Updated February 2017
The Common Application is a website that allows over 2 million students to apply to over 480 colleges each year, using one platform. It requires one general Common App essay that is then sent to any colleges using the app that require/request it. Students chose from seven different prompts to write this one essay, which needs to be between 250 and 650 words. This word length should be sufficient for most students and most topics, but be aware of the application cutting off the bottom of your essay if you’re copying and pasting it from Word.
Common Application Instructions and Prompts
Instructions: The essay demonstrates your ability to write clearly and concisely on a selected topic and helps you distinguish yourself in your own voice. What do you want the readers of your application to know about you apart from courses, grades, and test scores?
Choose the option that best helps you answer that question and write an essay of no more than 650 words, using the prompt to inspire and structure your response. Remember: 650 words is your limit, not your goal. Use the full range if you need it, but don’t feel obligated to do so. (The application won’t accept a response shorter than 250 words.)
2017-2018 Common Application Essay Prompts
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. [No change]
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? [Revised]
3. Reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea. What prompted your thinking? What was the outcome? [Revised]
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. [No change]
5. Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others. [Revised]
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? [New]
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. [New]
Students will generally need to write one college essay for the Common Application, three for the Apply Texas Application, and sometimes one or two more for a private college or supplement. That’s why it is extremely important to begin writing these college essays during the summer before senior year.
My professional recommendation is to create a college list during Spring of junior year. Using that list, you can research which essays are required. Students should write these college essays over the summer, and always, always, get someone to proofread them. Here’s my To- Do List for Juniors.
This will result in students being ready to submit the applications at the beginning of senior year. Senior year is already a busy time, with classes starting, football season, yearbook pictures and more! Students have can get ahead of the college admissions game by preparing early and usually much more relaxed and confident.
Brand College Consulting helps students with the college essays through packages or hourly. Students can also prepare ahead of time by attending one of our Summer College Prep Camps. During this one week camp, students are guided through the essays and application for the Apply Texas colleges, but the online assistance can be used for other college essays as well.
Please use the Contact Form to inquire about more information.
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