even if they don't change your mind. It can be an intellectual challenge, a research query, an ethical dilemma-anything that is of personal importance, no matter the scale. Explain its significance to you and what steps you took or could be taken to identify a solution.

The first part is very straightforward: However, you also need to "explain its significance to you. Even if you pick something seemingly minor to talk about, like fixing a dishwasher on your own, explaining why you wanted to do it yourself maybe because you like knowing how things work and how you did so maybe by asking other people for advice of maybe by looking up videos on YouTube will show admissions officers a lot about what you value and how you think.

You will face inevitably face problems, both academic and personal, in these four years, and admissions officers want to see that you're capable of taking them on.

You certainly can do it, however; just make sure to have a compelling and concrete explanation for why this problem is important to you and how you came upon the solution you're proposing. Then, in writing his essay, he might focus on telling a story about how a man he met while volunteering in a homeless shelter inspired his idea to hire men and women living in shelters to work as liaisons in public spaces like libraries and parks to help homeless people get access to the services they need.

Avoid anything sweeping or general: As I mentioned above, you want to stick to concrete ideas and solutions that clearly relate to your own experiences. Simply writing down some of your ideas, no matter how great they are, isn't going to make for a very interesting essay. Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others. Like prompt 1, this one is very general.

Personal growth and maturity are complicated issues. You essay may touch on themes like personal responsibility and your role in the world and your community. Resist the temptation to quickly make a selection. Then read the options carefully and decide which topic s provides the best opportunity to portray your self in a desirable manner. If the application requires more than one essay, select distinct topics and subject areas so the admissions people get a broader, and more complete, picture of you.

If you are an athlete, for example, try not to write more than one essay about sports. Read the prompt carefully and pay particular attention to two part questions. The admissions people are looking for a window into your character, passion and reasoning. Be Personable and Specific. If you are asked to describe your reasons for your interest in a particular school that you are applying to, make sure your essay addresses the particular features of that school that appeal to you and explain why.

Many prompts specify a desired number of words or a range. In fact, many on-line applications will not even accept more than the stated limit. Lincoln got his points across succinctly in the Gettysburg address — in less than words.

Do not distract the reader with unnecessary words and repetition. If you come across as a spoiled child, a stuck-up rich kid, lazy, sarcastic or a cynic, the admissions team might decide that you are not the right fit for their school. While few applicants are genuinely altruistic, most colleges are turned off by students who appear more focused on what the school can do for them, rather than how they can benefit from the education and at the same time be a contributing member of the campus community.

If you are applying to a business program, the average starting salary of recent graduates should not be your stated motivation for seeking admission! A good way to catch mistakes is to read your essay very slowly and out loud.

Some of the best and most memorable essays are based on a simple conversation between people. The impressions and takeaways from such a conversation can be extremely engaging and provide a valuable window into the personality and values of the writer. Skip the Volunteer Trip. Dedicated community service over a period of time can be a strong topic for an application essay. Volunteer day at the local park, or two weeks of school building in Africa, will probably not impress the admissions committee.

They see many essays of this type. Not only is it difficult to stand out from the pack, but these experiences are often more about the experience than about you, or convey that money buys opportunity.

At the age of nine, I learned how to clear burning oil from the surface of water. My Dad considered this a critical life skill—you know, in case my aircraft carrier should ever get torpedoed. Living in my family, days rarely unfolded as planned. A bit overlooked, a little pushed around, I learned to roll with reality, negotiate a quick deal, and give the improbable a try. So what if our dining room table only has six chairs for seven people?

Someone learns the importance of punctuality every night. But more than punctuality and a special affinity for musical chairs, my family life has taught me to thrive in situations over which I have no power. Growing up, I never controlled my older siblings, but I learned how to thwart their attempts to control me. I forged alliances, and realigned them as necessary. Sometimes, I was the poor, defenseless little brother; sometimes I was the omniscient elder.

Different things to different people, as the situation demanded. I learned to adapt. Back then, these techniques were merely reactions undertaken to ensure my survival. But one day this fall, Dr. Hicks, our Head of School, asked me a question that he hoped all seniors would reflect on throughout the year: The question caught me off guard, much like the question posed to me in Laredo.

Then, I realized I knew the answer. I knew why the coat hanger had been handed to me. Growing up as the middle child in my family, I was a vital participant in a thing I did not govern, in the company of people I did not choose. You participate by letting go of the small stuff, not expecting order and perfection, and facing the unexpected with confidence, optimism, and preparedness.

My family experience taught me to face a serendipitous world with confidence. It's very helpful to take writing apart in order to see just how it accomplishes its objectives. Stephen's essay is very effective. Let's find out why! I had never broken into a car before. In just eight words, we get: Is he headed for a life of crime? Is he about to be scared straight? Notice how whenever he can, Stephen uses a more specific, descriptive word in place of a more generic one.

Details also help us visualize the emotions of the people in the scene. Finally, the detail of actual speech makes the scene pop. Instead of writing that the other guy asked him to unlock the van, Stephen has the guy actually say his own words in a way that sounds like a teenager talking.

They could also mean any number of things—violence, abandonment, poverty, mental instability. Obviously, knowing how to clean burning oil is not high on the list of things every 9-year-old needs to know. To emphasize this, Stephen uses sarcasm by bringing up a situation that is clearly over-the-top: The humor also feels relaxed. This helps keep the tone meaningful and serious rather than flippant. There's been an oil spill! This connection of past experience to current maturity and self-knowledge is a key element in all successful personal essays.

Even the best essays aren't perfect, and even the world's greatest writers will tell you that writing is never "finished"—just "due. But using too many of these ready-made expressions runs the risk of clouding out your own voice and replacing it with something expected and boring.

Stephen's first example breaking into the van in Laredo is a great illustration of being resourceful in an unexpected situation. PrepScholar Admissions is the world's best admissions consulting service.

We combine world-class admissions counselors with our data-driven, proprietary admissions strategies. We've overseen thousands of students get into their top choice schools , from state colleges to the Ivy League. We know what kinds of students colleges want to admit. We want to get you admitted to your dream schools. Learn more about PrepScholar Admissions to maximize your chance of getting in. I have always loved riding in cars. After a long day in first grade, I used to fall asleep to the engine purring in my mother's Honda Odyssey, even though it was only a 5-minute drive home.

As I grew, and graduated into the shotgun seat, it became natural and enjoyable to look out the window. Seeing my world passing by through that smudged glass, I would daydream what I could do with it. In elementary school, I already knew my career path: I was going to be Emperor of the World. While I sat in the car and watched the miles pass by, I developed the plan for my empire.

I reasoned that, for the world to run smoothly, it would have to look presentable. I would assign people, aptly named Fixer-Uppers, to fix everything that needed fixing.

That old man down the street with chipping paint on his house would have a fresh coat in no time. The boy who accidentally tossed his Frisbee onto the roof of the school would get it back. The big pothole on Elm Street that my mother managed to hit every single day on the way to school would be filled-in. It made perfect sense! All the people that didn't have a job could be Fixer-Uppers. I was like a ten-year-old FDR. Seven years down the road, I still take a second glance at the sidewalk cracks and think of my Fixer-Uppers, but now I'm doing so from the driver's seat.

As much as I would enjoy it, I now accept that I won't become Emperor of the World, and that the Fixer-Uppers will have to remain in my car ride imaginings. I always pictured a Fixer-Upper as a smiling man in an orange T-Shirt. Maybe instead, a Fixer-Upper could be a tall girl with a deep love for Yankee Candles.

Maybe it could be me. Bridget the Fixer-Upper will be slightly different than the imaginary one who paints houses and fetches Frisbees. I was lucky enough to discover what I am passionate about when I was a freshman in high school.


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Top 41 Successful Common App Essays. These college essays are from students who got accepted at Common Application. Use them to get inspiration for your own essays and knock the socks off those admissions officers! That's easy — it's the best way to study for AP classes and AP exams! StudyNotes offers fast, free study tools for AP.

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8 Common Application essays from the class of ; 8 Common Application essays from the class of ; 8 Common Application essays from the class of Johns Hopkins. These essays are answers to past prompts from either the Common Application or the Universal Application, both of which Johns Hopkins accepts.

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The Common App change to the prompts fairly frequently, so make sure you're familiar with the most up-to-date versions of the Common App essay questions. If you have friends or siblings who applied in . Dr. Bernstein's tips on elements in the best Common Application essays and how to write unforgettable college application essays that make you stand out.

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The Common Application has announced that the personal essay writing prompts will be the same as the seven essay buycoumadin.gq conducting a review process every other year, rather than annually, we can hear from admissions officers, as well as applicants, parents, and counselors, about the effectiveness of the essay prompts. With the announcement of the essay . Common Application Personal Statement. Looking for examples of past college essays that worked? These are some admissions essays that our officers thought were most successful (and some thoughts from the officers that liked them).