Depending on how many schools you’re applying to, you’ll find a wide variety of essay prompts, some more open-ended than others. While I won’t be able to cover all the possibilities here, I can give you an idea of the types of questions you may encounter.
Common Application Questions
The Common App represents a network of more than 600 colleges that use the same online application so you don’t have to file separate paperwork for each school. In addition to the usual questions about academic and extracurricular background, the Common App provides a prompt for one major essay, around 500 words, that every school will receive. These prompts were included in the 2017-2018 application:
1. 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.
2. The lessons we take from obstacles we encounter can be fundamental to later success. Recount a time when you faced a challenge, setback, or failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience?
3. Reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea. What prompted your thinking? What was the outcome?
4. Describe a problem you’ve solved or a problem you’d like to solve. 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.
5. Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others.
6. Describe a topic, idea, or concept you find so engaging that it makes you lose all track of time. Why does it captivate you? What or who do you turn to when you want to learn more?
7. Share an essay on any topic of your choice. It can be one you’ve already written, one that responds to a different prompt, or one of your own design.
For a full discussion of the additional types of questions you might encounter, including Open-Ended, School-Based, and Oddball Questions, plus a full discussion of choosing your topic—including a special brainstorming worksheet to help you find and develop topics you never would have thought of—see the rest of this article in Chapter 4 of our title How to Write a College Application Essay: Expert Advice to Help You Get Into the College of Your Dreams.
Providing everything a student needs to go from draft to polished essay, the instruction in How to Write a College Application Essay is straightforward, easy to apply, and inspiring. Includes sample essays from students who got into the colleges of their dreams.
“How to Write a College Application Essay is a valuable resource that I enthusiastically recommend to my students and their families.” —Lisa Scanio, High School Counselor, Adlai Stevenson High School