The Common App: Everything You Need to Know
The Common App makes it easy to apply to multiple colleges and universities.
Students need to give themselves at least six weeks to get everything they need for college applications. (Getty Images)
Applying to college can be a tedious and stressful process for students and their parents. In addition to doing the research and paperwork associated with applications, teens may also be juggling the SAT or ACT , college tours and a tough senior year course load.
The Common Application, which is accepted by more than 1,000 schools, including some colleges located outside the U.S., helps streamline an essential part of the admissions process for students.
Through the platform, first-time and transfer applicants alike can apply to multiple colleges at once. So students only have to fill out details that most schools require – such as name, address and extracurricular activities – one time.
"The idea behind the Common App is to try and reduce the barriers that students face when applying to college ," says Jenny Rickard, president and CEO of Common App, the nonprofit that manages the application.
Despite its popularity, the Common App may be confusing for some families who are new to the college application process . The guide below can help ease students and parents through the application.
When Can I Start Working on My College Application Through the Common App?
The new edition of the Common App opens Aug. 1 every year. Given the variance in college application deadlines, students should pay close attention to when they need to submit their materials.
For example, students who are applying for early action or early decision may need to submit an application in November or December, whereas the regular decision deadline is more likely to be Jan. 1. Prospective students should treat these ranges as a general rule of thumb and check with individual colleges on deadlines.
Students don't have to wait until Aug. 1 to get started on the Common App. They can create an account at any time and transfer their information into the new app when it opens.
How to Complete the Common Application
Here are steps for how students can work on an application through the platform:
- Go to commonapp.org and click on the "Start your application" button to get details about how to create an account and log in. Additionally, students can download the Common App's mobile app to keep track of deadlines, invite recommenders and set reminders.
- Choose the first-year student or transfer student option.
- Add user information such as name, email, phone number, address, date of birth and prospective enrollment year.
- Fill out the user profile with requested details on education, extracurriculars, demographic data, household information and more.
- Add collaborators such as teachers, counselors and others providing letters of recommendation or other supporting documents.
- Search for and add schools to "My Colleges."
- Get familiar with each college's application requirements and follow those accordingly when applying.
How Long Does It Take to Fill Out an Application?
The time it takes to fill out an application varies based on a school's requirements, experts say. However, students need to give themselves at least six to eight weeks to complete their college applications, says Christine Chu, a premier college admissions counselor with IvyWise, an education consulting company.
That includes time to fill out background information, gather the required documents, and write the personal statement and any supplemental essays that might be required by schools. Applicants can find the various writing requirements for each school in the Common App's Student Solutions Center.
"Given the increase in the number of applications for some students and the number of supplemental essays that students have to write, I would suggest even longer to work on all the essays," Chu says. "Writing is an iterative process, and with revisions, which take time, students can write good essays."
In addition to any optional parental information needed – such as employer details and educational background – many schools require first-year applicants to submit recommendation letters and transcripts. Students need to give teachers and counselors enough time to submit those materials to the Common App before deadlines.
High school counselors encourage students to ask their teachers for recommendation letters before the end of their junior year so that educators can work on them during the summer. Seniors who need recommendation letters should ask for them early in the school year, experts say.
What Are the Common App Essay Prompts, and Where Can I Find Them?
There are seven Common App first-year essay prompts for the 2022-2023 school year (they are the same as the ones used for the 2021-2022 application), though students only need to choose one prompt. The prompts ask students to, for instance, "reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea" or "discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth." Applicants have a maximum of 650 words for the essay.
An optional non-essay question added in 2020 on how the coronavirus pandemic affected students will remain on the Common App this year. Answers to this question are limited to 250 words. Roughly 20% of all applicants in the 2021-2022 admissions cycle provided a response to the COVID-19 question, per figures provided by Emma Steele, director of media and external affairs for Common App.
Applicants can see the essay prompts on the Common App's website.
Not all schools require students to submit an essay. Some institutions may require students to submit a supplemental essay or additional information. Applicants can see the requirements for all schools on the Common App when they log in to their student accounts or download a PDF from the Common App's website.
Applicants can also preview supplemental questions for schools before they start their applications through the platform's Student Solutions Center.
What Should I Do if I Run Into Problems With the Common App?
Students who have questions about filling out the application can ask their high school counselor and admissions officers at the colleges they're applying to for help, experts say.
The Common App also has a variety of resources to help make the application process easier.
In addition to video tutorials throughout the application, the platform has year-round technical support 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Applicants can find answers to frequently asked questions or submit a question in the Student Solutions Center. Response times vary, but the average wait time is 20 minutes, according to Common App representatives.
Can I Get Fee Waivers for the Common App?
The Common App is free to use but individual schools can charge application fees, which student pay when they submit their applications. About half of member schools don't charge application fees for first-year students, according to data provided by the organization.
Applicants who qualify for fee waivers – those who meet the standards set by the National Association for College Admission Counseling – will be able to make that known through the application.
"A student only needs to indicate that they have financial hardship once in the application, and that fee waiver can be applied to any school they apply to," Rickard says.
Students who have questions about whether they qualify for fee waivers can reach out to their high school counselors or directly to the colleges that they are applying to, experts say.
What Tips Can Make Filling Out the Common App Easier?
Don't wait until 11:59 p.m. on Jan. 1 to finish applications as some students do, experts say. Schools will still accept applications that are a few minutes late, according to Common App representatives, but the stress that comes with fighting against the clock –and the increased potential for typos and other mistakes – isn't worth it.
Besides starting early, experts encourage students to take advantage of the Common App preview that allows students to review their application prior to submission.
Students can also assign advisers who can see parts of an application and the progress they've made.
Do I Have to Use the Common App to Apply to College?
Students are not required to use the Common App. While the platform is popular, it isn't the only one for college applications.
Many schools allow students to apply online through their websites. Some states have application systems that students can or must use in order to apply to colleges. For example, Texas has a statewide system for submitting applications, though some Texas schools also accept the Common App.
Some well-known private institutions like the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Georgetown University in the District of Columbia accept applications only through their school websites. Many other competitive colleges and universities, such as Harvard University and Amherst College , accept applications through the Common App.
Other platforms accepted by some schools include the Coalition Application and the Common Black College Application , which serves historically Black colleges and universities. Many schools that use those platforms also use the Common App.
Do Colleges Care if I Use the Common App or a Different Platform?
Colleges that allow students to submit applications through multiple platforms don't have a preference on which one is used, but high school counselors might. The Common App's integration with Naviance, a college and career readiness software provider, makes it easy for counselors to submit documentation for colleges, experts say.
But students should submit one application per college using the platform that works best for them.
“As a student selects which application platform to use, we recommend they think about their full list of schools and consider what each school requires for an application," says Keri Risic, interim executive director of admissions at the University of Minnesota—Twin Cities. " Going in with that information could help them streamline their application approach and reduce some of the stress we know students feel at this stage."
How Does the Common App Work for Transfer Students?
The transfer portion of the Common App works in much the same way as it does for first-time applicants, with some differences. More than 600 schools accept the Common App for transfer.
Unlike first-time applicants, transfer students will have additional information to submit from colleges attended. The Common App asks them to list any college or university attended, dates of enrollment, college coursework completed and GPA.
An essay for transfer students is also required. Common App updated the transfer essay requirement last year, making the question prompts the same as for first-time applicants.
Changes for the 2022-23 Common App
There are a number of updates in the 2022-23 Common App, including information related to gender identity and fee waivers that will "better reflect the more than one million students who use Common App each year," according to the website . Common App added “Mx.” and “other” options for counselor, parent, recommender, teacher and advisor prefix options. It also added “legal” to the first/given name question label.
Common App also recently added a question that provides applicants with the option to share their preferred first name as well as the pronouns they use.
Another change was expanding the fee waiver question to include the list of eligibility criteria "so students have the full understanding of who is eligible," Steele says.
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Common App Essays | 7 Strong Examples with Commentary
Published on November 19, 2021 by Kirsten Courault . Revised on November 4, 2022.
If you’re applying for college via the Common App , you’ll have to write an essay in response to one of seven prompts.
Table of contents
What is the common application essay, prompt 1: background, identity, interest, or talent, prompt 2: overcoming challenges, prompt 3: questioning a belief or idea, prompt 4: appreciating an influential person, prompt 5: transformative event, prompt 6: interest or hobby that inspires learning, prompt 7: free topic, frequently asked questions about college application essays.
The Common Application, or Common App , is a college application portal that is accepted by more than 900 schools.
Within the Common App is your main essay, a primary writing sample that all your prospective schools will read to evaluate your critical thinking skills and value as a student. Since this essay is read by many colleges, avoid mentioning any college names or programs. Instead, save tailored answers for the supplementary school-specific essays within the Common App.
Regardless of your prompt choice, admissions officers will look for an ability to clearly and creatively communicate your ideas based on the selected prompt.
We’ve provided seven essay examples, one for each of the Common App prompts. After each essay, we’ve provided a table with commentary on the essay’s narrative, writing style and tone, demonstrated traits, and self-reflection.
This essay explores the student’s emotional journey toward overcoming her father’s neglect through gymnastics discipline.
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.
When “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” began to play, it was my signal to lay out a winning floor routine. Round off. Back handspring. Double back layout. Stick!
Instead, I jolted off the floor, landing out of bounds. Over the past week, I hadn’t landed that pass once, and regionals were only seven days away. I heaved a heavy sigh and stomped over to the bench.
Coach Farkas saw my consternation. “Mona, get out of your head. You’re way too preoccupied with your tumbling passes. You could do them in your sleep!”
That was the problem. I was dreaming of tumbling and missing my landings, waking up in a cold sweat. The stress felt overwhelming.
“Stretch out. You’re done for tonight.”
I walked home from the gym that had been my second home since fourth grade. Yet my anxiety was increasing every time I practiced.
I startled my mom. “You’re home early! Wait! You walked? Mona, what’s going on?!”
I slumped down at the kitchen table. “Don’t know.”
She sat down across from me. “Does it have anything to do with your father texting you a couple of weeks ago about coming to see you at regionals?”
“So what?! Why does it matter anymore?” He walked out when I was 10 and never looked back. Still, dear ol’ Dad always had a way of resurfacing when I least expected him.
“It still matters because when you hear from him, you tend to crumble. Or have you not noticed?” She offered a knowing wink and a compassionate smile.
I started gymnastics right after Dad left. The coaches said I was a natural: short, muscular, and flexible. All I knew was that the more I improved, the more confident I felt. Gymnastics made me feel powerful, so I gave it my full energy and dedication.
The floor routine became my specialty, and my performances were soon elevating our team score. The mat, solid and stable, became a place to explore and express my internal struggles. Over the years, no matter how angry I felt, the floor mat was there to absorb my frustration.
The bars, beam, and vault were less forgiving because I knew I could fall. My performances in those events were respectable. But, the floor? Sometimes, I had wildly creative and beautiful routines, while other times were disastrous. Sadly, my floor routine had never been consistent.
That Saturday afternoon, I slipped into the empty gym and walked over to the mat. I sat down and touched its carpeted surface. After a few minutes, my cheeks were wet with the bitter disappointment of a dad who only showed up when it was convenient for him. I ruminated on the years of practices and meets where I had channeled my resentment into acrobatics and dance moves, resolved to rise higher than his indifference.
I saw then that my deepest wounds were inextricably entangled with my greatest passion. They needed to be permanently separated. While my anger had first served to launch me into gymnastics, before long, I had started serving my anger.
Anger is a cruel master. It corrupts everything it touches, even something as beautiful as a well-choreographed floor routine.
I changed my music days before regionals. “The Devil” no longer had a place in my routine. Instead, I chose an energetic cyberpunk soundtrack that inspired me to perform with passion and laser focus. Dad made an obligatory appearance at regionals, but he left before I could talk to him.
It didn’t matter this time. I stuck every landing in my routine. Anger no longer controlled me. I was finally free.
Word count: 601
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This essay shows how the challenges the student faced in caring for her sister with autism resulted in an unexpected path forward in her education.
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?
I never had a choice.
My baby sister was born severely autistic, which meant that every detail of our home life was repeatedly adjusted to manage her condition. I couldn’t go to bed without fearing that Mindy would wake up screaming with that hoarse little voice of hers. I couldn’t have friends over on weekends because we never knew if our entire family would need to shift into crisis mode to help Mindy regain control.
We couldn’t take a family vacation because Mindy would start hitting us during a long car ride when she didn’t want to sit there anymore. We couldn’t even celebrate Christmas like a normal family because Mindy would shriek and run away when we tried to give her presents.
I was five years old when Mindy was born. For the first ten years, I did everything I could to help my mom with Mindy. But Mom was depressed and would often stare out the window, as if transfixed by the view. Dad was no help either. He used his job as an excuse to be away from home. So, I tried to make up for both of them and rescue Mindy however I could whenever she needed it.
However, one day, when I was slowly driving Mindy around with the windows down, trying to lull her into a calmer state, we passed two of my former classmates from middle school. They heard Mindy growling her disapproval as the ride was getting long for her. One of them turned to the other and announced, “Oh my God! Marabeth brought her pet monster out for a drive!” They laughed hysterically and ran down the street.
After that day, I defied my parents at every turn. I also ignored Mindy. I even stopped doing homework. I purposely “got in with the wrong crowd” and did whatever they did.
My high school counselor Ms. Martinez saw through it all. She knew my family’s situation well. It didn’t take her long to guess what had probably happened.
“Marabeth, I get it. My brother has Down syndrome. It was really hard growing up with him as a brother. The other kids were pretty mean about it, especially in high school.”
I doubted she understood. “Yeah. So?”
“I’m guessing something happened that hurt or embarrassed you.”
“I’m so sorry. I can only imagine how you must have felt.”
It must have been the way she said it because I suddenly found myself sobbing into my trembling, cupped hands.
Ms. Martinez and I met every Friday after that for the rest of the year. Her stories of how she struggled to embrace living with and loving her brother created a bridge to my pain and then my healing. She explained that her challenges led her to pursue a degree in counseling so that she could offer other people what no one had given her.
I thought that Mindy was the end of my life, but, because of Ms. Martinez’s example and kindness, I can now see that Mindy is a gift, pointing me toward my future.
Now, I’m applying to study psychology so that I can go on to earn my master’s degree in counseling. I’m learning to forgive my parents for their mistakes, and I’m back in Mindy’s life again, but this time as a sister, not a savior. My choice.
Word Count: 553
This essay illustrates a student’s courage in challenging his culture’s constructs of manhood and changing his course while positively affecting his father in the process.
Reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea. What prompted your thinking? What was the outcome?
“No son of mine is gonna march around a football field wearing tail feathers while all the real men are playing football!”
I took a step backward and tried not to appear as off-balance as I felt. In my excitement, I had blurted out more information than my father could handle:
“Dad! I made the marching band as a freshman! Nobody does that—I mean nobody!”
As soon as I had said it, I wished I could recall those words. How could I forget that 26 years earlier, he had been the starting wide receiver for the state-champion Tigers on the same field?!
Still, when I opened the email on that scorching hot August afternoon, I was thrilled that five months of practicing every possible major and harmonic minor scale—two octaves up and two octaves down—had made the difference. I had busted reed after reed, trying not to puff my cheeks while moving my fingers in a precise cadence.
I knew he had heard me continually practicing in my room, yet he seemed to ignore all the parts of me that were incongruous with his vision of manhood:
Ford F-150 4x4s. Pheasant hunting. The Nebraska Cornhuskers.
I never had to wonder what he valued. For years, I genuinely shared his interests. But, in the fall of eighth grade, I heard Kyle Wheeling play a saxophone solo during the homecoming marching band halftime show. My dad took me to every football game to teach me the plays, but that night, all I could think about was Kyle’s bluesy improv at halftime.
During Thanksgiving break, I got my mom to drive me into Omaha to rent my instrument at Dietze Music, and, soon after, I started private lessons with Mr. Ken. Before long, I was spending hours in my room, exploring each nuance of my shiny Yamaha alto sax, anticipating my audition for the Marching Tigers at the end of the spring semester.
During those months of practice, I realized that I couldn’t hide my newfound interest forever, especially not from the football players who were going to endlessly taunt me. But not all the guys played football. Some were in choir and theater. Quite a few guys were in the marching band. In fact, the Marching Tigers had won the grand prize in their division at last year’s state showdown in Lincoln.
I was excited! They were the champions, and I was about to become a part of their legacy.
Yet, that afternoon, a sense of anxiety brewed in my belly. I knew I had to talk to him.
He was sweeping the grass clippings off of the sidewalk. He nodded.
“I need to tell you something.”
He looked up.
“I know that you know about my sax because you hear me practicing. I like it a lot, and I’m becoming pretty good at it. I still care about what you like, but I’m starting to like some other things more. I hope you’ll be proud of me whatever I choose.”
He studied the cracks in the driveway. “I am proud of you. I just figured you’d play football.”
We never talked about it again, but that fall, he was in the stands when our marching band won the state championship in Lincoln for the second time. In fact, for the next four years, he never left the stands during halftime until the marching band had performed. He was even in the audience for every performance of “Our Town” at the end of my junior year. I played the Stage Manager who reveals the show’s theme: everything changes gradually.
I know it’s true. Things do change over time, even out here in central Nebraska. I know because I’ve changed, and my dad has changed, too. I just needed the courage to go first.
Word count: 626
The student demonstrates how his teacher giving him an unexpected bad grade was the catalyst for his becoming a better writer.
Reflect on something that someone has done for you that has made you happy or thankful in a surprising way. How has this gratitude affected or motivated you?
I stared in disbelief at the big red letter at the top of my paper: D.
Never in my entire high school career had I seen that letter at the top of any paper, unless it was at the beginning of my first name.
I had a 4.796 GPA. I had taken every pre-AP and AP course offered. My teachers had praised my writing skills! However, Mr. Trimble didn’t think so, and he let me know it:
“Darwin, in the future, I believe you can do better if you fully apply yourself.”
I furiously scanned the paper for corrections. Not even one! Grammar and syntax? Perfect. Spelling? Impeccable. Sentence and paragraph structure? Precise and indisputable, as always.
Was he trying to ruin my GPA? Cooper was clearly his favorite, and we were neck and neck for valedictorian, which was only one year away. Maybe they were conspiring to take me down.
Thankfully, AP Composition was my last class. I fled the room and ran to my car. Defiant tears stained my cheeks as I screeched my tires and roared out of the parking lot. When I got home, I shoved in my AirPods, flopped on my bed, and buried my head under the pillow.
I awoke to my sister, Daria, gently shaking my arm. “I know what happened, D. Trimble stopped me in the hall after school.”
“I’m sure he did. He’s trying to ruin my life.”
“That’s not what he told me. You should talk to him, D.”
The next day, although I tried to avoid Mr. Trimble at all costs, I almost tripped over him as I was coming out of the bathroom.
“Darwin, can we talk?”
He walked me down the hall to his room. “Do you know that you’re one of the best writers I’ve ever had in AP Comp?”
“Then why’d you do it?”
“Because you’re better than you know, Darwin. You impress with your perfect presentations, and your teachers reward you with A’s and praise. I do frequent the teacher’s lounge, you know.”
“So I know you’re not trying.”
I locked eyes with him and glared.
“You’ve never had to try because you have a gift. And, in the midst of the acclaim, you’ve never pushed yourself to discover your true capabilities.”
“So you give me a D?!”
“It got your attention.”
“You’re not going to leave it, are you?”
“Oh, the D stands. You didn’t apply yourself. You’ll have to earn your way out with your other papers.”
I gained a new understanding of the meaning of ambivalence. Part of me was furious at the injustice of the situation, but I also felt strangely challenged and intrigued. I joined a local writer’s co-op and studied K. M. Weiland’s artistic writing techniques.
Multiple drafts, track changes, and constructive criticism became my new world. I stopped taking Mr. Trimble’s criticism personally and began to see it as a precious tool to bolster me, not break me down.
Last week, the New York Public Library notified me that I was named one of five finalists for the Young Lions Fiction Award. They described my collection of short stories as “fresh, imaginative, and captivating.”
I never thought I could be grateful for a D, but Mr. Trimble’s insightful courage was the catalyst that transformed my writing and my character. Just because other people applaud you for being the best doesn’t mean you’re doing your best .
AP Composition is now recorded as an A on my high school transcript, and Cooper and I are still locked in a tight race for the finish line. But, thanks to Mr. Trimble, I have developed a different paradigm for evaluation: my best. And the more I apply myself, the better my best becomes.
Word Count: 627
This student narrates how she initially went to church for a boy but instead ended up confronting her selfishness by helping others.
Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others.
Originally, I went to church not because I was searching for Jesus but because I liked a boy.
Isaac Ono wasn’t the most athletic boy in our class, nor was he the cutest. But I was amazed by his unusual kindness toward everyone. If someone was alone or left out, he’d walk up to them and say hello or invite them to hang out with him and his friends.
I started waking up at 7:30 a.m. every Sunday morning to attend Grace Hills Presbyterian, where Isaac’s father was the pastor. I would strategically sit in a pew not too close but close enough to Isaac that when the entire congregation was instructed to say “Peace be with you,” I could “happen” to shake Isaac’s hand and make small talk.
One service, as I was staring at the back of Isaac’s head, pondering what to say to him, my hearing suddenly tuned in to his father’s sermon.
“There’s no such thing as a good or bad person.”
My eyes snapped onto Pastor Marcus.
“I used to think I was a good person who came from a respectable family and did nice things. But people aren’t inherently good or bad. They just make good or bad choices.”
My mind raced through a mental checklist of whether my past actions fell mostly into the former or latter category.
“As it says in Deuteronomy 30:15, ‘I have set before you today life and good, death and evil.’ Follow in the footsteps of Jesus and do good.”
I glanced to my left and saw Margaret, underlining passages in her study Bible and taking copious notes.
Months earlier, I had befriended Margaret. We had fourth-period Spanish together but hadn’t interacted much. She was friends with Isaac, so I started hanging out with her to get closer to him. But eventually, the two of us were spending hours in the Starbucks parking lot having intense discussions about religion, boys, and our futures until we had to return home before curfew.
After hearing the pastor’s sermon, I realized that what I had admired about Isaac was also present in Margaret and other people at church: a welcoming spirit. I’m pretty sure Margaret knew of my ulterior motives for befriending her, but she never called me out on it.
After that day, I started paying more attention to Pastor Marcus’s sermons and less attention to Isaac. One year, our youth group served Christmas Eve dinner to the homeless and ate with them. I sat across from a woman named Lila who told me how child services had taken away her four-year-old daughter because of her financial and living situation.
A few days later, as I sat curled up reading the book of James, my heart suddenly felt heavy.
“If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and filled,’ without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that?”
I thought back to Pastor Marcus’s sermon on good and bad actions, Lila and her daughter, and the times I had passed people in need without even saying hello.
I decided to put my faith into action. The next week, I started volunteering at the front desk of a women’s shelter, helping women fill out forms or watching their kids while they talked with social workers.
From working for the past year at the women’s shelter, I now know I want to major in social work, caring for others instead of focusing on myself. I may not be a good person (or a bad one), but I can make good choices, helping others with every opportunity God gives me.
Word count: 622
This essay shows how a student’s natural affinity for solving a Rubik’s cube developed her self-understanding, academic achievement, and inspiration for her future career.
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?
The worst part about writing is putting down my Rubik’s cube so that I can use my hands to type. That’s usually the worst part of tackling my to-do list: setting aside my Rubik’s cube. My parents call it an obsession. But, for me, solving a Rubik’s cube challenges my brain as nothing else can.
It started on my ninth birthday. I invited three friends for a sleepover party, and I waited to open my presents right before bed. Wrapping paper, ribbons, and bows flew through the air as I oohed and aahed over each delightful gift! However, it was the last gift—a 3 x 3 x 3 cube of little squares covered in red, green, blue, yellow, white, and orange—that intrigued me.
I was horrified when Bekka ripped it out of my hands and messed it all up! I had no idea how to make all the sides match again. I waited until my friends were fast asleep. Then, I grabbed that cube and studied it under my blanket with a flashlight, determined to figure out how to restore it to its former pristine state.
Within a few weeks, I had discovered the secret. To practice, I’d take my cube with me to recess and let the other kids time me while I solved it in front of them. The better I became, the more they gathered around. But I soon realized that their attention didn’t matter all that much. I loved solving cubes for hours wherever I was: at lunch, riding in the car, or alone in my room.
Cross. White corners. Middle-layer edges. Yellow cross. Sune and anitsune.
The sequential algorithms became second nature, and with the assistance of a little black digital timer, I strove to solve the cube faster , each time attempting to beat my previous record. I watched speed solvers on YouTube, like Australia’s Feliks Zemdegs and Max Park from Massachusetts, but I wasn’t motivated to compete as they did. I watched their videos to learn how to improve my time. I liked finding new, more efficient ways of mastering the essential 78 separate cube-solving algorithms.
Now, I understand why my passion for my Rubik’s cube has never waned. Learning and applying the various algorithms soothes my brain and centers my emotions, especially when I feel overwhelmed from being around other people. Don’t get me wrong: I like other people—just in doses.
While some people get recharged by spending time with others, I can finally breathe when I’m alone with my cube. Our psychology teacher says the difference between an extrovert and an introvert is the situations that trigger their brains to produce dopamine. For me, it’s time away, alone, flipping through cube patterns to set a new personal best.
Sometimes, the world doesn’t cooperate with introverts, requiring them to interact with many people throughout the day. That’s why you’ll often find me in the stairwell or a library corner attempting to master another one of the 42 quintillion ways to solve a cube. My parents tease me that when I’ve “had enough” of anything, my fingers get a Rubik’s itch, and I suddenly disappear. I’m usually occupied for a while, but when I finally emerge, I feel centered, prepared to tackle my next task.
Secretly, I credit my cube with helping me earn top marks in AP Calculus, Chemistry, and Physics. It’s also responsible for my interest in computer engineering. It seems I just can’t get enough of those algorithms, which is why I want to study the design and implementation of cybersecurity software—all thanks to my Rubik’s cube.
Just don’t tell my parents! It would ruin all the fun!
Word count: 607
In this free topic essay, the student uses a montage structure inspired by the TV show Iron Chef America to demonstrate his best leadership moments.
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.
Iron Chef America: College Essay Edition
The time has come to answer college’s most difficult question: Whose story shows glory?
This is … Iron Chef America: College Essay Edition!
Welcome to Kitchen Stadium! Today we have Chef Brett Lowell. Chef Brett will be put to the test to prove he has what it takes to attend university next fall.
And the secret ingredient is … leadership! He must include leadership in each of his dishes, which will later be evaluated by a panel of admissions judges.
So now, America, with a creative mind and empty paper, I say unto you in the words of my teacher: “Let’s write!”
Appetizer: My first leadership experience
A mountain of mismatched socks, wrinkled jeans, and my dad’s unironed dress shirts sat in front of me. Laundry was just one of many chores that welcomed me home once I returned from my after-school job at Baskin Robbins, a gig I had taken last year to help Dad pay the rent. A few years earlier, I wasn’t prepared to cook dinners, pay utility bills, or pick up and drop off my brothers. I thought those jobs were reserved for parents. However, when my father was working double shifts at the power plant and my mom was living in Tucson with her new husband, Bill, I stepped up and took care of the house and my two younger brothers.
Main course: My best leadership experience
Between waiting for the pasta water to boil and for the next laundry cycle to be finished, I squeezed in solving a few practice precalculus problems to prepare for the following week’s mathletics competition. I liked how the equations always had clear, clean answers, which calmed me among the mounting responsibilities of home life. After leading my team to the Minnesota State Finals for two years in a row, I was voted team captain. Although my home responsibilities often competed with my mathlete duties, I tried to be as productive as possible in my free time. On the bus ride home, I would often tackle 10 to 20 functions or budget the following week’s meals and corresponding grocery list. My junior year was rough, but both my home and my mathlete team needed me.
Dessert: My future leadership hopes
The first thing I ever baked was a chocolate cake in middle school. This was around the time that Mom had just moved out and I was struggling with algebra. Troubles aside, one day my younger brother Simon needed a contribution for his school’s annual bake sale, and the PTA moms wouldn’t accept anything store-bought. So I carefully measured out the teaspoons and cups of various flours, powders, and oils, which resulted in a drooping, too-salty disaster.
Four years later, after a bakery’s worth of confections and many hours of study, I’ve perfected my German chocolate cake and am on my way to mastering Calculus AB. I’ve also thrown out the bitter-tasting parts of my past such as my resentment and anger toward my mom. I still miss having her at home, but whenever I have a baking question or want to update her on my mathlete team’s success, I call her or chat with her over text.
Whether in school or life, I see problems as opportunities, not obstacles, to find a better way to solve them more efficiently. I hope to continue improving my problem-solving skills next fall by majoring in mathematics and statistics.
We hope you’ve enjoyed this tasting of Chef Lowell’s leadership experiences. Next fall, tune in to see him craft new leadership adventures in college. He’s open to refining his technique and discovering new recipes.
Word count: 612
The Common App essay is your primary writing sample within the Common Application, a college application portal accepted by more than 900 schools. All your prospective schools that accept the Common App will read this essay to understand your character, background, and value as a potential student.
Since this essay is read by many colleges, avoid mentioning any college names or programs; instead, save tailored answers for the supplementary school-specific essays within the Common App.
When writing your Common App essay , choose a prompt that sparks your interest and that you can connect to a unique personal story.
No matter which prompt you choose, admissions officers are more interested in your ability to demonstrate personal development , insight, or motivation for a certain area of study.
To decide on a good college essay topic , spend time thoughtfully answering brainstorming questions. If you still have trouble identifying topics, try the following two strategies:
- Identify your qualities → Brainstorm stories that demonstrate these qualities
- Identify memorable stories → Connect your qualities to these stories
You can also ask family, friends, or mentors to help you brainstorm topics, give feedback on your potential essay topics, or recall key stories that showcase your qualities.
A standout college essay has several key ingredients:
- A unique, personally meaningful topic
- A memorable introduction with vivid imagery or an intriguing hook
- Specific stories and language that show instead of telling
- Vulnerability that’s authentic but not aimed at soliciting sympathy
- Clear writing in an appropriate style and tone
- A conclusion that offers deep insight or a creative ending
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7 Expert Tips for the Common App Essay
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- The Common App college essay is required by most Common App schools.
- This personal essay plays a critical role in many institutions' admission decisions.
- Admissions experts' biggest tips include writing how you speak and focusing on details.
Each year, over a million high school seniors apply for college through the Common Application . This online system enables you to submit one application to multiple schools, meaning you only have to fill out everything once — including a personal statement .
The Common App essay gives colleges the opportunity to learn more about you as a person and what's important to you. You should use this space to tell your story and reveal different facets of your personality.
BestColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.
Ready to Start Your Journey?
Here, we explain what the Common App essay entails before diving into admissions experts' biggest tips for crafting a memorable personal statement.
What Is the Common App Essay?
The Common App essay is the main personal statement you'll submit to colleges that use the Common App and require the essay.
You can find the Common App essay prompts and instructions by navigating to the "Common App" tab on your Common App account and clicking on "Writing." You'll get to choose one of seven prompts to respond to, and your essay must be between 250 and 650 words long.
This statement gives you the chance to delve deeper into your interests, experiences, passions, and strengths. You can discuss almost anything you want, provided your topic addresses the prompt you've chosen. There are also no rules on style or how to tell your story.
You must submit the Common App essay to all colleges that require it, though some may ask you to submit one or more supplemental essays as well.
The application form provides you with a box in which to type your essay; however, it's strongly recommended that you compose your essay in Microsoft Word, Google Docs, or another word processor before copying and pasting your final draft into this box.
How Important Is the Common App Essay?
The Common App essay is a key part of your college application. According to a 2019 study by the National Association for College Admission Counseling , 56.4% of colleges surveyed considered the personal statement moderately or considerably important. Highly selective institutions tended to place more emphasis on the essay.
"The more selective the college, the more the essay matters," explained Elizabeth Benedict, a former Princeton writing instructor and the founder and president of Don't Sweat the Essay Inc .
Benedict, who spoke with BestColleges about the Common App essay, has helped students around the world apply to college for over a decade.
"Applying to a hyper-selective college with mediocre or uneven grades and a fabulous essay will likely not get you into that college, [whereas] applying to a hyper-selective college with top grades and scores, outstanding extracurriculars, and a mediocre essay could sink your application," she said.
While most experts agree that a strong Common App essay won't necessarily secure you admission into a highly selective college — especially if your grades and test scores aren't up to par — a well-written statement could act as a tipping point in your favor.
According to Benedict, this often happens at small liberal arts colleges , which tend to take a more holistic admissions approach .
Experts' Top 7 Common App Essay Tips
Admissions officers, higher education administrators, education consultants, and college admissions advisors like Benedict have many tricks for approaching the Common App essay. Here are some of their biggest tips.
1. Don't Mistake a Rare Topic for an Effective Topic
Many students assume their Common App essay must revolve around a unique topic that no other applicant has ever written about, but this is a myth.
"Overuse of a topic doesn't make it a bad topic," Whitney Soule told U.S. News & World Report . Soule currently serves as Bowdoin College's dean of admissions and student aid.
"It's not just about the topic," echoes Jennifer Gayles , director of admissions at Sarah Lawrence College, "but why it's important to you and how you can showcase who you are as a student and an individual through that topic."
Choosing the right Common App essay topic can be tricky, but it's extremely important. "Students I work with run the gamut from having a good idea to having absolutely no idea what to write about," Benedict said. "Often in our brainstorming session, an idea will pop up in discussion, and I'll say, 'That's a good idea,' and the student will be surprised."
To identify potential essay topics, Benedict proposes asking yourself a series of questions. Have you experienced a turning point in your life? Are you deeply passionate about a particular subject?
Ultimately, your essay should excite and inspire you, as well as those who read it. "If an essay topic makes your heart beat fast, that's a good sign," said Benedict.
2. Pick the Best Essay Prompt for You
Not all Common App essay prompts are created equal. Of the seven prompts, some will no doubt work better for you than others.
Lisa Mortini, assistant director of admissions at New York University Abu Dhabi, asks students to think about what version of themselves they want to present to schools and to trust their instincts.
"Don't just jump on the first prompt you read and start writing," she writes in a blog post for NYU. "Ask yourself: Are you excited to talk to us about a specific achievement? Do you want to give us insight into a hardship you faced and conquered?"
In essence, work backward: Start with a topic and then see which essay prompt fits it the best.
This is the same advice given by Thea Hogarth of College Essay Advisors : "Once you have determined the story you really want to tell, you'll know which prompt will make a good fit. All of the Common App options are broad enough to accommodate almost any story."
3. Use Your Space Wisely
Students tend to go one of two ways with the Common App essay: They either write way too much and struggle to trim it down, or they write way too little and end up sounding superficial and generic.
The Common App essay word count range is 250-650 words. But just how long should your statement be? Admissions Blog advises aiming for around 500 words. And former Tufts University admissions officer Becky Leichtling concurs.
"The most common 'personal statement' length is in the ballpark of 500 words," Leichtling writes for Bright Horizons College Coach . "I consider 500 the 'sweet spot,' but don't stress if you write an essay closer to 430 or 620 [words] that you're honestly proud of."
4. Fill Your Story With Details
Details are everything when it comes to the Common App essay, which is why so many experts suggest anchoring your essay in a single anecdote or story.
"Specific anecdotes are your friend when drafting your Common App personal statement," Shirag Shemmassian, founder of Shemmassian Academic Consulting, writes on his company's website . "Try to think of a story you often tell people that shows something about you."
Meredith Reynolds, associate director of admissions at Tufts, similarly recommends that applicants emphasize specifics in their essays. "By focusing on details, you set yourself apart," she says.
In terms of structure, Benedict advises approaching the Common App essay one step at a time. "Break down the topic to the smallest pieces you can and write a paragraph about each," she said.
In other words, discuss specific moments from your life. Relate conversations you've had. Describe how something felt or looked. It's the details in your story — not the topic itself — that will help you stand out the most.
5. Channel Your Authentic Voice
The Common App essay is unlike most essays you've written for school. Instead of analyzing a piece of literature or a historical event, you must showcase your identity. As such, the words you use should sound like they actually come from you — not a thesaurus or an English teacher.
"[Students] are used to writing academic essays and trying to impress with big words and formal-sounding constructions," Benedict said when asked about the most common mistake students make on the Common App essay. "The best essays have a conversational voice — not a stiff, academic one."
Educational consultant Ian Fisher agrees . In a blog post offering language tips for college essays, Fisher expounds on the importance of writing in a way true to how you talk in real life.
"You're going to have to fight the urge to 'impress' your admissions reader with the big words you've learned from your SAT practice," he writes.
Students should, however, avoid using any derogatory, offensive, or inappropriate language. Fisher recommends using words like "debate" instead of "fight" and "undeveloped" instead of "stupid."
Likewise, students should refrain from relying on cliches. This includes phrases such as "happily ever after," "beggars can't be choosers," and "crack of dawn." Benedict advises getting someone to "cliche-proof" your essay.
6. Get Feedback
Before submitting your Common App essay, show it to someone who will not only offer feedback but also edit and proofread your writing.
Shemmassian suggests giving your draft to "a trusted admissions counselor, English teacher, or other advisor." Meanwhile, Reynolds says you should "show your essay to two people — one who is a strong writer, and one who knows you really well."
All recommendations from experts share a common thread: Getting feedback on your Common App essay should be a top priority.
7. Don't Neglect Supplemental Essays
Lots of competitive universities require the Common App essay in addition to supplemental essays and/or short answers. If you have other essays to submit, don't spend all your time working on the Common App essay. After all, all essays can impact your admission chances.
"At the most selective colleges and universities, there are usually supplemental essays as well, and those are part of the overall package, and they are very important," Benedict said.
She also discussed how a great Common App essay combined with weak supplemental essays could reflect poorly on your application and increase your risk of getting rejected .
"I can't stress enough the importance of the supplemental essays," Benedict continued. "For the most selective universities, all of the essays taken together present a 'package' of who you are." And how you choose to put together that package is up to you.
Elizabeth Benedict is the founder and president of Don't Sweat the Essay Inc. , which has been helping students apply to college around the U.S. and all over the world for a dozen years. Elizabeth is a best-selling novelist, a prolific journalist, and an editor of many books. She has taught writing at Princeton, Columbia, MIT, Swarthmore, and the Iowa Writers' Workshop. Her clients are regularly admitted to top universities and their first-choice colleges.
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How to Answer the Common App Essay Prompts for 2022-2023
In 2022, the Common Application announced that the Common App essay prompts w i ll remain unchanged from the 2021-2022 school year . The Common App essay prompts have remained almost the same for the past five years, but crafting a strong and compelling essay to respond to these prompts has remained as important as ever to getting into top schools
This article will explain how to choose the Common App prompts, organize your essay outline, and craft a compelling, concise response that college admissions officers will love. We also provide links to additional articles with details about writing the Common App essay for each specific prompt.
Which Common Application Essay prompt is best to choose?
One truth that most colleges won’t tell you is that the Common App essay prompts don’t matter that much to your admissions success. What actually matters choosing a compelling story and telling it in a compelling way. Whether they believe it or not, every college applicant has an interesting story to relay to admissions officers.
An important rule to keep in mind is to leave room in your essay to discuss the things you love and what drives you, both as a student and as a unique person. The Common App essay is similar to an open-ended job interview question like “How would you define yourself?” It isn’t just an answer on a test or job application.
So let’s look at the 2022-2023 Common App essay prompts, get an idea about what they are all about, and decide how to choose the best prompt that will allow you to communicate your personal story.
Common App Essay Prompts for 2022-2023
The Common App essay prompts for the 2021-2022 cycle have not changed from previous years, with the exception of prompt #4. Each allows writers to take a different path and perspective on their lives and issues. Choosing the prompt that lines up best with the personal story of yourself you want to tell is the key to writing a great Common App essay.
Here are this year’s Common App essay prompts:
- 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.
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?
- Reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea. What prompted your thinking? What was the outcome?
- Reflect on something that someone has done for you that has made you happy or thankful in a surprising way. How has this gratitude affected or motivated you?
- Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others.
- 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?
- 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.
How To Write Common App Prompt #1: Background, Identity, Interest, or Talent
Prompt #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.
Common App Prompt #1 has been around for many years and gives applicants as much flexibility as they could ask for in an essay prompt, with just enough direction to provide a scaffolding for their ideas. It is often known as the “choose your own adventure” prompt.
Focus on the key words, “background,” “identity,” “interest,” and “talent,” and use them as launch points for your brainstorming. Does anything in your personality, hobbies, history, or personal accomplishments come to mind as being worthy of highlighting to an admissions officer? These categories could be something as minor as seeing a profoundly powerful film or as large as the struggle of acclimating to a new school, state, and/or country. The most important factor to consider for this prompt is that your subject and/or perspective is dynamic and specific to YOU and your narrative and to no other students.
Questions to ask yourself for Prompt #1:
- How does my background or history set me apart from my peers?
- What have I achieved that has been central to creating the person I am today?
- How do I define myself? How would my friends, family, and peers define me?
Examples to consider for Prompt #1:
- Has your family’s love of travel taken you to new places and shaped you as a “worldly scholar” wise for your age and subgroup?
- Does your love of old jazz define how you fit into society at large?
- Did going to a Warhol art exhibit inspire you to start an art collection that you have turned into a more expansive hobby or calling?
- What are the challenges and rewards of having biracial parents in your small town? Or of being an adoptee or a member of a family made up of non-traditional members?
How To Write Common App Prompt #2: The Setback Essay
PROMPT #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?
Essays about overcoming obstacles are should focus more on solutions and mindset than on the problems themselves. Accordingly, Common App Essay Prompt #2 essays should focus on the student’s mental and emotional response, as well as the actions they took when confonted with a difficulty or hurdle. Showcase your qualities like determination, humility, and growth. The difficulties you choose to explore can be diverse, especially considering the addition of “challenges and setbacks” in addition to “failures.” They could be as serious as a death in the family, as practical and material as the financial issues that you or your family have faced, or as banal as a stupid mistake that cost you the winning place at a school contest.
However, students should avoid choosing challenges that are too trivial (not getting tickets to your favorite concert) or that illustrate dangerous or risky behavior (illegal activities or those that hurt others would certainly NOT be good topics for this essay prompt). But if you can isolate an event or trial in your life and show what you learned from it and how you grew, this prompt can encourage a powerful essay.
Questions to consider for Prompt #2:
- How do you usually respond to and deal with hardships or difficulties?
- What is your personal idea of a “setback or difficulty”?
- Do you rebound easily and turn your experiences into learning opportunities? Think of experiences that might highlight such qualities.
- Brainstorm and list some major challenges you’ve encountered in your life.
A few examples for your reference:
- Has a lifelong battle with seizures or another neurodivergent condition raised your overall confidence and allowed you to participate in activities without judging yourself too harshly?
- Did a long-term or serious health situation challenge you to take on more responsibilities than the average middle- or high-school student?
- Did several setbacks on your road to becoming a violin prodigy introduce you to public relations, being your own manager, and dealing with different kinds of people in the industry?
Keep your personal story as positive as possible and again, focus on how you overcame the challenge. You ultimately want to provide evidence to the admissions officials that you are more than ready for the challenges that college presents.
How To Write Common App Prompt #3: Challenging a Belief or Idea
PROMPT #3: Reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea. What prompted your thinking? What was the outcome?
Ironically, the “challenge” essay is one of the most challenging prompts the Common App essay presents, though it is now slightly easier with the addition of the option to discuss a time you merely questioned an idea instead of directly challenging it. The student must speak passionately about their beliefs and worldview, which are often difficult subjects to fit into short narratives. Thus, Common App Essay Prompt #3 can be one of the hardest questions to aim in a positive direction without making yourself sound condescending or judgmental of other views.
That being said, you can respond to this prompt in a way that is insightful and personal, as it was for a student who stood up to parents’ staunch position on one’s public expression of sexual identity. If you can articulate your thoughts and feelings while showing your willingness to earnestly consider the ideas of others, you will stand out as an excellent addition to any college campus. If this prompt jumps out at you and you can think of a time you challenged a belief and it made a difference, go for it!
Questions to consider while brainstorming:
- Was there a specific time you held an opinion that was unpopular among your family or peers?
- Why are you the type of person willing to stand up for your positions or values?
- What morals and values are most important to you on a fundamental level?
- What drives your interest in and position on these topics? Philosophy, your own religious background or culture, a popular media channel?
Some examples to get you started:
- Are you the only atheist member in a deeply religious household? How did this impact your personal relationships and interactions?
- Did you work as an intern on a campaign caught in a big scandal? Did your reaction show your values as an active member of the community?
- Did you challenge the notion that modern dance or art is not “artistic” by crafting an extensive research paper on the subject in a way that impressed (or horrified) your teachers?
You don’t need to focus on a fundamentally serious or controversial issue. What matters most when responding to this prompt is that you plainly show your strong convictions about the belief or idea you are trying to convey and examine how this position impacts your thinking and your actions. Prompt #3 can be useful in showcasing your argumentation, persuasive skills, and critical thinking to admissions officers.
How To Write Common App Prompt #4: Showing Gratitude
PROMPT #4: Reflect on something that someone has done for you that has made you happy or thankful in a surprising way. How has this gratitude affected or motivated you?
Common App Essay Prompt #4 asks students to talk about a time when they felt gratitude for something someone did. Gratitude has become a quality that individuals are encouraged to connect to and reflect on, which explains the commonality of essays on gratitude in college classes. This question offers students the opportunity to reflect on how gratitude impacts or directs their own lives, as well as how giving thanks for the little things in life can inspire and energize them.
Think about times when you have personally felt heard or seen as an individual. These could be moments when you felt an immense about of pride or encouragement. Think hard about what you appreciate in your life: material gifts, individual actions, or even simply a set of feelings someone aimed in your direction. The bestower of these feelings could be someone you know well, or it could be a public figure you have never met you has nevertheless changed your life for the better. Remember that this essay should primarily focus on how you process, appreciate and respond to the actions of others, which means you need to focus more on YOU than on the generous act or words themselves.
Consider these questions for Prompt #4:
- Do you ever “pay it forward” in your daily life? How, when, and why do you do this?
- How do you usually express thanks in your own life?
- Do you have any random acts of kindness that inspire you?
- Have you ever had your faith in humanity restored by someone’s deeds or speech?
- Is karma a driving force for your actions, or do you have some other cosmic reason for doing good?
Examples to use as guidance:
- Did a gesture from a stranger inspire you to continue doing good acts for others? How do you actually do these acts and how has it changed how you view giving?
- Do you feel appreciative of a public figure for the work they have done to raise awareness about issues that are important to you? How do you give back?
- Have you ever received a gift or token of value from someone that was completely unexpected? Why was this meaningful to you? How did you show gratitude? Did the unexpected, non-transactional aspect of the gift impact your perception of helping or encouraging others?
Link your story to your life and world in a concrete and meaningful way. Don’t forget to detail how this gift or act of kindness affected and motivates you today. After choosing your essay prompt, be sure to follow the instructions and answer all substantive parts of the question.
How To Write Common App Prompt #5: The Accomplishment Essay
PROMPT #5: Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others.
In Common App Essay Prompt #5 , the words “accomplishment” and “event” are somewhat open to interpretation. Therefore, an essay inspired by this question could address anything from a minor event to a major occurrence in your life. An event accomplishment might include birthdays or weddings, or perhaps big achievements like winning a competition or earning an esteemed award.
Informal examples could include meeting a person in your life who ended up being special; taking a fateful bus or train ride; or participating in a meal or social event that opened up your mind to other realities you hadn’t considered. Events that are smaller or less formal can actually lead to more surprising and memorable essays, but these must also be written with originality and add a personal or unique twist. The art of storytelling is important in this essay prompt.
Some other things to consider:
- How do periods of transition impact you in general? Are there actions or events that have inspired a change of heart or thought in your mind?
- Have you ever had a “eureka” moment that has fundamentally shifted how you view the world in some way?
- Did you ever learn a fact or hear a viewpoint that made you feel more capable or confident in voicing your own opinion and position?
Some example topics for this prompt:
- Did your expansion of a lemonade stand into a successful small business motivate you into raising funds for a friend or relative’s illness or encourage you to pay off a debt?
- Do you love sports playback video that forces you to examine your mistakes and take criticism that leads to self-improvement?
- How did serving soup each week at a homeless shelter for half a year help ground your views of social opportunity and giving? How did this impact how you connect with and serve other people?
Keep in the front of your mind the central elements of growth, understanding, and transformation. The realization or activity you write about should be something that helped you mature in your understanding of the world and about other people.
How To Write Common App Prompt #6: an Engaging Topic, Idea, or Concept
PROMPT #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?
Since college is at root (at least historically) the pursuit of knowledge to enlighten yourself as an individual, it might be beneficial for an admissions officer to have an understanding of how you demonstrate self-motivated learning, as well as the reasons for why you pay attention to topics that fascinate you. Common App Essay Prompt #6 is a kind of window into your mind, showing how you process information and search for new sources of content and inspiration–or new positions to analyze and critique.
How does your interest demonstrate your willingness to investigate deeper into a given topic or idea? Your essay answer should also reveal the scope and depth of your intellectual or artistic interests. For example, if you’re interested in studying biochemistry, you might discuss a concept that illustrates how far your knowledge in this core domain extends to actual current findings and dialogues in science. How does this passion impact what you are choosing to pursue academically?
Some key questions to think about:
- What engages you generally? Do you have a thirst for some specific kind of knowledge? Or, what do you love to think about or engage in insofar as it nearly defines you as a person and thinker?
- What exact steps have you taken to acquire new information about or experiences that are related to your topic of interest? Have you gone out of your way to turn your interest into an activity or even a kind of profession?
- How do you actively enrich your knowledge when you find some appealing idea or topic? Hours spent weekly in the school library or with a teacher or mentor who can guide you in your academic pursuit could be great examples of this active enrichment.
- What is so satisfying about the process of learning and applying your knowledge to the conversation or to the discipline itself?
And a few examples to get those wheels turning:
- Did your learning about open source code move you to create a startup with a few like-minded peers? What related projects are you prepared to work on next?
- Did your advertising firm internship experience inspire you to do benchmarking and market research to create your own ads (even if they were only for yourself)?
- On a Saturday afternoon, could you be found perusing the classics and learning Latin at the same time? How else have you interacted with this literature and language?
- Perhaps you have an obsession with Italian food that is so strong it led you to study Italian cooking online through a master class. How is Italian food actually more scientific and interesting than the average person might think?
Whatever category or topic drives you to learn more and DO more, reflect on it, and then share it in colorful detail. This prompt deals with pursuing knowledge for knowledge’s sake, but also how this knowledge stokes your desire to challenge yourself in concrete ways.
How To Write Common App Prompt #7: Topic of Your Choice
PROMPT #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.
This prompt was first introduced to the 2017-2018 Common App prompts. Although Prompt #1 is similar to “choosing a topic of your choice,” Common App Essay Prompt #7 offers students a lot of freedom and flexibility to illustrate their character, background, growth, worldview, or any other important central facets important to being a college student. You could really take any number of directions with this essay prompt–but as always, be sure that you are addressing the prompt fully and not being too trivial (or cliche) in your subject matter and how you tell your narrative.
More brainstorming questions to consider:
What should admissions know about you that they couldn’t gather from your test scores, grades, and extracurriculars?
- Are there stories or issues that pop up often in your daily life that might give admissions officials some insight into who you are and what you stand for?
- What is your “elevator pitch”? If you had five minutes in a room alone with an admissions officer, what are the key points you would relay to them to convince them you are the best candidate?
- What would you bring to the campus of your target school that almost no other student could?
Some examples of potential subjects and their related prompts:
- Do you have a health defect that impacts how you view or interact with the world and people around you? ( Q:Why is your personal perspective unique and special?)
- Do you spend your free time teaching guitar lessons for free to children at the community center in your town? What do these interactions look like, what do they mean to you, and how have they affected your goals and direction? ( Q: Why is self-sacrifice a virtue and benefit in a college candidate?)
- Did your parents give you a highly unusual name that has colored how you are seen and how you move about the world? What were their reasons for giving this name to you? How has it made you a better student and person? ( Q: What does origin have to do with excellence?)
Some students find that choosing a “topic of your choice” is quite difficult because it offers too many options to choose from. But this should not prevent you from attempting this essay prompt if you have something interesting to say. You can use the other prompts as starting points to brainstorm ideas and free-write first.
Now that you have read our handy-dandy prompt guide and understand what admissions is looking for from these prompts, you could very well have a notebook filled with ideas that are ripe for expansion by the time you sit down to write.
So don’t worry about having too many ideas, or not having enough ideas, especially at the beginning of the topic selection process. Once you figure out what you’d like to say (and maybe even after you draft the crux of the essay itself), see if your concept fits one of the first six prompts. Trying to tailor your essay to a more specific prompt option may inspire an interesting spin on the story you are trying to tell—one you may not have thought of otherwise. Form influences content. If, after careful consideration, your magic essay topic does not work within the confines of Prompts 1-6, you are in luck. The glorious, all-encompassing Prompt #7 will be here to catch you.
A Detailed Plan for Writing the 20221-20232 Common App Essay Prompts
The Common App essay has a maximum word count of 650 words, and the Common Application site does not provide any further instructions on how to write the essays, such as organization and amount of time to spend on each essay section. Fortunately, we at Wordvice have some experience with crafting impactful essays. The following is a brief summary of how to approach the Common App essay, regardless of which essay prompt you ultimately choose to write on.
1. Brainstorming your Common App essay topics
Brainstorming is crucial to writing any creative or personal essay. Before you even pick an essay prompt, consider a “high level” passion you have and all the ways in which you interact with it and how it shapes you as a person. For example, using “computer programming” as a central idea, you could stress your love of coding for various reasons and how that has impacted the projects you have done and continues to shape your self-identity (i.e., as a “programmer”).
Another idea might be to discuss how you have developed in relation to your other family members. Perhaps you have a relationship with two of your siblings that has come to define you and how to interact with people in general: maybe your younger sister is a “dreamer,” while your older brother is a “technician,” and as a middle child, finding out where you belong in this family dynamic led you to a way of thinking that differentiates you from most other candidates. Formative stories could be quite interesting and instantly give the reader a window into who you are.
To develop your own central idea, answer the four essential questions that apply to all Common App essay prompts:
- Address your personality traits and anything else about you that tells something about who you are. This question can be answered in any number of ways: discussing a formative event or circumstance, a hobby, a time you overcame great difficulty, or a profound learning experience.
- Distinguish yourself by showing your uniqueness. You don’t need to explicitly state why you are different from others–rather, show this in your story details.
- In paragraph form and using concrete details, give the reader a strong idea about what is important to you: family, work ethic, success, money, etc.
- Don’t forget to include some of the essential qualities that will make you a great student: time management, great communication, interest in topics, etc. Again, you can evidence these strengths in your story details rather than telling the reader THAT you are good at X, Y, and Z.
Start brainstorming by writing down a few aspects of your personality or experiences you find central to your development. Think about some basic narratives you could tell that use different combinations of these aspects before you actually choose a prompt.
For instance, you could note that you are in love with classical philosophy, made varsity on the debate team, and are now working with a local community organizer on a political issue that is important to you. Then organize these experiences into a very rough structure that will make it easier for you to choose the best Common App prompt.
An example narrative from these aspects: You discuss a specific interest you currently have associated with this community work; discuss what you have learned and the failures and successes you have had; explore how you could make a bigger difference, if only you were a lawyer or official advocate, etc. In contemplating these personal aspects, you are already beginning the organization step, which is crucial to composing a great essay.
2. Choosing a Common App essay prompt that best fits you
There is no “best” common app essay prompt that will guarantee your acceptance into top schools. However, choosing a prompt that first you well will help you craft a more convincing narrative for admissions committees.
Consider the following prompt for instance (Common App Essay Prompt # 2):
This is a prompt that might work great if you can think of any salient challenges or obstacles that helped shape who you are today. Perhaps you were a high-profile member of your high school’s speech team, but you were sidelined by a financial crisis in your household. To help your family overcome this hardship, you got a part-time job and had to quit the speech team. However, your speech coach recognized your talent and dedication and allowed you to practice on your own time.
This story would show that you are a dedicated son or daughter willing to help out your struggling parents and sacrifice your time to do so. It also shows that you have negotiation skills that help you overcome difficulties–a valuable personal trait for a college student.
Remember to show who you are in your essay!
One of the most common mistakes that students writing the Common App Essay make is not including enough of themselves in their essay content. Your admissions essay should be personal enough that a reader who knows you would identify the applicant as you even without looking at your name or application form details.
If you find yourself getting lost in what to write, don’t panic. This is a common feeling, as an admissions essay is often the first REALLY important personal essay candidates will have written. One method of removing your essay writer’s block is to ask yourself “why?” whenever you might not know what you write next.
For example, here is what your inner monologue might look like as you walk yourself through some questions:
“I have always loved biology.”
- Why do I love biology?
“Because I enjoy learning facts about living organisms.”
- Why do I enjoy this?
“Because I have always wanted to take things apart and see how they work from the inside.”
- Why is this important to who I am?
“It is indicative of my approach to all of my passions, including academic interests.”
By following this kind of “stream-of-consciousness” dialogue, you can get to the bottom of some of your motivations, actions, fears, and other aspects that define a person’s identity.
It can also help to bounce your essay ideas off of a friend or family member. Closer friends can make for a good sounding board since they know a lot about your personality, likes, skills, drives, and ambitions. This might help you choose the most appropriate essay prompt for you.
3. Organizing your essay’s story
There are a couple of different approaches to take when it comes to organizing and outlining your essay. Feel free to be creative with your structure and use descriptions. You could even employ dialogue if it helps you tell a story better.
However, your essay still needs to flow logically and naturally at the level of the sentence and even paragraph. You can achieve this by structuring chronologically, making a story arc, or beginning en media res (in the middle of your story) to hook the reader, and then moving back to a former period to unveil your complete narrative.
Some applicants prefer to take a wholly different and “experimental” approach to writing a personal essay. For instance, a student with a passion for theatre and fiction writing could write a “scene” in dialogue form (like a Samual Beckett play) that represents two parts of their personality. A mathematics expert could use an algorithm or algebraic formula as a metaphor for their life and draft their essay using that structure.
Writing a more creative essay can certainly be risky, and it isn’t easy for most writers to pull off–even for professional authors! However, this just means that if your essay is well-executed and gets your point across, and shows the reader who you are, you will be highly rewarded for it in the end with high marks from adcoms.
4. Write a Common App essay that is clear and focused
- Show, don’t tell–rather than telling the reader simply that you “love science,” prove it by describing how many hours you spend per week in your room reading science books.
- Use lots of concrete detail–the more vivid detail, the better
- Avoid using cliched language or stories–using a tired personal essay story is one of the most application essay errors writers make.
- Make your tone fit the goals of the essay. For instance, if you are a straight-A student with no extracurriculars, you might want to use your essay to show the officials how much of a laid-back person you are in real life.
Final Thoughts on the Common App Essay Prompts and Answers
The main objective of any Common App essay is to impart a lasting, authentic portrayal of yourself on your reader. Whenever you feel stuck, refer back to the four Core Questions that a Common App essay must answer. And above all, always make sure that the ideas and analysis in your essay reflect the characteristics you want to reflect to the admissions officers at your target schools.
We hope these essay-writing strategies and tips help you write a powerful and winning admission essay. And remember that, as one of the best admissions editing services out there, Wordvice is there for you after your draft with essay editing services to ensure that your essay is compelling and makes the maximum impact on college admissions officers. Check out the complete list of English editing and proofreading services we offer.
Best of luck writing your Common Application essay for the 2022-2023 school year!
The 2021-22 Common Application Essay Prompts
Tips and Guidance for the 7 Essay Options on the New Common Application
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For the 2021-22 application cycle, the Common Application essay prompts remain unchanged from the 2020-21 cycle with the exception of an all new option #4. As in the past, with the inclusion of the popular "Topic of Your Choice" option, you have the opportunity to write about anything you want to share with the folks in the admissions office.
The current prompts are the result of much discussion and debate from the member institutions who use the Common Application. The essay length limit stands at 650 words (the minimum is 250 words), and students will need to choose from the seven options below. The essay prompts are designed to encourage reflection and introspection. The best essays focus on self-analysis, rather than spending a disproportionate amount of time merely describing a place or event. Analysis, not description, will reveal the critical thinking skills that are the hallmark of a promising college student. If your essay doesn't include some self-analysis, you haven't fully succeeded in responding to the prompt.
According to the folks at the Common Application , in the 2018-19 admissions cycle, Option #7 (topic of your choice) was the most popular and was used by 24.1% of applicants. The second most popular was Option #5 (discuss an accomplishment) with 23.7% of applicants. In third place was Option #2 on a setback or failure. 21.1% of applicants chose that option.
From the Admissions Desk
"While the transcript and grades will always be the most important piece in the review of an application, essays can help a student stand out. The stories and information shared in an essay are what the Admissions Officer will use to advocate for the student in the admissions committee."
–Valerie Marchand Welsh Director of College Counseling, The Baldwin School Former Associate Dean of Admissions, University of Pennsylvania
Always keep in mind why colleges are asking for an essay: they want to get to know you better. Nearly all selective colleges and universities (as well as many that aren't overly selective) have holistic admissions, and they consider many factors in addition to numerical measures such as grades and standardized test scores. Your essay is an important tool for presenting something you find important that may not come across elsewhere in your application. Make sure your essay presents you as the type of person a college will want to invite to join their community.
Below are the seven options with some general tips for each:
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.
"Identity" is at the heart of this prompt. What is it that makes you you? The prompt gives you a lot of latitude for answering the question since you can write a story about your "background, identity, interest, or talent." Your "background" can be a broad environmental factor that contributed to your development such as growing up in a military family, living in an interesting place, or dealing with an unusual family situation. You could write about an event or series of events that had a profound impact on your identity. Your "interest" or "talent" could be a passion that has driven you to become the person you are today. However you approach the prompt, make sure you are inward looking and explain how and why the story you tell is so meaningful.
- See more Tips and Strategies for Essay Option #1
- Sample essay for option #1: "Handiwork" by Vanessa
- Sample essay for option #1: "My Dads" by Charlie
- Sample essay for option #1: "Give Goth a Chance"
- Sample essay for option #1: "Wallflower"
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?
This prompt may seem to go against everything that you've learned on your path to college. It's far more comfortable in an application to celebrate successes and accomplishments than it is to discuss setbacks and failure. At the same time, you'll impress the college admissions folks greatly if you can show your ability to learn from your failures and mistakes. Be sure to devote significant space to the second half of the question—how did you learn and grow from the experience? Introspection and honesty are key with this prompt.
- See more Tips and Strategies for Essay Option #2
- Sample essay for option #2: "Striking Out" by Richard
- Sample essay for option #2: "Student Teacher" by Max
Reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea. What prompted your thinking? What was the outcome?
Keep in mind how open-ended this prompt truly is. The "belief or idea" you explore could be your own, someone else's, or that of a group. The best essays will be honest as they explore the difficulty of working against the status quo or a firmly held belief. The answer to the final question about the "outcome" of your challenge need not be a success story. Sometimes in retrospection, we discover that the cost of an action was perhaps too great. However you approach this prompt, your essay needs to reveal one of your core personal values. If the belief you challenged doesn't give the admissions folks a window into your personality, then you haven't succeeded with this prompt.
- See more Tips and Strategies for Essay Option #3
- Sample essay for option #3: "Gym Class Hero" by Jennifer
Reflect on something that someone has done for you that has made you happy or thankful in a surprising way. How has this gratitude affected or motivated you?
Here, again, the Common Application gives you a lot of options for approaching the question since it is entirely up to you to decide what the "something" and "someone" will be. This prompt was added to the Common Application in the 2021-22 admissions cycle in part because it gives students the opportunity to write something heartfelt and uplifting after all the challenges of the previous year. The best essays for this prompt show that you are a generous person who recognizes the contributions others have made to your personal journey. Unlike many essays that are all about "me, me, me," this essay shows your ability to appreciate others. This type of generosity is an important character trait that schools look for when inviting people to join their campus communities.
- See more Tips and Strategies for Essay Option #4
Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others.
This question was reworded in 2017-18 admissions cycle, and the current language is a huge improvement. The prompt use to talk about transitioning from childhood to adulthood, but the new language about a "period of personal growth" is a much better articulation of how we actually learn and mature (no single event makes us adults). Maturity comes as the result of a long train of events and accomplishments (and failures). This prompt is an excellent choice if you want to explore a single event or achievement that marked a clear milestone in your personal development. Be careful to avoid the "hero" essay—admissions offices are often overrun with essays about the season-winning touchdown or brilliant performance in the school play (see the list of bad essay topics for more about this issue). These can certainly be fine topics for an essay, but make sure your essay is analyzing your personal growth process, not bragging about an accomplishment.
- See more Tips and Strategies for Essay Option #5
- Sample essay for option #5: "Buck Up" by Jill
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?
This option was entirely new in 2017, and it's a wonderfully broad prompt. In essence, it's asking you to identify and discuss something that enthralls you. The question gives you an opportunity to identify something that kicks your brain into high gear, reflect on why it is so stimulating, and reveal your process for digging deeper into something that you are passionate about. Note that the central words here—"topic, idea, or concept"—all have rather academic connotations. While you may lose track of time when running or playing football, sports are probably not the best choice for this particular question.
- See more Tips and Strategies for Essay Option #6
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.
The popular "topic of your choice" option had been removed from the Common Application between 2013 and 2016, but it returned again with the 2017-18 admissions cycle. Use this option if you have a story to share that doesn't quite fit into any of the options above. However, the first six topics are extremely broad with a lot of flexibility, so make sure your topic really can't be identified with one of them. Also, don't equate "topic of your choice" with a license to write a comedy routine or poem (you can submit such things via the "Additional Info" option). Essays written for this prompt still need to have substance and tell your reader something about you. Cleverness is fine, but don't be clever at the expense of meaningful content.
- See more Tips and Strategies for Essay Option #7
- Sample essay for option #7: "My Hero Harpo" by Alexis
- Sample essay for option #7: "Grandpa's Rubik's Cube"
Whichever prompt you chose, make sure you are looking inward. What do you value? What has made you grow as a person? What makes you the unique individual the admissions folks will want to invite to join their campus community? The best essays spend significant time with self-analysis rather than merely describing a place or event.
The folks at The Common Application have cast a wide net with these questions, and nearly anything you want to write about could fit under at least one of the options. If your essay could fit under more than one option, it really doesn't matter which one you choose. Many admissions officers, in fact, don't even look at which prompt you chose—they just want to see that you have written a good essay.
- Tips for Writing an Essay on an Event That Led to Personal Growth
- Tips for the Pre-2013 Personal Essay Options on the Common Application
- Common Application Essay Option 2 Tips: Learning from Failure
- Common Application Essay Option 3 Tips: Challenging a Belief
- Common Application Essay on a Meaningful Place
- 2020-21 Common Application Essay Option 4—Solving a Problem
- "Grandpa's Rubik's Cube"—Sample Common Application Essay, Option #4
- Common Application Essay, Option 1: Share Your Story
- 5 Tips for a College Admissions Essay on an Important Issue
- Tips for an Application Essay on a Significant Experience
- How to Ace Your University of Wisconsin Personal Statements
- The Length Requirements for the Common Application Essay in 2020-21
- Addressing Diversity in a College Application Essay
- Tips for the 8 University of California Personal Insight Questions
- Tips for Writing a Winning College Transfer Essay
- Tips for Writing a Winning College Application Essay
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How to Answer the 2022/23 Common App Essay Prompts
It’s never too early to start thinking about your college application essay! If you’re planning on applying to any of the more than 900 schools (including 54 international universities) that use the Common Application, the 2022-2023 Common App essay prompts are now available. In this blog, we’ll provide basic background on the Common App personal statement, explain why it is important, offer some expert tips on picking the prompt that is right for you, and take a deep dive into how to write each one!
What is the Common App Essay?
The Common App Essay (or Personal Statement) is a 650-word essay that’s part of the Common Application. You must complete this essay if you’re applying for college through the Common App .
Before you get started on your personal statement, consider the following:
- Your Personal Statement is the best place to share qualitative and unique aspects of yourself with the admissions committee so they can get to know you beyond your grades, test scores, and extracurriculars.
- It’s impossible to capture your entire personality in a single essay, so choose just one or two character traits that differentiate you from your peers.
- You don’t necessarily need an incredible experience or story. Choose something meaningful to you and capture why it means so much to you in your writing!
How personal should I get in my Common App essay?
The Common App essay is supposed to be personal, and it should focus on an element of your life that’s not reflected in the rest of your application. If you only write another version of your resume, you will miss a huge opportunity to tell the admissions committee more about you.
This essay gives schools a sense of who you are as a student, leader, and friend. The prompts allow you to show who you are beyond your grades and test scores. Though you might choose to write about an academic topic, your goal is to have the reader understand more about your values, thoughts, and experiences outside the classroom. You are telling a story, and original writing is the way to make your application memorable and compelling.
Why is the Common App personal statement so important?
The personal essay brings your application to life!
- Admissions officers want to know what interests you and the type of person you’ll be on their campus. The essays are the best way to get to know you.
- Essays can account for up to 30% of your admissions decision—a significant portion that you have control over! Crimson mentors spend a great deal of time helping you refine your essays until you view them as “perfect”.
What should I write about in my Common App essay?
The biggest challenge with the Common App essay is to figure out how to talk about yourself in fewer than 650 words. You only write one Common App essay and submit it in all your applications. Use the months before the application deadline to prepare a flawless, well thought out essay on just one topic.
The Common App gives you a series of prompts to choose from, and you can write about any topic you think best represents you. The prompts are helpful starting points.
5 Common App Essay Tips
The Common App Essay Prompts for 2022/23
Check out all the Common App Prompts for 2022/23 on the Common App website .
Prompt 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.
How do you answer common app personal essay prompt 1.
This prompt should encourage a deep discussion about your cultural roots and upbringing.
- Where is your family from, and where did you grow up?
- Were you immersed in a culture that was meaningful to you and played a big part in your life?
- What were you known for, and what was your role in the neighborhood?
- Were you inspired by any people, art or philosophies that shaped you as a person?
While these suggestions may bring up broad answers, ultimately, you want to be able to focus on a focus that is uniquely relevant to you.
Start with self reflection
If you questioned your identity, or it has shifted in the past few years, it’s helpful to figure out how to describe why those changes happened and their impact on your goals for the future. For example, suppose you have had a life-changing experience or awakening that changed your outlook and identity. What was its trigger, what ideas and emotions did it give birth to, and were these ideas confronting or enlightening? Once again, it comes down to how this shift was important to you.
Make a list to describe yourself
If you are feeling stuck, make a list of different phrases or values you would use to describe yourself and see which ones can form the basis of an essay about your identity. For example, you may want “compassion,” “humility,” or “cooperation” to be the focal point of your application.
Share a personal story
Pick a cultural aspect or a story from your upbringing that makes your identity word shine. For example, if you talk about ‘cooperation’, share a story about how your family came together as a team and achieved something.
This essay prompt gives you the chance to talk about your interests and talents. This prompt is an excellent option if you can make a direct link to your interests and what defines you as a person . However, you will also have the chance to talk about some of your interests and talents in your extracurriculars, so it may even be a good idea not to double-up on the activities discussion. It is best to explore fresh and engaging content in all parts of your application.
Finally, anticipate that you and others with similar backgrounds may write about the same big-picture ideas. To distinguish yourself, you will need to talk about why your upbringing was unique and why you are different from your peers.
The Essay That Got Me Into Brown University
Prompt 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?
How do you answer common app personal essay prompt 2.
In this essay, consider the challenges you faced in your life. Don’t write about when you were almost late to school but managed to get the last seat on the bus and didn’t miss your exam. That story doesn’t tell the admissions team who you are, what you value, and what kind of student you’ll be in college.
Consider the following:
- Maybe you experienced a big culture shock, such as your family moving to a new city or country?
- Was it a challenge to fit in with others? Did you struggle to find friends?
- Or maybe you experienced a serious tragedy, perhaps with a family member or friends?
- Was it overcoming a medical emergency or mental health issue?
Your challenges can and should be unique in and of themselves.
Don’t be afraid of failure
Don’t be afraid to admit you reacted or responded poorly when initially faced with the challenge. Admitting and learning from your mistakes shows immense maturity and growth. Anyone can claim that they’re resilient and able to overcome anything—few have the maturity to show their resilience by discussing their failures or by admitting that they still struggle with an obstacle.
Showcase what you learnt
Explain how you dealt with the obstacle. What drove your transformation into someone capable of overcoming this challenge? The aim is not to show you overcame a challenge. Explain how you learned from it and what lessons you’ll take into the future. When faced with another challenge like it in the future, will you react differently, approach it with a different mindset, or be less afraid to ask for help?
You don’t have to choose a problem that is exclusively yours. It could be one that affected your parents, friends, teachers, community, country, or beyond. Talk about how you got through the problem together, how you supported each other, and how everybody was stronger for it.
Prompt 3: Reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea. What prompted your thinking? What was the outcome?
How do you answer common app personal essay prompt 3.
This essay explores a time when you pushed back against authority to stand up for what you believed was right. Maybe you pushed back against something ingrained in you from an early age? Or addressed a challenging injustice you saw in society?
The prompt invites you to court controversy, and you can do this in the context of politics, culture, or religion.
For example, let’s say you decided to leave your religion and explore something new.
- Did you read a book or watch a movie that confronted your original faith?
- Did you talk with someone who followed a different religion and made you see your former religion differently?
Admissions officers want to understand the path you took to answer questions of faith.
This prompt asks what you’d do if you were faced with uncertainty and had to find answers for yourself. Consider the following questions:
- How did you deal with the doubt?
- Who did you turn to for guidance?
- Are you still looking for answers?
It will also show admissions officers that you can think critically about yourself and are open-minded, which are attributes that are desired by universities today.
Don’t be afraid to talk about something that could be deeply personal and controversial. Admissions officers will appreciate a meaningful essay, even if they disagree with the ideas explored within them.
Common App Essay Guide Part 1: Ideation
Prompt 4: Reflect on something that someone has done for you that has made you happy or thankful in a surprising way. How has this gratitude affected or motivated you?
How do you answer common app personal essay prompt 4.
The Common App added this prompt in the 2021-2022 admissions cycle. Given the events of the past few years, you probably had time to contemplate the value of gratitude and how small, or not-so-small, acts of kindness gifted you the opportunity to see the world from a different perspective.
Think of a time you were surprised by the selflessness or thoughtfulness of another person
- Was it the act or the act combined with this element of surprise that made you happy and thankful?
- What did this gesture tell you about the importance of family, friendship, community or the kindness of strangers
- How did it affect your view, actions or goals moving forward?
This question invites you to share a story that is meaningful to you, and it requires you to craft a narrative that explains how the surprise triggered personal revelation or change. The aim is not to show that you felt happy or grateful but to talk about what you learned about others, yourself, your community, or humanity.
Admissions officers are interested in your response and how you will use what you learned to contribute to the overall well-being of the campus community.
What I wrote about for my Common App Essay
Prompt 5: Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others.
How do you answer common app personal essay prompt 5.
This prompt asks you to consider your takeaways from an experience of your choice, go beyond the surface, and consider what insights and personal growth have stemmed from that experience.
Consider a time you had to work hard for something or how you grew after a specific event
Like your family moving overseas. It could be a realization, such as realizing that flying on planes isn’t as scary as it seems. This flexible prompt gives you the freedom to talk about anything. However, while some of your achievements may intersect with your extracurriculars, avoid doubling up on discussing activities explored in other parts of your application.
For this prompt, the story matters. But what you have learned from the story and how you’re applying what you learned matters more. Give yourself enough space to reflect on why specific moments have been impactful, and explain any realizations you made. Don’t pretend to have all the answers or to have solved a fundamental problem in the world. Those aren’t realistic approaches to life—life is lived in the grey areas, not in black and white.
Your story should have nuance, and your conclusion shouldn’t tie a neat bow. Instead, be clear that you still have more to learn and explore. Admissions officers want to see that you plan to use university as an experience for personal growth. Keep your tone humble even when talking about achievements.
Prompt 6: Describe a topic, idea, or concept you find so engaging 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?
How do you answer common app personal essay prompt 6.
What inspires you, excites you, or makes you tick? Choose something you’re truly passionate about so you can pour your soul into this answer.
- It could be an area of ideology
- An academic topic
- A fascination with a particular person, institution or religion.
- A specific artist, writer, director, book, movie, TV show, or another creative topic you find engaging.
Don’t use this as an opportunity to look smart by choosing an academic topic you don’t care about or show off your genius in an area of study. The Common App essay is about learning about who you are, not about what academic topics interest you the most .
Be passionate about your topic
If you decide to write about an academic topic, make sure that you have genuine knowledge and passion for the subject. If you spent three years studying quantum physics, give us a sense of what you did in different spaces in your life—at home, at school, in your dreams—to further your understanding of this subject. Talk about how your work in the subject advanced other goals and led to personal growth. Use your passion as the vehicle for other discussions rather than the focus.
Again, the trick is to make your discussion personal. If your essay could be about anybody with the same interest in a topic, it will not appeal to the admissions officers. Write as much as you can about your unique experiences in detailed scenes and their impact on you and your particular future goals.
5 Common App Personal Essay Red Flags
Prompt 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.
How do you answer common app personal essay prompt 7.
Here’s your chance to write about whatever interests you! While the prompt doesn’t say it, admissions officers still want you to focus on a couple of specific moments in your life or ideas that relate to your topic , so your essay isn’t too broad and unmeaningful. Focus on your personal growth and how your takeaways impact you now and in the future.
Engage in your personal voice
While students from all walks of life have successfully explored this prompt, the one thing they all had in common was that they engaged their unique personal voices.
If you have a unique story that doesn’t fit into the other six prompts, this prompt could be for you. This essay isn’t about how much you know. It’s more about how much you’ve learned and have yet to learn. Colleges are institutions where young adults develop and grow, so admissions officers appreciate an honest, sincere candidate ready to take on new challenges.
The personal statement is the one part of the application where your unique voice resonates. While scores and awards add to the quantitative weight of your application, your essay and other personal elements, like your teacher recommendations, add to the qualitative weighting, which is key to admissions decisions.
At Crimson , we support our students with every part of the personal statement building process - from brainstorming and narrowing down possible topics to crafting, building, editing and refining the essay.
Our mentors are graduates from the same universities you are applying to, so they know what it takes to tell your story and communicate to admissions officers why you’d be a great addition to their diverse student body.
And for more information on how we help you on your own top US university journey, click on the link below to organize a free one-on-one meeting with one of our expert academic advisors.
What makes Crimson different?
Key Resources & Further Reading
- Join our free webinars on college applications
- Free eBooks and guides to help with the college application process
- What is the Common Application
- How to apply to colleges
- College application process made easy with Crimson Pathfinder
Will chatgpt affect the college application essay.
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Aug 12, 2022 • knowledge, information.
The Common App 2020-2021 Essay Prompts
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Let’s not bury the lede: the Common App first-year essay prompts will remain the same for 2020-2021.
As part of our commitment to making sure the essay prompts continue to serve students and Common App member colleges well, we invited feedback through a survey. Over the course of three weeks in December, over 10,000 people--two-thirds of them students--shared their thoughts. Here’s what we learned:
The current prompts do their job well.
Over 95% of every group who responded to the survey--students, counselors, teachers, admission officers--agree that the current prompts spark effective essays. That’s a testament to you. Over the last 8 years, based on your feedback and the indispensable counsel of our advisory committees, we’ve revised and refined the prompts so they guide students toward stories that will help Common App members make informed admission decisions.
Opinions about individual prompts are as diverse as the people who write and read the essays they inspire.
Aside from the agreement about general effectiveness, there was only one other area of consensus: people value the prompt inviting students to share a story about a meaningful background, identity, interest, or talent. Over 50% of respondents in each group identified this prompt as effective. And the rest? When asked what prompt they would like to see removed or replaced, respondents were all over the map, with no one prompt getting more than 35% thumbs down. Moreover, the groups didn’t agree with one another. Students love Topic of Your Choice. Members and counselors? Not so much. And while students aren’t inclined to discuss a time when they challenged a belief or idea, members appreciate what those essays reveal about the students who write them. What this feedback suggests is that no one likes everything, but everyone likes something. And that has been our goal since day one: making sure that all students can find a home in the prompts.
There’s always room for improvement, even if the prompts stay the same.
As we were reviewing the survey results with our counselor advisory committee, it became clear that how students approach an essay is just as important as what prompt they choose, if not more so. We have an opportunity to guide students, not in what they write but in how they think about what they write. To this end, we will develop new resources to support students through this part of the application.
Transfer essay prompts need some love too.
While the majority of feedback we received pertained to the first-year prompts, many of you also shared valuable insights about the transfer essays--feedback about both content and process. We continue to look for ways to improve the transfer application process, and we will have more to share about the transfer essay in the coming months.
Sharing the essay prompts so far in advance of the next application year is always a tricky dance. On the one hand, people are curious. Rising seniors want to know what they’ll be asked to write about, and counselors and teachers want to make sure they are prepared to guide their students. On the other hand, releasing the prompts can send a tacit message that the college application process starts now. That’s not our intent. Everyone approaches this experience from their own angle and at their own pace, and we’ll be there to support you along the way.
Common App unveils first group of new member institutions for the 2023–2024 application season
2023-2024 Common App Essay Prompts
2022 reflections: Bringing joy to college admissions
Common App Essays 2023‒2024
Each year, the Common Application organization releases the prompts for the Common App essays. Often referred to as the “personal statement,” Common App essays are a central part of the college application process. Students can choose from one of seven Common App essay prompts to best showcase who they are to admissions officers.
In this guide, we’ll cover:
- All new Common App prompts for the 2023-24 admissions cycle
- What are Common App essays?
How many Common App essays are required?
- How long your Common App essays should be
- What makes a great college essay
- Each of the prompts for the Common App essays
- Some Common App essay tips
- Good college essay topics
- A timeline to help you write your Common App essay
- More Common Application resources from CollegeAdvisor
To learn how to write compelling Common App essays, read on!
New Common App Prompts for 2023-2024
Common App revisits their prompts every year. Over the past several years, Common App has opted not to release any new Common App prompts.
There will be no new Common App prompts in the upcoming admissions cycle. Instead, the prompts for the Common App essays will remain the same as those used in the 2022-23 admissions cycle.
In general, from year to year, the Common Application essay prompts remain fairly similar . In fact, the Common App essay prompts 2021 are the same as the prompts in use today. The last change took place among the Common App essay prompts 2021, which featured a new essay about gratitude.
Since there are seldom any new Common App prompts, students can use previous years’ prompts to start brainstorming and preparing.
Here are the seven Common App prompts from this year :
7 common app prompts, 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., 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, reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea. what prompted your thinking what was the outcome, reflect on something that someone has done for you that has made you happy or thankful in a surprising way. how has this gratitude affected or motivated you, discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others., 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, 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..
We’ll go deeper into the Common App essay prompts and other Common App essay tips later in this guide. We’ll also discuss some Common App essay ideas, and where to find some Common App essay examples that worked . But first, let’s go over the basics of the Common App essays.
What is the Common App essay?
As you begin applying to college, you’ll likely hear a lot about Common App essays (or personal statements). Of course, you’ll complete other essays during the college application process—namely, school-specific supplemental essays. However, when someone talks about “college essays,” or “personal statements,” they are usually referring to the Common App essays.
But what is the Common App essay?
The Common Application is a platform that helps streamline the college application process. And according to Forbes , the number of students who apply to college using the Common App has surged 20% since 2019.
Using the Common App, you can apply to college more easily— over 1,000 schools accept the Common Application. This figure includes Ivies like Yale and Dartmouth , as well as public state universities like Penn State . Once you create your Common App login, you can complete your personal information for every school at once. The Common Application makes it easy to keep track of college application requirements, deadlines , letters of recommendation, and extracurriculars and awards.
Coalition Application vs. Common Application
There are many different types of college applications, of which the Common Application is only one. Though only accepted by 90 member institutions, the Coalition Application is another popular application platform that allows you to collect your application information in one place. Much of the advice on Common App essays in this guide will also apply to the Coalition Application essay.
The Common App essay
Common App requirements include a list of your extracurricular activities, your self-reported grades, and your personal information. Another key section of the Common App is the Common App essay. You will also use the Common App to submit supplemental essays for particular schools.
The Common App essay, often called the personal statement, is sent to every college that accepts the Common Application. This essay will answer one of the Common App essay prompts to showcase something that makes you who you are. The Common App essay word limit is 650 words.
Since students submit their Common App essays to every school, they should be as strong as possible. In this guide, we’ll share some Common App essay tips to help your personal statement shine. We’ll also review the Common App essay requirements and discuss some Common App essay ideas.
There are seven Common App essay prompts. So, how many Common App essays are required?
Only one Common App essay is required. This means that you’ll respond to only one of the Common App prompts.
As you begin your writing process, read through the Common App essay prompts and see which one appeals to you the most. Try brainstorming answers to different prompts or discussing them with a parent, friend, or advisor.
Again, students only need to select one of the Common App essay prompts for their Common App essays. So, you’ll only need to write one essay that meets the Common App essay word limit.
Supplemental essays and the Common Application
Many schools also require students to write supplemental essays. Most supplemental essays will be shorter —usually 200-400 words as opposed to the Common App essay word limit of 650. You’ll submit these essays through the Common App. However, we don’t generally refer to these supplemental essays as “Common App essays.”
How long should the Common App essay be?
The Common App essay word limit is 650 words maximum. However, according to the official Common App essay requirements, the lower stay Common App essay word limit is 250 words.
As you brainstorm topics for Common App essays, make sure that the story you want to tell fits into the Common App essay word limit. Once you create your Common App login, you can familiarize yourself with the Common App essay requirements, including the word limit.
Students should aim for the higher end of the Common App essay word limit range. After all, admissions officers rely on Common App essays a lot within the admissions process. Therefore, you want your personal statement to offer a comprehensive picture of who you are and what matters to you.
Making the most of the Common App essay word limit
Writing Common App essays can feel like a daunting task, especially given the word count. To make the most of the Common App essay word limit, make sure you start your writing process early. That way, you’ll have plenty of time to edit your personal statement so every word counts.
Also, don’t try to explain your whole life story in the relatively short Common App essay word limit. Instead, try to tell an anecdote that encapsulates some aspect of your personality or your upbringing. Then, connect it to broader themes, including your future goals.
What makes a great college essay?
Now, you understand the basic format of Common App essays. Maybe you’ve even made your Common App login and started brainstorming topics. Next, you might be wondering: how can I write the best Common App essay?
Most good college essays and personal statements include similar features:
- A strong story that highlights a key part of the writer’s identity
- An engaging hook
- Strong structural components
- Clear, well-crafted prose
- Flawless grammar and syntax
Though none of these tips are strict Common App essay requirements, your personal statement should meet these criteria.
Good college essays also depend on your ability to be introspective. The best college admissions essays will reveal something unique about the writer. Often, in order to tell a compelling story about who you are, writers look deeply at their upbringing, identity, and values. The best Common App essay ideas aren’t something you can find in a Common App essay tips blog. Instead, they’ll come from your own unique experiences.
If you’re getting started and can’t think of any Common App essay ideas, try brainstorming without answering one of the prompts. The most important part about the Common Application essay is that it showcases a part of your identity that the admissions team won’t glean from your GPA or scores.
In the next few sections, we’ll go over the prompts for the Common App essays. For each of the Common App essay prompts, we’ll offer Common App essay tips. We’ll discuss how you can approach the Common App essays, including some advice on structure, tone, topic choice, and more. Additionally, we’ll look at some Common App essay ideas and the Common App essay requirements.
Common App Essay #1: Share your background
The first of the Common App essays asks you to share something significant about your background. Here’s the first of the Common App prompts:
All of the Common App essays will allow for a degree of customization. As long as essays address the Common App essay prompts—and stay within the Common App essay word limit—there is no limit to possible topics. In fact, when you read Common App essay examples, you’ll see a ton of variation .
The first of the Common App essay prompts is particularly open to interpretation. For some students, this can be exciting. However, for others, the first of the Common App essay prompts might feel a little overwhelming. So, if you want a more direct question, you might be better served by one of the other prompts.
How to approach this prompt
If you have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is deeply meaningful to you, here’s the place to talk about it!
As with all prompts for the Common App essays, there’s no right answer: maybe you were raised Orthodox Jewish. Perhaps you attended a white majority school as a person of color. Or maybe you learned to play the oboe at 4 years old and have since released an oboe EP on Soundcloud. As long as you share something that your application would be incomplete without, the sky’s the limit.
In general, as you write your Common App essays, think about what topics you might cover in your supplemental essays. Try to avoid writing about the same experience twice—after all, you only have so much space on your college applications. So, pick a topic for your main Common App essay with enough depth to fill the Common App essay word limit. Ideally, this topic won’t necessarily fit into a different section of your application.
Common App Essay #2: Navigating a challenge
Let’s look at some other prompts for Common App essays. The second of the Common App essay prompts relates to how you dealt with a challenge:
Comparing the different Common App essay prompts, this question is a bit narrower than the first. Is there a challenge, setback, or failure that you learned from? If you can’t come up with an answer to this question fairly quickly, you might want to select another of the Common App prompts.
Common App essay topics for this prompt
As compared to other Common App essay prompts, this one threatens to attract more cliché responses. Many students gravitate to similar topics: losses in sports, not getting a particular role in a performance, not winning a specific award.
If you choose a challenge like these, try to ensure your essay offers a new perspective. Many other students will likely select this question from the Common App essay prompts because they experienced a similar setback. In light of this, as you compare the different Common App essay prompts, think critically about potential college essay topics. Make sure your personal statement tells the admissions office something unique about how you face challenges.
The next of the prompts for Common App essays discusses a change in perspective. Read on to learn how to think about these types of Common App essay prompts.
Common App Essay #3: Questioning an idea
Has your perspective changed a lot in recent years? Have you had lengthy discussions with your parents or teachers about beliefs of theirs that you might disagree with? If so, the third option for your Common App essays might be a good one for you.
The third of the Common App essay prompts reads:
The best Common App essays often deal with subjects of personal change. These college essay topics may discuss shifts in perspective after learning something new or adjusting to different ideas and beliefs. Overall, colleges want to admit students who are intellectually curious and introspective. So, telling a story about how you developed can show that you embody those ideals.
Choosing the right idea
You don’t have to be politically active or reinvent the wheel to answer this question\ Maybe your guardian(s) is super-athletic and put you on the soccer team, but you fell in love with studio art instead. Challenging expectations is one method of challenging beliefs, so this could be a good framework to discuss your values.
To recap: a strong theme to touch on in any one of these Common App essays is a change in perspective. You can (and should!) also highlight your development in any of the Common App essay prompts.
Common App Essay #4: The gratitude essay
Another prompt that students can choose for their Common App essays is the gratitude essay:
This prompt was one of the new Common App essay prompts. It was originally released as one of the Common App essay prompts 2021.
Like some of the other Common App essay prompts, this prompt is fairly open-ended. It provides a chance to reflect on the positive aspects in your life. This prompt also lets you show that you are introspective and humble.
In the Common App essay prompts 2021, this essay replaced a prompt that asked about a problem you would like to solve. The Common App essay prompts 2021 were adjusted to include this prompt in order to “bring some joy into [each student’s] application experience.”
A word of caution
There is one potential pitfall of choosing the gratitude essay over the other Common App essay prompts. This prompt lends itself to focusing too much on someone other than yourself. Remember, good college essays will always center the writer’s identity and experiences.
Even if your essay is about how much a family member has sacrificed for you, remember that you are the one applying to college. Focus more on the second part of the prompt: how has your gratitude affected or motivated you?
Remember, Common App essays are a way to communicate something important about you to the people reading your application. That’s why it’s often referred to as the personal statement—it’s about you!
Common App Essay Prompt #5: A moment of personal growth
Like the second of the Common App prompts, this next question relates to personal growth or change:
The fifth of the Common App prompts asks about an inflection point in your life: a push to grow and shift perspectives. Like the other prompts, this one depends on introspection. Indeed, a key takeaway of these Common App essay tips, is that there’s never too much self-reflection.
Compared to the other Common App prompts, this one also lets you cover something not mentioned elsewhere in your application. Certainly, it’s less likely that answers to this question will pertain solely to one extracurricular or award. In other words, this personal statement topic can be a great place to tell the admissions team something new.
Next, let’s move onto the final two Common App prompts and offer a few more Common App essay tips.
Common App Essay Prompt #6: What captivates you?
Another of the more open-ended Common App prompts, this Common Application question has endless answers. Essays could cover something as straightforward as your potential college major or as non-academic as your favorite episode of Survivor.
Let’s take a look:
The sixth of the Common App prompts asks about what excites you. This isn’t restricted to lofty academic pursuits, either. With that said, a well-composed essay will reveal something about your values or thought process through your interest.
This prompt gives you a chance to go into detail about a passion, whether it be broad or niche, academic or cultural. The best college admissions essays will highlight something that isn’t present anywhere else in the application. Where else can you explain in excruciating detail your lifelong goal of building the tallest Rube Goldberg machine?
Common App Essay #7: A topic of your choice
Now, we’ve reached the last of the Common App prompts: a topic of your choice.
With this personal statement option, remember that it still must be exactly that: a personal statement. It should be about your unique way of navigating the world.
You might think that you could just submit your award-winning English class essay about the early feminist novel The Awakening . However, unless you discuss how its 1899 societal expectations of femininity affects how you interact with your family today… reconsider. The most important of our Common App essay tips is that above all else, this essay needs to be about you .
Therefore, if you think this Common App prompt is the one for you, make sure you’ve considered every other personal statement prompt first. Don’t think of this prompt as a way to get out of talking about yourself. Instead, use this prompt to talk about a part of yourself that the other questions aren’t reaching. The Common App essay questions are constructed to help you think about your life. In other words, don’t dismiss them just because you can’t think of an answer right away.
Keeping the personal in personal statement
When thinking about answering this question, ask yourself: is this essay a “personal statement?” Does it tell the admissions committee something they don’t know about me? Does it demonstrate something unique or dynamic about my identity, upbringing, values, or perspective?
Now that we’ve gone over all of the Common App prompts, let’s go into more detail on how you can write a great college essay. We’ll discuss some Common App essay ideas and provide some brainstorming exercises to jumpstart your writing process. We’ll also review more Common App essay tips, some Common App essay requirements, and other college application requirements. Lastly, we’ll recommend more resources like Common App essay examples that you might need to tackle the Common Application.
How to Write a Great College Essay
We’ve reviewed each of the Common App essay prompts and discussed the Common App essay requirements. Next, let’s dig into some Common App essay tips. You can also apply these guidelines to your Coalition App essay and other college application requirements.
Every great Common App essay starts with a clear strategy. Again, there are no new Common App essay prompts this year—in fact, they haven’t changed since the Common App essay prompts 2021. In short, rather than waiting for any new Common App essay prompts, you can start considering college essay topics now. After all, the earlier you start working on your Common App essay, the stronger it will be.
Below, we’ve outlined our ideal process to help you write the best college admissions essays you can. Use this structure to help you craft strong Common App essays:
Looking for strong college essay topics? Start with a free-write. Choose one of the Common App essay prompts that speaks to you. Then, set a timer for ten minutes and just start writing .
It won’t be perfect, and it doesn’t have to be. The goal of this exercise isn’t to write your final personal statement—it’s to flex your writing muscles. Don’t stop, edit, or censor yourself. Instead, just try to represent your experiences in a meaningful and authentic way. At this stage, just get ideas into words without worrying about quality or the Common App essay word limit.
Once you’re finished, take a look at what you wrote. What stands out to you? Are there any elements of your free-write you might want to explore in a draft?
Determining a College Essay Topic: Reflection Exercises to Try
If you’re facing writer’s block, try choosing one of the Common App essay prompts and thinking about its central theme. For instance, for the second of the Common App essay prompts, you might choose the idea of challenges .
Then, grab a sheet of paper, set a timer, and start writing down any meaningful challenges you’ve faced. Feel free to connect them to other elements of your life, including ways you’ve grown or changed. Don’t focus on the writing—instead, just try to think about potential college essay topics. Once the timer ends, evaluate whether anything you’ve listed might be worth drafting for your Common App essays. You can also use this strategy to tackle other college supplemental essays.
Once you’ve decided on a potential topic, it’s time to outline.
Good Common App essays often start with a “hook”—an engaging opening that grabs the reader’s interest. Often, the best hooks come from personal stories. One reliable structure for Common App essays opens with a personal story, then connecting it to your identity or character. You might then return to your original anecdote in your final paragraph or line.
In your outline, include your story and your “stakes”—that is, why your story highlights something critical about who you are. Your writing skills won’t matter if your personal statement isn’t, well, personal.
As you outline, feel free to be as descriptive or minimal as you’d like. Above all, your outline should help you write a draft—don’t craft a beautiful outline if it won’t ultimately serve your writing process. Once again, you can follow the same process in your school-specific supplemental essays.
Write a draft
Don’t feel pressured to write your Common App essay sequentially. For instance, if you know exactly how to approach the anecdote but are struggling with your opening line, feel free to jump ahead. You can always return to fill in the gaps of your personal statement.
As you draft, remember the Common App essay requirements, including the Common App essay word limit of 650 words. While the Common App essay word limit gives you more space than most supplemental essays, it’s still relatively short.
Often, leaving a few days between writing sessions can give you a useful perspective. After all, Common App essays (like any good college essay) won’t appear overnight. And since the college process is so competitive, you want your essay to stand out .
Each time you open your Common App essay, take a look at what you’ve written so far. Does it make sense and flow neatly? More importantly, does it use clear language and strong storytelling to highlight something important about your identity? If the answer is yes, you’re on the right track.
Revise, revise, revise
After you complete your Common App essay draft, put it away for a day or two. Then, return to your document to start revising .
Of course, you should edit for grammar, syntax, and spelling. However, a solid revision process will take a fair amount more work. As you read over your Common App essay, take a look at every single sentence. Does it contribute to your personal statement’s overall message? Are there any places where your language is clunky or redundant? Since the Common App essay word limit isn’t high, every word counts.
When you revise, pay careful attention to the beginning and end of your Common App essay. Remember, the opening of your essay gives Admissions Officers their first impression of you.
Additionally, as you edit, return to the Common App essay prompts. While the Common App essay prompts may be weighed differently than school-specific supplements, you should still address them comprehensively. So, don’t neglect the Common App essay requirements—namely, that you answer the prompt.
Finally, make sure that your essay highlights something critical about you. Above all, make sure your essay shows admissions teams who you are. Don’t waste your time with flowery language if it doesn’t serve your point—especially given the Common App essay word limit.
Get a second pair of eyes
Once you’ve edited your draft yourself, consider asking a trusted adult to look over your Common App essay. This could be a teacher, parent, counselor, or advisor.
Often, a second reader will notice things that you won’t. They can help you identify unclear language, fix lingering typos, and ensure your story comes through as strongly as possible. This can also help you meet the Common App essay word limit.
Of course, your Common App essay should be entirely your own work. That is to say, while you can absolutely ask for outside guidance, no one else should be writing your essay for you.
Finalize and submit!
After you receive feedback, complete a final round of revisions on your own. Ask yourself: if I read this essay, would I want to meet the student who wrote it?
When you feel ready, upload your essay using your Common App login. If you need help navigating your Common App login, you can visit the Common App YouTube channel for useful tips. Since there are no new Common App prompts this year, it’s never too early to start brainstorming. Plus, abandoned Common App essay ideas might be a great fit for supplemental essays.
What are some good college essay topics?
Overall, there are plenty of good college essay topics out there. You won’t get the chance to submit multiple Common App essays, so you should choose a topic that means something to you.
Here are some Common App essay tips to help you choose a topic:
Common App Essay Tips
1. discuss a challenge that you overcame. .
Maybe you developed a love and talent for poetry despite having severe dyslexia. Or maybe you conquered your fear of public speaking when asked to give a speech about a cause that mattered to you. The challenge itself doesn’t entirely matter; it’s about what this challenge meant to you.
If you write about a challenge, keep several things in mind. First, make sure the challenge you choose matters to you—that is, it should highlight a critical element of your identity and development. At the end of the day, good Common App essays will illustrate how the writer encountered a challenge and came out the other side.
2. Write about an experience that broadened your perspective.
Common App essays can also center around meaningful experiences. For example, maybe your first meeting with your extended family in India provided a new understanding of your heritage. Or maybe a year of volunteering at a children’s hospital taught you what it meant to find joy even amid pain and suffering. Again, the possibilities are endless; just think about which experiences have made you the person you are.
If you write about an external experience, a word of caution: remember that Common App essays should always come back to the writer’s development. For instance, if you’re writing about volunteering in a clinic, don’t spend all of your time discussing the patients’ specific stories. Ultimately, your essay should center around you.
3. Highlight a key feature of your identity or upbringing.
Good Common App essays will teach the admissions team something they don’t know about a given student. Rather than focusing on an interest you highlight elsewhere, you might write your Common App essay simply about who you are.
In this context, “identity” can mean anything: race, ethnicity, nationality, gender, or religion, to name a few. Choose a part of your identity that matters to you and write about it with passion and authenticity. Additionally, to make your Common App essay more engaging, you might use an anecdote to introduce your topic.
Overall, students can write good Common App essays about a wide variety of college essay topics. Regardless of which of the Common App prompts you choose, a meaningful topic can make for a powerful personal statement. There are many ways to write strong Common App essays. Above all, be authentic and tell your story, all while staying within the Common App essay word limit.
What should you not write in a college essay?
As you choose between the Common App prompts, you might wonder what bad Common App essays look like. So, let’s dig into some Common App essay tips about what not to write.
Most important, Common App essays should show you in a positive light. So, you should not include any explicit language or discussions of illegal activity. You should also, of course, refrain from including anything that a reader might deem offensive. These are all bad topics for Common App essays.
Avoiding the overly personal
As you consider Common App essay ideas, you should also be wary of just how personal your personal statement is. For instance, writers generally avoid overly intense discussions of traumatic events and mental health topics. Indeed, while often personally meaningful, poorly-written essays about these topics can work against you. Given the rigors of life at top universities, essays should assure Admissions Officers that you can face—if not overcome—challenges.
In general, if you wouldn’t discuss it at dinner, you may want to think twice before putting it in your Common App essay. Common App essays should be personal, but not to the point of discomfort. Think about this as you choose between the Common App prompts.
You should also avoid writing Common App essays about high school drama. Doubtless changing friendships and relationships can influence your development and seem ripe for writing about. However, admissions committees likely won’t be interested.
Highlight your strengths
Your essay should also suggest that you would make a positive contribution to any college campus. In light of that, make sure your essay portrays your development in a positive light. For instance, you shouldn’t write about how you learned that you can’t rely on other people. Instead, use the Common App essay prompts to highlight how you’ll be a good community member on your future campus.
Finally, try to avoid clichés, such as the “sports injury essay” or similarly overused Common App essay topics. This doesn’t mean you can’t use these topics at all. However, if you choose to do so, make sure you spin them in an interesting way. After all, admissions teams will read thousands of Common App essays, and you want yours to stand out. Choose one of the Common App prompts that will let you do just that.
For more guidance, you can always read Common App essay examples. These can help you get a better understanding of the Common App essay requirements.
Common Application Essay Timeline
As we’ve discussed, the earlier you start thinking about your Common App essay, the easier the process will be. However, this doesn’t mean you should start drafting your essays during your sophomore year of high school. You’ll grow and change throughout high school, and you’ll likely find many great Common App essay topics along the way.
Below, we’ve outlined our ideal timeline for brainstorming, drafting, and submitting your Common App essay.
Use the timeline above in planning your writing process, from choosing one of the Common App essay prompts to pressing “submit.” You likely won’t create your Common App login until August of your senior year when you apply to college. However, you can still start preparing your responses to the Common App essay prompts early. That way, you’ll have time to write the best college admissions essays you can.
More Common App Resources from CollegeAdvisor.com
Looking for more Common App essay tips, Common App essay ideas, and other resources on the Common App prompts? CollegeAdvisor.com is here to help you tackle all of your college application requirements.
Watch this free webinar for more about the Common Application, from Common App essays to the extracurriculars list, recommendations, and other key materials. You can also check out this expert-led webinar for a deep dive into the Common Application. There, you’ll find even more advice on writing Common App essays as you apply to college. We also have a comprehensive guide to acing the Common App.
How to ace the Common App this college admissions season
For more Common App essay ideas, check out our masterclass on how to choose Common App essay topics.
CollegeAdvisor Masterclass: Brainstorming Your Common App Personal Statement Topic￼
Additionally, you can read an overview of the Common App essay for juniors written by one of our advisors. We also have plenty of Common App essay examples available on our website . Since there are no new Common App prompts since the Common App essay prompts 2021, you can use these Common App essay examples for this year’s Common App essay prompts.
Common App Essay Prompts 2023‒2024: Final Thoughts
Overall, most colleges will accept the Common Application. This makes your Common App essay one of the most critical components of your college applications.
After all, how many Common App essays are required? Just one. So, your Common App essay needs to highlight you in the best possible light. The best college admissions essays can make a huge difference in the application review process.
We hope this guide has given you the tools to write a strong Common App essay that will impress top schools. However, if you want to make the most of your Common App essays, nothing beats personalized support. When you register with CollegeAdvisor.com, you’ll be matched with a hand-picked Admissions Expert who will guide you through every step of the application process, from building your college list to drafting your Common App essay. Click here to schedule a free meeting and learn how CollegeAdvisor can help you maximize your admissions odds.
This guide was written by Rachel Kahn and Abbie Sage. Looking for more admissions support? Click here to schedule a free meeting with one of our Admissions Specialists. During your meeting, our team will discuss your profile and help you find targeted ways to increase your admissions odds at top schools. We’ll also answer any questions and discuss how CollegeAdvisor.com can support you in the college application process.
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Sat / act prep online guides and tips, complete strategies: common app essay prompts (2022-23).
You can write about almost anything and make it work, so if you have an idea, don't let the fact that it doesn't fit neatly into one of these categories stop you. Treat these breakdowns as jumping-off points to help you start brainstorming , not the final word in how you need to approach the essay.
Make Sure You Look at This Year's Prompts
The Common App changes its 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 past years, don't assume that you can take the exact same approaches they did.
This guide will go over the details of all seven current prompts, but first let's talk about some overall advice.
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4 Tips For Finding Your Best Common App Essay Topic
As you're brainstorming and preparing to write your Common App essay, you'll want to keep these tips in mind.
First, it means that you genuinely care about the topic and want to write your college essay on it— no one ever wrote a great essay on a topic that they felt they had to write about .
Second, it means that the topic shows off a quality or trait you want to highlight for the admissions committee . For example, say I wanted to write about my summer job with the Parks Department. It's not enough to simply tell a story about my feud with a raccoon that kept destroying all the progress I made repairing a bench; I would need to make it clear what that experience ;shows about my character (perseverance) and explain what it ;taught me (that there are some things in life you simply can't control).
Remember that the most important thing is that your essay is about you . This advice might sound obvious, but when you're used to writing academic essays, it can be tricky to dive deep into your own perspective.
#2: Take Your Time
Give yourself plenty of time to brainstorm and write so you don't feel rushed into jotting down the first thing you can come up with and sending it right off. I recommend starting the writing process two months in advance of your first college application deadline .
On a similar note, you should take the essay seriously: it's an important part of your application and worth investing the time in to get right. If you just dash something off thoughtlessly, admissions officers will recognize that and consider it evidence that you aren't really interested in their school.
#3: Avoid Repetition
Your essay should illustrate something about you beyond what's in the rest of your application . Try to write about a topic you haven't talked about elsewhere, or take a different angle on it.
A college essay is not a resume —it's the best opportunity to show off your unique personality to admissions committees. Pick your topic accordingly.
#4: Get Specific
The best topics are usually the narrowest ones: essays focused on a single interaction, a single phrase, or a single object. The more specific you can get, the more unique your topic will be to you.
Lots of people have tried out for a school play, for example, but each had their own particular experience of doing so. One student saw trying out for the role of Hamlet as the culmination of many years of study and hard work and was devastated not to get it, while another was simply proud to have overcome her nerves enough to try out for the chorus line in West Side Story . These would make for very different essays, even though they're on basically the same topic.
Another benefit of a specific topic is that it makes coming up with supporting details much easier. Specific, sensory details make the reader feel as if they're seeing the experience through your eyes, giving them a better sense of who you are.
Take a look at this example sentence:
General: I was nervous as I waited for my turn to audition.
Specific: 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 first version could be written by almost anyone; the second version has a specific perspective—it's also intriguing and makes you want to know more.
The more specific your essay topic is, the more clearly your unique voice will come through and the more engaging your essay will be.
Breaking Down the 2022-23 Common App Essay Prompts
Now that we've established the basic ideas you need to keep in mind as you brainstorm, let's go through the 2022-23 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 first is describing something you did or something that happened to you. The second is explaining what that event, action, or activity means to you . No essay is complete without addressing both sides of the topic.
Next, it had to have had some sort of real impact so you can explain how your gratefulness affected you. This means that, even if the event itself was small, it had to have brought about some sort of lasting change in how you live your life.
To start, brainstorm times when something went better than expected/you were happily surprised by an outcome/you were especially grateful/someone restored your faith in humanity. Remember, this has to be, overall, a positive situation, as you're being asked about an event that made you happy or grateful. This is in contrast to prompts 2 and 3 which focus more on challenges you've faced.
Once you have your list, eliminate any instances that didn't affect or motivate you. The key part of this prompt is explaining the impact of your gratitude, so you need to write about a time when gratitude made you do something you normally wouldn't have done. This could be focusing on self-care/self-improvement, paying it forward by helping someone else, shifting your values, etc. Colleges want to see how you changed because of this event.
For example, say you decide to write about your first time traveling through an airport alone. You're not sure where to go, and all the workers look busy and like they're just waiting for their break. You're wandering around, lost, too shy to ask someone for help, when a gruff-looking employee comes up and asks if you need something. When you admit you don't know how to find your gate, they take the time to walk you to it, show you which screen to watch so you know when to board, and tell you to come get them if you need any more help. It's much more help than you thought anyone would give you.
Because of that person's actions (and this is the key part), you now always keep an eye out for people who look lost or confused and try to help them because you know how intimidating it can be to be out of your depth. You also know that many times people feel embarrassed to ask for help, so you need to make the first move to help them. If you have a specific example of you helping someone in need as a result, including that will make the essay even stronger.
Avoid scenarios where you were the first person to help another. The prompt is asking about a time someone was kind to you, and then you reacted in response to that. You need to have the grateful moment first, then the change in behavior.
Additionally, avoid examples where someone treated you badly but you rose above it. This is a situation where someone was kind to you, and you decided to keep that kindness going.
Common App Essay Prompt 6: Your Passion
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?
This prompt is asking you to describe something you're intellectually passionate about .
But in addition to describing a topic of personal fascination and why you're so interested in it, you need to detail how you have pursued furthering your own knowledge of the topic . Did you undertake extra study? Hole yourself up in the library? Ask your math team coach for more practice problems?
Colleges want to admit students who are intellectually engaged with the world. They want you to show that you have a genuine love for the pursuit of knowledge .
Additionally, by describing how you've learned more about your chosen topic, concept, or idea, you can prove that you are self-motivated and resourceful .
Pretty much any topic you're really interested in and passionate about could make a good essay here, just as long as you can put can put an intellectual spin on it and demonstrate that you've gone out of your way to learn about the topic.
So It's fine to say that the topic that engages you most is football, but talk about what interests you in an academic sense about the sport. Have you learned everything there is to know about the history of the sport? Are you an expert on football statistics? Emphasize how the topic you are writing about engages your brain.
Don't pick something you don't actually care about just because you think it would sound good.
If you say you love black holes but actually hate them and tortured yourself with astronomy books in the library for a weekend to glean enough knowledge to write your essay, your lack of enthusiasm will definitely come through.
Common App Essay Prompt 7: Your Choice
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.
You can write about anything for this one!
Since this is a choose-your-own-adventure prompt, colleges aren't looking for anything specific to this prompt .
However, you'll want to demonstrate some of the same qualities that colleges are looking for in all college essays: things like academic passion, maturity, resourcefulness, and persistence. What are your values? How do you face setbacks? These are all things you can consider touching on in your essay.
If you already have a topic in mind for this one that doesn't really fit with any of the other prompts, go for it!
Avoid essays that aren't really about you as a person. So no submitting your rhetorical close-reading of the poem "Ode on a Grecian Urn" you wrote for AP English!
However, if you want to write about the way that "Ode on a Grecian Urn" made you reconsider your entire approach to life, go ahead.
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The Common App Essay Questions: 5 Key Takeaways
We've covered a lot of ground, but don't panic. I've collected the main ideas you should keep in mind as you plan your Common App essay below.
#5: Don't Worry About What You Think You're Supposed to Write
There is no single right answer to these prompts , and if you try to find one, you'll end up doing yourself a disservice. What's important is to tell your story—and no one can tell you what that means because it's unique to you.
Many students believe that they should write about resume-padding activities that look especially impressive, such as volunteering abroad. These essays are often boring and derivative because the writer doesn't really have anything to say on the topic and assumes it'll speak for itself.
But the point of a personal statement isn't to explain what you've done; it's to show who you are .
Take the time to brainstorm and figure out what you want to show colleges about yourself and what story or interest best exemplifies that quality.
For more background on college essays and tips for crafting a great one, check out our complete explanation of the basics of the personal statement .
Make sure you're prepared for the rest of the college application process as well with our guides to asking for recommendations , writing about extracurriculars , taking the SAT , and researching colleges .
Want to improve your SAT score by 160 ;points or your ACT score by 4 points? We've written a guide for each test about the top 5 strategies you must be using to have a shot at improving your score. Download it for free now:
Alex is an experienced tutor and writer. Over the past five years, she has worked with almost a hundred students and written about pop culture for a wide range of publications. She graduated with honors from University of Chicago, receiving a BA in English and Anthropology, and then went on to earn an MA at NYU in Cultural Reporting and Criticism. In high school, she was a National Merit Scholar, took 12 AP tests and scored 99 percentile scores on the SAT and ACT.
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2021-2022 Common Application Essay Prompts & Tips
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The 2021-2022 Common App Essay Prompts Are Here
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2021-2022 common app prompts, what has changed, tips for writing your common app essay.
- How to Get Your Essay Reviewed for Free
The Common App recently released their essay prompts for the 2021-2022 admissions cycle, and unlike the past several years, the prompts are not the same as before.
In this post, we’ll go over the prompts, the changes, and tips for writing a strong Common App essay.
Here is a list of the prompts for this cycle. While they are largely unchanged, Prompt #4 is different this year (which is kind of a big deal, considering that the prompts have been the same since 2017).
Prompt #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.
Prompt #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?
Prompt #3: Reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea. What prompted your thinking? What was the outcome?
Prompt #4 (NEW): Reflect on something that someone has done for you that has made you happy or thankful in a surprising way. How has this gratitude affected or motivated you?
Prompt #5: Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others.
Prompt #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?
Prompt #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.
As usual, there are six prompts, with the seventh allowing you to write on a topic of your choice. The prompts are all the same except for Prompt #4.
Here’s a side-by-side of the old and new versions of the prompt.
Before: 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.
After: Reflect on something that someone has done for you that has made you happy or thankful in a surprising way. How has this gratitude affected or motivated you?
While all Common App essays should be personal, the old prompt was more “scientific” and analytical than the new one. The focus of the essay was a problem, its relevance to your life, and how you found a solution (or how you would find a solution).
The theme of the new prompt is gratitude, and it is inherently more reflective than the old prompt, as the focus is a personal story. The new prompt is likely to apply to more students, but there are some potential tripwires to keep in mind.
A common mistake is to spend too much time elaborating on the “thing” that was done, or on the person who did it. While you should absolutely provide some context, the essay should mainly be about you and how this event impacted your life.
It’s also important to note that the prompt asks for an act that “made you happy or thankful in a surprising way. ” Admissions officers don’t want just a classic feel good story about an act of kindness. This act of kindness can be small or significant, but it should have a relatively big impact on your life that you may not have expected. The act itself may have also been surprising, or maybe your response to it was the unexpected part.
While this prompt may seem straightforward, it’s actually encouraging a reflection on a nuanced situation. Some examples of good topics would be:
- Your friend signs you up for robotics even though you didn’t want to join at first, but then you discover a love for programming and want to use it to help build medical devices and prosthetics.
- Your parents don’t approve of your artistic pursuits due to their immigrant background and desire for stability in “practical” careers, but after years of showing no interest in your art, they attend your gallery opening. This leads to a mutual understanding and inspires you to create art based on your parents’ struggles.
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1. Get a head start
The topics are out, so you should consider drafting your Common App essay before the rush of the fall semester. Once senior year begins, you’ll be dealing with schoolwork, supplemental essays, extracurriculars, and other responsibilities. Your Common App essay will go to most, if not all, of the schools on your list, so it’s important that you take the time to write, edit, and get feedback on your essay.
Read our ultimate guide to the Common App essay (which will soon be updated with the new prompt) and take a look at some strong essay examples to get a better idea of what admissions officers are looking for.
2. Know what topics are good, and which ones to avoid
There are two ways to brainstorm your essay. You can either pick a prompt that resonates with you and look for a matching story from your life, or come up with a story essential to who you are and find a prompt to match.
Keep in mind that there are some essay topics to avoid, however. Some cliche college essay topics include:
- Sports injury story
- Working hard in a challenging class
- Immigrant story
- Tragedy (death, divorce, illness)
- Volunteer trip
- Your religion
- Romantic relationships
- Family pressure to pursue a particular field
In general, these topics are bad because they’re extremely common and too often focus on the event itself rather than you and your personality. This doesn’t mean you can’t cover these topics, but it’s very difficult to do so in an effective way (see the post linked above for tips on how to revamp these cliche topics).
On the flip side, some good topic ideas are:
- A unique extracurricular activity or passion
- An activity or interest that contrasts heavily with your profile
- A seemingly insignificant moment that speaks to larger themes within your life
- Using an everyday experience or object as a metaphor to explore your life and personality
- An in the moment narrative that tells the story of a important moment in your life
These topics are much broader and allow for greater creativity.
3. Answer the 4 core questions
The point of the Common App essay is to humanize your application and put a face to your transcript. That’s a tall order for only 650 words max!
To make sure you’re sharing the fullest range possible of who you are, try to answer these four core questions in your essay:
- Why Am I Here?
- What is Unique About Me?
- What Matters to Me?
4. Consider the different college essay structures
The Common App essay is a piece of creative storytelling, and not your typical analytical paper for school. You don’t necessarily want to write an essay with the standard introduction, thesis, and supporting body paragraphs.
How should you structure your essay, then? Here are a few ideas:
- In-the-moment narrative: Take us to a specific moment in time and share your story as it’s unfolding, using this moment as a segue into broader themes of your life.
- Narrative told over an extended period of time: This structure allows you to cover several experiences, and is well-suited for those looking to highlight their long-term development.
- Series of anecdotes, or montage: Use several scenes (that aren’t necessarily related or chronological) to highlight an element of your life or personality.
There are also unconventional essay structures that you may consider, such as writing a movie script or a poem. These are high risk, but also high reward if executed correctly.
Learn more about essay structures and see examples in our blog post.
5. Show, don’t tell
One common mistake students make is to simply state what happened in their essay, rather than to use storytelling techniques like imagery and dialogue. To keep your essay as engaging as possible, you need to bring us to these experiences and allow us to be there with you, rather than telling us what happened.
Here’s an example of telling: “Running a half marathon was a challenge.”
And here’s an example of showing: “My shoe became untied at mile 11, so I paused and bent over to lace it back up. Pain shot through my lower back. I grimaced and let out an audible groan.”
Where to Get Your Essay Edited for Free
Once you clear the academic threshold for selective schools, your essays and extracurriculars are the deciding factors for admissions officers. In fact, your essays and extracurriculars matter almost as much as grades and test scores at top schools. Why is this? Most students applying to top schools will have stellar academics. Your essays and extracurriculars are your chance to stand out and share your personality.
This is especially true for the Common App essay, as the prompts invite reflection and personal storytelling. It’s vital that your essay is engaging and presents you as someone who would enrich the campus community.
Before submitting your application, you should have someone else review your Common App essay. It’s even better if that person doesn’t know you personally, as they can best tell whether your personality shines through your essay.
That’s why we created our Peer Essay Review tool , where you can get a free review of your essay from another student. You can also improve your own writing skills by reviewing other students’ essays. We highly recommend giving this tool a try!
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1. does turnitin offer a solution to detect ai writing .
Yes. Turnitin has released its AI writing detection capabilities to help educators uphold academic integrity while ensuring that students are treated fairly.
We have added an AI writing indicator to the Similarity Report. It shows an overall percentage of the document that AI writing tools, such as ChatGPT, may have generated. The indicator further links to a report which highlights the text segments that our model predicts were written by AI. Please note, only instructors and administrators are able to see the indicator.
While Turnitin has confidence in its model, Turnitin does not make a determination of misconduct, rather it provides data for the educators to make an informed decision based on their academic and institutional policies. Hence, we must emphasize that the percentage on the AI writing indicator should not be used as the sole basis for action or a definitive grading measure by instructors.
2. How does it work?
When a paper is submitted to Turnitin, the submission is first broken into segments of text that are roughly a few hundred words (about five to ten sentences). Those segments are then overlapped with each other to capture each sentence in context.
The segments are run against our AI detection model and we give each sentence a score between 0 and 1 to determine whether it is written by a human or by AI. If our model determines that a sentence was not generated by AI, it will receive a score of 0. If it determines the entirety of the sentence was generated by AI it will receive a score of 1.
Using the average scores of all the segments within the document, the model then generates an overall prediction of how much text in the submission we believe has been generated by AI.
Currently, Turnitin’s AI writing detection model is trained to detect content from the GPT-3 and GPT-3.5 language models, which includes ChatGPT. Because the writing characteristics of GPT-4 are consistent with earlier model versions, our detector is able to detect content from GPT-4 (ChatGPT Plus) most of the time. We are actively working on expanding our model to enable us to better detect content from other AI language models.
3. What parameters or flags does Turnitin’s model take into account when detecting AI writing?
GPT-3 and ChatGPT are trained on the text of the entire internet, and they are essentially taking that large amount of text and generating sequences of words based on picking the next highly probable words. This means that GPT-3 and ChatGPT tend to generate the next word in a sequence of words in a consistent and highly probable fashion. Human writing, on the other hand, tends to be inconsistent and idiosyncratic, resulting in a low probability of picking the next word the human will use in the sequence.
Our classifiers are trained to detect these differences in word probability and are adept to the particular word probability sequences of human writers.
4. How was Turnitin’s model trained?
Our model is trained on a representative sample of data that includes both AI-generated and authentic academic writing. While creating our sample dataset, we took into account statistically under-represented groups like second-language learners, English users from non-English speaking countries, students at colleges and universities with diverse enrollments, and less common subject areas such as anthropology, geology, sociology, and others.
5. Can I check past submitted assignments for AI writing?
Yes. Previously submitted assignments can be checked for AI writing detection if they’re re-submitted to Turnitin. Only assignments that are submitted after the launch of our capability (4th April 2023) are automatically checked for AI writing detection.
6. What languages are supported?
English. For the first iteration of Turnitin’s AI writing detection capabilities, we are able to detect AI writing for documents submitted in long-form English only.
7. What will happen if a non-English paper is submitted?
If a non-English paper is submitted, the detector will not process the submission. The indicator will show an empty/error state with ‘in-app’ guidance that will tell users that this capability only works for English submissions at this time. No report will be generated if the submitted content is not in English.
8. Can my institution get access to AI detection to be able to trial this new capability?
Yes, admins can set-up test accounts and allow instructors to use and assess the feature. If you’re an existing TFS customer, your admin will be able to create a sub-account and enable AI writing for only that account for testing purposes.
If you’re an Originality, Similarity or Simcheck customer, you can request test accounts by contacting your account manager or CSM.
New customers should speak to a Turnitin representative about getting a test account.
9. Can I or my admin suppress the new indicator and report if we do not want to see it?
Yes, admins have the option to enable/disable the AI writing feature from their admin settings page. Disabling the feature will remove the AI writing indicator & report from the Similarity report and it won’t be visible to instructors and admins until they enable it again.
10. Will the addition of Turnitin’s AI detection functionality to the Similarity report change my workflow or the way I use the Similarity report?
No. This additional functionality does not change the way you use the Similarity report or your existing workflows. Our AI detection capabilities have been added to the Similarity report to provide a seamless experience for our customers.
11. Will the AI detection capabilities be available via LMSs such as Moodle, Blackboard, Canvas, etc?
Yes, users will be able to see the indicator and the report via the LMS they’re using. We have made AI writing detection available via the Similarity report. There is no AI writing indicator or score embedded directly in the LMS user interface and users will need to go into the report to see the AI score.
12. Does the MS Teams integration support the AI writing detection feature?
AI writing detection is only available to instructors using the new Turnitin Feedback Studio integration . Since the MS Teams Assignment Similarity integration does not offer an instructor view due to Turnitin not receiving user metadata, AI writing detection is unavailable.
If an instructor using the Similarity integration has a concern that a report may have been written with an AI writing tool, they can request that their administrator use the paper lookup tool to view a full report.
13. How is authorship detection within Originality different from AI writing detection?
Turnitin’s AI writing detection technology is different from the technology used within Authorship (Originality). Our AI writing detection model calculates the overall percentage of text in the submitted document that was likely generated by an AI writing tool. Authorship, on the other hand, uses metadata as well as forensic language analysis to detect if the submitted assignment was written by someone other than the student. It will not be able to indicate if it was AI written; only that the content is not the student’s own work.
AI detection results & interpretation
1. what does the percentage in the ai writing detection indicator mean .
The percentage indicates the amount of qualifying text within the submission that Turnitin’s AI writing detection model determines was generated by AI. This qualifying text includes only prose sentences, meaning that we only analyze blocks of text that are written in standard grammatical sentences and do not include other types of writing such as lists, bullet points, or other non-sentence structures.
This percentage is not necessarily the percentage of the entire submission. If text within the submission is not considered long-form prose text, it will not be included.
2. What is the accuracy of Turnitin’s AI writing indicator?
We strive to maximize the effectiveness of our detector while keeping our false positive rate - incorrectly identifying fully human-written text as AI-generated - under 1% for documents with over 20% of AI writing. In other words, we might flag a human-written document as AI-written for one out of every 100 fully-human written documents.
To bolster our testing framework and diagnose statistical trends of false positives, in April 2023 we performed additional tests on 800,000 additional academic papers that were written before the release of ChatGPT to further validate our less than 1% false positive rate.
In order to maintain this low rate of 1% for false positives, there is a chance that we might miss 15% of AI written text in a document. We’re comfortable with that since we do not want to incorrectly highlight human-written text as AI-written. For example, if we identify that 50% of a document is likely written by an AI tool, it could contain as much as 65% AI writing.
We’re committed to safeguarding the interests of students while helping institutions maintain high standards of academic integrity. We will continue to adapt and optimize our model based on our learnings from real-world document submissions, and as large language models evolve to ensure we maintain this less than 1% false positive rate.
3. How does Turnitin ensure that the false positive rate for a document remains less than 1%?
Since the launch of our solution in April, we tested 800,000 academic papers that were written before the release of ChatGPT. Based on the results of these tests, we made the below updates to our model in May to ensure we hold steadfast on our objective of keeping our false positive rate below 1% for a document.
- Added an additional indicator for documents with less than 20% AI writing detected We learned that our AI writing detection scores under 20% have a higher incidence of false positives.This is inconsistent behavior, and we will continue to test to understand the root cause. In order to reduce the likelihood of misinterpretation, we have updated the AI indicator button in the Similarity Report to contain an asterisk for percentages less than 20% to call attention to the fact that the score is less reliable.
- Increased the minimum word count from 150 to 300 words Based on our data and testing, we increased the minimum word requirement from 150 to 300 words for a document to be evaluated by our AI writing detector. Results show that our accuracy increases with just a little more text, and our goal is to focus on long-form writing. We may adjust this minimum word requirement over time based on the continuous evaluation of our model.
- Changed how we aggregate sentences in the beginning and at the end of a submission We observed a higher incidence of false positives in the first few or last few sentences of a document. Usually, this is the introduction and conclusion in a document. As a result, we changed how we aggregate these specific sentences for detection to reduce false positives.
4. The percentage shown sometimes doesn’t match the amount of text highlighted. Why is that?
Unlike our Similarity Report, the AI writing percentage does not necessarily correlate to the amount of text in the submission. Turnitin’s AI writing detection model only looks for prose sentences contained in long-form writing. Prose text contained in long-form writing means individual sentences contained in paragraphs that make up a longer piece of written work, such as an essay, a dissertation, or an article, etc. The model does not reliably detect AI-generated text in the form of non-prose, such as poetry, scripts, or code, nor does it detect short-form/unconventional writing such as bullet points, tables, or annotated bibliographies.
This means that a document containing several different writing types would result in a disparity between the percentage and the highlights.
5. What do the different indicators mean?
Upon opening the Similarity Report, after a short period of processing, the AI writing detection indicator will show one of the following:
- Blue with a percentage between 0 and 100: The submission has processed successfully. The displayed percentage indicates the amount of qualifying text within the submission that Turnitin’s AI writing detection model determines was generated by AI. As noted previously, this percentage is not necessarily the percentage of the entire submission. If text within the submission was not considered long-form prose text, it will not be included. To explore the results of the AI writing detection capabilities, select the indicator to open the AI writing report. Our testing has found that there is a higher incidence of false positives when the percentage is less than 20. In order to reduce the likelihood of misinterpretation, the AI indicator will display an asterisk for percentages less than 20 to call attention to the fact that the score is less reliable. To explore the results of the AI writing detection capabilities, select the indicator to open the AI writing report. The AI writing report opens in a new tab of the window used to launch the Similarity Report. If you have a pop-up blocker installed, ensure it allows Turnitin pop-ups.
- Gray with no percentage displayed (- -): The AI writing detection indicator is unable to process this submission. This can be due to one, or several, of the following reasons: - The submission was made before the release of Turnitin’s AI writing detection capabilities. The only way to see the AI writing detection indicator/report on historical submissions is to resubmit them. - The submission does not meet the file requirements needed to successfully process it for AI writing detection. In order for a submission to generate an AI writing report and percentage, the submission needs to meet the following requirements: - File size must be less than 100 MB - File must have at least 300 words of prose text in a long-form writing format - Files must not exceed 15,000 words - File must be written in English - Accepted file types: .docx, .pdf, .txt, .rtf
- Error ( ! ): This error means that Turnitin has failed to process the submission. Turnitin is constantly working to improve its service, but unfortunately, events like this can occur. Please try again later. If the file meets all the file requirements stated above, and this error state still shows, please get in touch through our support center so we can investigate for you.
6. What can I do if I feel that the AI indicator is incorrect? How does Turnitin’s indicator address false positives?
If you find AI written documents that we've missed, or notice authentic student work that we've predicted as AI-generated, please let us know! Your feedback is crucial in enabling us to improve our technology further. You can provide feedback via the ‘feedback’ button found in the AI writing report.
Sometimes false positives (incorrectly flagging human-written text as AI-generated), can include lists without a lot of structural variation, text that literally repeats itself, or text that has been paraphrased without developing new ideas. If our indicator shows a higher amount of AI writing in such text, we advise you to take that into consideration when looking at the percentage indicated.
In a longer document with a mix of authentic writing and AI generated text, it can be difficult to exactly determine where the AI writing begins and original writing ends, but our model should give you a reliable guide to start conversations with the submitting student.
In shorter documents where there are only a few hundred words, the prediction will be mostly "all or nothing" because we're predicting on a single segment without the opportunity to overlap. This means that some text that is a mix of AI-generated and original content could be flagged as entirely AI-generated.
Please consider these points as you are reviewing the data and following up with students or others.
7. Will students be able to see the results?
The AI writing detection indicator and report are not visible to students.
8. Does the AI Indicator automatically feed a student’s paper into a repository?
No, it does not. There is no separate repository for AI writing detection. Our AI writing detection capabilities are part of our existing similarity report workflow. When we receive submissions, they are compared and evaluated via our proprietary algorithms for both similarity text matching and the likelihood of being AI writing (generated by LLMs). Customers retain the ability to choose whether to add their student papers into the repository or not.
When AI writing detection is run on a submission, the results are shared on the similarity report - unless suppressed – and results regarding the percentage AI writing identified by the detector, along with the segments identified highly likely written by AI – are retained as part of the similarity report.
9. What is the difference between the Similarity score and the AI writing detection percentage? Are the two completely separate or do they influence each other?
The Similarity score and the AI writing detection percentage are completely independent and do not influence each other. The Similarity score indicates the percentage of matching-text found in the submitted document when compared to Turnitin’s comprehensive collection of content for similarity checking.
The AI writing detection percentage, on the other hand, shows the overall percentage of text in a submission that Turnitin’s AI writing detection model predicts was generated by AI writing tools.
10. Why do I see the AI Writing score and the corresponding report on the similarity report prior to April 4?
Our AI writing detection capabilities are part of our existing similarity report workflow to detect unoriginal writing. While we released AI writing detection capabilities on April 4, 2023, prior to launch, we were preparing for the release and running our AI writing detector on a sampling of papers as part of our QA testing. This allowed us to confirm our readiness for release on April 4. As a result, you may see the AI writing score along with the corresponding report on some similarity reports submitted between March 8, 2023 and April 4, 2023.
11. Does the Turnitin model take into account that AI writing detection technology might be biased against particular subject-areas or second-language writers?
Yes, it does. One of the guiding principles of our company and of our AI team has been to minimize the risk of harm to students, especially those disadvantaged or disenfranchised by the history and structure of our society. Hence, while creating our sample dataset, we took into account statistically under-represented groups like second-language learners, English users from non-English speaking countries, students at colleges and universities with diverse enrollments and less common subject areas such as anthropology, geology, sociology, and others.
12. How can I use the AI indicator percentage in the classroom with students?
Turnitin’s AI detection indicator shows the percentage of text that has likely been generated by an AI writing tool while the report highlights the exact segments that seem to be AI-written. The final decision on whether any misconduct has occurred rests with the reviewer/instructor. Turnitin does not make a determination of misconduct, rather it provides data for the educators to make an informed decision based on their academic and institutional policies.
13. Can I download the AI report like the Similarity report?
No. At this time the functionality to download the AI report is not available. However, we are actively working on developing this capability, and we should be able to add it as a functionality in the near-term.
Scope of detection
1. which ai writing models can turnitin’s technology detect .
The first iteration of Turnitin’s AI writing detection capabilities have been trained to detect models including GPT-3, GPT-3.5, and variants. Our technology can also detect other AI writing tools that are based on these models such as ChatGPT. We’ve completed our testing of GPT-4 (ChatGPT Plus), and the result is that our solution will detect text generated by GPT-4 most of the time. We plan to expand our detection capabilities to other models in the future.
2. Which model is Turnitin’s AI detection model based on?
Our model is based on an open-source foundation model from the Huggingface company. We undertook multiple rounds of carefully calibrated retraining, evaluation and fine-tuning. What we must emphasize really is that the unique power of our model arises from the carefully curated data we've used to train the model, leveraging our 20+ years of expertise in authentic student writing, along with the technology developed by us to extract the maximum predictive power from the model trained on that data. In training our model, we focused on minimizing false positives while maximizing accuracy for the latest generation of LLMs ensuring that we help educators uphold academic integrity while protecting the interests of students.
3. Is your current model able to detect GPT-4 generated text?
Yes it does, most of the time. Our AI team has conducted tests on GPT-4 using our released detector to compare its performance and understand the differences between GPT-3.5 (on which our model is trained), and GPT-4. The result is that our detector will detect text generated by GPT-4 most of the time, but we don’t have further, consistent guidance to share at this time. The free version of ChatGPT is still operating on GPT-3.5, while the paid version, ChatCPT Plus, is operating on GPT-4.
4. How will Turnitin be future-proofing for advanced versions of GPT and other large language models yet to emerge?
We recognize that Large Language Models (LLMs) are rapidly expanding and evolving, and we are already hard at work building detection systems for additional LLMs. Our focus initially has been on building and releasing an effective and reliable AI writing detector for GPT-3 and GPT-3.5, and other writing tools based on these models such as ChatGPT. Recently, we conducted tests on GPT-4, the model on which ChatGPT Plus is based, and found that our detection capabilities detected AI-generated text in most cases.
5. Will the AI percentage change over time as the detector and the models it is detecting evolve?
Yes, as we iterate and develop our model further, it is likely that our detection capabilities will also change, affecting the AI percentage. However, for a submitted document, the AI percentage will change only if it's re-submitted again to be processed.
6. Can Turnitin detect if text generated by an AI writing tool (ChatGPT, etc.) is further paraphrased using a paraphrasing tool? Will it flag the content as AI-generated even in this instance?
Our detector is trained on the outputs of GPT-3, GPT-3.5 and ChatGPT, and modifying text generated by these systems will have an impact on our detectors’ abilities to identify AI written text. In our AI Innovation Lab, we have conducted tests using open sourced paraphrasing tools (including different LLMs) and in most cases, our detector has retained its effectiveness and is able to identify text as AI-generated even when a paraphrasing tool has been used to change the AI output.
7. Does Turnitin have plans to build a solution to detect when students paraphrase content either themselves or through tools such as Quillbot, etc.,?
Turnitin has been working on building paraphrase detection capabilities – ability to detect when students have paraphrased content either with the help of paraphrasing tools or re-written it themselves – for some time now, and the technology is already producing the desired results in our AI Innovation Lab. In the instance when the student is using a word spinner or an online paraphrasing tool, the student is just running content through a word spinner which uses AI to intentionally subvert similarity detection, not using generative AI tools such as ChatGPT to create content.
We have plans for a beta release in 2023, and we will be making paraphrase detection available to instructors at institutions that are using TFS with Originality and Originality for an additional cost. It will be released first in our TFS with Originality product.
Access & licensing
1. who will get access to this solution will we need to pay more for this capability .
The first iteration of our AI writing detection indicator and report are available to our academic writing integrity customers as part of their existing licenses, so that they’re able to test the solution and see how it works. This includes customers with a license for Turnitin Feedback Studio (TFS), TFS with Originality, Turnitin Originality, Turnitin Similarity, Simcheck, Originality Check, and Originality Check+. It is available for customers using these platforms via an integration with an LMS or with Turnitin’s Core API. Please note, only instructors and administrators will be able to see the indicator and report.
Beginning January 1, 2024, only customers licensing Originality or TFS with Originality will have access to the full AI writing detection experience.
2. When can customers get access to this solution?
Turnitin’s AI writing detection capabilities are available now and have been added to the Similarity Report. Customers licensing any of the above Turnitin products should be able to see the indicator and access the AI report.
3. Is Turnitin’s AI writing detection a standalone solution or is it part of another product?
The first iteration of Turnitin’s AI writing detection capabilities is a separate feature of the Similarity Report and is available across these products: Turnitin Feedback Studio (TFS), TFS with Originality, Turnitin Originality, Turnitin Similarity, Simcheck, Originality Check, and Originality Check+. The indicator links to a report which shows the exact segments that are predicted as AI-written within the submitted content.
4. Why is AI detection not being added to other Turnitin products like Gradescope and iThenticate?
We focused our resources on, what we view, as the biggest, most acute problem and that is higher education and K12 long-form writing. We are currently investigating how we can bring AI writing detection to iThenticate customers. We do not currently have plans to add these capabilities to Gradescope, since the primary use case for Gradescope is handwritten text while for AI detection we’re focusing on typed text. However, we are happy to learn more about customer needs for AI writing detection within this product. In addition, we are not pursuing ChatGPT code detection at this time.
5. Where can I find more information about this new solution?
You can find information about Turnitin’s AI writing detection capabilities on this page .
6. I’m offended that Turnitin is making the AI writing detection free for instructors then charging for it later. It feels like Turnitin is advertising to faculty.
We made the decision to provide free access to our detection capabilities during this preview phase to support educators during this unprecedented time of rapid change. We received a significant amount of positive feedback from customers, and we acted on that feedback.
Our goal has always been to work closely with our customers to create an optimal solution for educators. We need as many educators as possible to use our AI writing detection feature quickly to gather feedback and address any gaps.
We understand that you may be apprehensive about instructors using a tool or feature that the institution may not wish to purchase in the future. However, we have invested heavily in developing and improving our AI writing detection technology over the past two years. We believe that this technology provides significant value to our customers by providing data and insights on when AI-generated content is submitted by students. This enables educators to uphold academic integrity while advancing students' learning. Nonetheless, maintaining and improving our technology requires ongoing investment as AI writing tools evolve and improve at a rapid pace over time.
The decision to move to a paid licensing structure beginning January 2024 was made to ensure that we can continue to provide high-quality AI writing detection features to our customers. This enables us to invest in further research and development and improve our infrastructure to meet the evolving needs of our customers.
7. If I opt-out of AI detection, does it mean that my students’ submissions will not be assessed by the detection tool and data retained by Turnitin?
Customers come to Turnitin to provide services that detect unoriginal writing, which, with the development of AI writing, now includes both unoriginal writing by humans and non-humans (LLMs). Our AI writing detection capabilities are part of our existing similarity report workflow. When we receive submissions, they are compared and evaluated via our proprietary algorithms for both similarity text matching and the likelihood of being AI writing (generated by LLMs). As such, suppressing the appearance of the AI writing indicator does not stop the assessment for AI writing. When AI writing detection is run on a submission, the result is shared on the similarity report, unless suppressed. When the AI writing detection is suppressed, it is simply suppressing the indicator showing the predicted percentage of AI writing; thus, the indicator will not be displayed on the similarity report, and the linking AI writing report showing the segments identified as written by AI will not be showing either. However, they are retained as part of the similarity report. Therefore when the feature is re-enabled, the AI writing score will appear on the similarity report.
This process is separate and apart from your designation of whether or not submissions can be stored in the ‘repository.’
There are seven Common App first-year essay prompts for the 2022-2023 school year (they are the same as the ones used for the 2021-2022 application), though students only need to choose one prompt ...
By. Allen Grove. Updated on November 29, 2019. Students applying to colleges that use the Common Application will typically need to respond to one of seven essay prompts. For the 2020-21 application cycle, the length limit for the essay is 650 words. That limit includes the essay title, notes, and any other text that you include in the essay ...
Common App Essay Prompts 2023-2024. Part 2: Pre-writing your Common App Essay. Brainstorming Common App Essay topics. Freewriting. Essay writing timelines: how to write your Common App personal statement if you have six months, three months, one month, or even less. Part 3: Choosing your Common App Essay topic Part 4: Writing your Common App ...
An essay prompt can't erase the loss and anxiety of the last 12 months, but it can validate the importance of gratitude and kindness. We hope students see the new prompt for what it is intended to be: an invitation to bring some joy into their application experience. Below is the full set of essay prompts for 2021-2022.
Common App Essays | 7 Strong Examples with Commentary. Published on November 19, 2021 by Kirsten Courault.Revised on November 4, 2022. If you're applying for college via the Common App, you'll have to write an essay in response to one of seven prompts.. Here's a brief overview of the Common App essay and seven examples of effective Common App essays, along with explanations of why they work.
The 650-word count is the maximum permitted length for the Common App essay. So, how long should the Common App essay be? The Common App should be 500 to 650 words. It is the ideal length for a Common Application essay for both the current year's prompts and prompts from more than ten years ago. This was true even a few years ago, when the ...
3. Use Your Space Wisely. Students tend to go one of two ways with the Common App essay: They either write way too much and struggle to trim it down, or they write way too little and end up sounding superficial and generic. The Common App essay word count range is 250-650 words.
Strategy for Writing the 2022-2023 Common App Essays. Because the Common App essay is 650 words long and has few formal directions, organizing a response might seem daunting. Fortunately, at CollegeVine, we've developed a straightforward approach to formulating strong, unique responses. This section outlines how to: 1) Brainstorm, 2) Organize ...
In 2022, the Common Application announced that the Common App essay prompts will remain unchanged from the 2021-2022 school year.The Common App essay prompts have remained almost the same for the past five years, but crafting a strong and compelling essay to respond to these prompts has remained as important as ever to getting into top schools
For the 2021-22 application cycle, the Common Application essay prompts remain unchanged from the 2020-21 cycle with the exception of an all new option #4. As in the past, with the inclusion of the popular "Topic of Your Choice" option, you have the opportunity to write about anything you want to share with the folks in the admissions office.
The Common App Essay Prompts for 2022/23. Check out all the Common App Prompts for 2022/23 on the Common App website. Prompt 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.
Are there word limits? There are no strict word limits. We suggest that for the first essay (where you choose one of the seven prompts), the extended essay stay around 650 words. While we won't as a rule stop reading after 650 words, we cannot promise that an overly wordy essay will hold our attention for as long as you'd hoped it would.
January 29, 2020. Let's not bury the lede: the Common App first-year essay prompts will remain the same for 2020-2021. As part of our commitment to making sure the essay prompts continue to serve students and Common App member colleges well, we invited feedback through a survey. Over the course of three weeks in December, over 10,000 people ...
In fact, the Common App essay prompts 2021 are the same as the prompts in use today. The last change took place among the Common App essay prompts 2021, which featured a new essay about gratitude. ... As long as essays address the Common App essay prompts—and stay within the Common App essay word limit—there is no limit to possible topics ...
The exact word limit for the Common App essay has varied somewhat over the years, but the current range is 250-650 words. You must stay within this length; in fact, the online application won't allow you to submit fewer than 250 words or more than 650. Some schools will state that if this isn't enough space, you can send them a physical copy of ...
Do not wait to write your essay. It will take longer than you think. The sooner you start, the better the result, and the prouder you will be of the final piece. For more help on answering the 2021-2022 Common App essay prompts, or for information on college admissions, contact us at 1-954-414-9986 or www.internationalcollegecounselors.com.
How long is the common app essay 2021. eduwriters.pro. Comments sorted by Best Top New Controversial Q&A Add a Comment . More posts you may like. r/EduWriters • Why pitbulls should be banned essay.
2021-2022 Common App Prompts. Here is a list of the prompts for this cycle. While they are largely unchanged, Prompt #4 is different this year (which is kind of a big deal, considering that the prompts have been the same since 2017). Prompt #1: Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe ...
Which AI writing models can Turnitin's technology detect? 2. Which model is Turnitin's AI detection model based on? 3. Is your current model able to detect GPT-4 generated text? 4. How will Turnitin be future-proofing for advanced versions of GPT and other large language models yet to emerge? 5.
This prompt has long been a Common App favorite, largely because it offers students a great deal of flexibility. ... The UC Personal Insight Questions 2021-2022: How to Write Every UC Essay; How to Write the Harvard University Supplemental Essays: The Elite Guide;