1. Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.
2. The lessons we take from failure can be fundamental to later success. Recount an incident or time when you experienced failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience?
3. Reflect on a time when you challenged a belief or idea. What prompted you to act? Would you make the same decision again?
4. Describe a problem you've solved or a problem you'd like to solve. It can be an intellectual challenge, a research query, an ethical dilemma-anything that is of personal importance, no matter the scale. Explain its significance to you and what steps you took or could be taken to identify a solution.
5. Discuss an accomplishment or event, formal or informal, that marked your transition from childhood to adulthood within your culture, community, or family.
Writing the Common Application essay will bring authenticity to your application and allow the admission officers to learn who you are. You need to make sure this happens. So just how should you start writing your Common Application essay?
Here are some suggestions we recommend to help you in writing your Common Application essay where you can stand out:
I think your nephew’s experience with the Common App essay is instructive. He, by your admission, did a poor job the first time around with Topic of Your Choice despite being a good writer. It was only after some instruction and guidance from you that he produced a solid, focused piece of writing. So, I would argue it is not the prompt itself that promotes or lends itself to a well written essay but rather it is a combination of a student with good writing skills who is tutored on what admissions folks expect in that section.
The Common Application essay topics are out.
College Essay Advisors Founder and Chief Advisor, Stacey Brook, walks you through everything you need to know about the first prompt for the 2016-2017 Common Application. Learn what this prompt is really asking, and discover some key tricks and strategies for picking the perfect topic. Writing about your background, identity, interests, or talents doesn't have to be intimidating! For more tips and advice on the Common App essays:
- Check out our guide to all the 2016-2017 prompts:
- Watch our tutorial on writing a Common App Personal Statement:
- Get more info or talk to a personal advisor at
- Stay tuned for more information on the other prompts, coming soon!