If you are using the Common App to apply for college admission in , you will have — words to respond to ONE of the following 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. Recount a time when you faced a challenge, setback, or failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience? What prompted your thinking? What was the outcome? 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. 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.
Admissions officers want to feel connected to you and an honest, personal statement about who you are draws them in. Your love of superheroes, baking chops, or family history are all fair game if you can tie it back to who you are or what you believe in. Prompt 2: Learning from obstacles.
You're trying to show colleges your best self, so it might seem counterintuitive to willingly acknowledge a time you struggled. But overcoming challenges demonstrates courage, grit, and perseverance! The obstacle you write about can be large or small, but you must show the admissions committee how your perspective changed as a result.
Prompt 3: Challenging a belief. Your answer to this question could focus on a time you stood up to others or an experience when your own preconceived view was challenged. Often it could be describing a person who shared great advice, or even a book or piece of artwork that shaped your world view.
Consider a mundane topic. An essay doesn't have to be about a life-changing event to be interesting. Sometimes the simple things in life will give the reader insight into who you are. Dos and Donts of writing college essays Do Tell an engaging story with clear focus. Show your personality. The best essays reveal something about the writer's passions and personality.
For example, a thoughtful essay on the most difficult time in your life tells admissions reps more about you than a list of honors you've achieved. Proofread your work, or better yet, ask someone else to read it through. It's very hard to proofread your own work. Ask for constructive feedback. See if a parent, teacher, counselor, or other trusted advisor will read your essay and share practical advice to improve upon it. Show me, don't tell me who you are.
For example, don't tell me that you're an empathetic person. When I was eight, I stood in the heart of Piazza San Marco feeding hordes of pigeons, then glided down Venetian waterways on sleek gondolas.
At thirteen, I saw the ancient, megalithic structure of Stonehenge and walked along the Great Wall of China, amazed that the thousand-year-old stones were still in place.
It was through exploring cultures around the world that I first became interested in language. It began with French, which taught me the importance of pronunciation. I remember once asking a store owner in Paris where Rue des Pyramides was. In the eighth grade, I became fascinated with Spanish and aware of its similarities with English through cognates.
This was incredible to me as it made speech and comprehension more fluid, and even today I find that cognates come to the rescue when I forget how to say something in Spanish.
Then, in high school, I developed an enthusiasm for Chinese. As I studied Chinese at my school, I marveled how if just one stroke was missing from a character, the meaning is lost.
I love spending hours at a time practicing the characters and I can feel the beauty and rhythm as I form them. Interestingly, after studying foreign languages, I was further intrigued by my native tongue. Through my love of books and fascination with developing a sesquipedalian lexicon learning big words , I began to expand my English vocabulary.
Studying the definitions prompted me to inquire about their origins, and suddenly I wanted to know all about etymology, the history of words. My freshman year I took a world history class and my love for history grew exponentially. To me, history is like a great novel, and it is especially fascinating because it took place in my own world. But the best dimension that language brought to my life is interpersonal connection.
When I speak with people in their native language, I find I can connect with them on a more intimate level. I want to study foreign language and linguistics in college because, in short, it is something that I know I will use and develop for the rest of my life. I will never stop traveling, so attaining fluency in foreign languages will only benefit me. In the future, I hope to use these skills as the foundation of my work, whether it is in international business, foreign diplomacy, or translation.
Smeared blood, shredded feathers. Clearly, the bird was dead. But wait, the slight fluctuation of its chest, the slow blinking of its shiny black eyes. No, it was alive. I had been typing an English essay when I heard my cat's loud meows and the flutter of wings. I had turned slightly at the noise and had found the barely breathing bird in front of me. The shock came first. Mind racing, heart beating faster, blood draining from my face. I instinctively reached out my hand to hold it, like a long-lost keepsake from my youth.
But then I remembered that birds had life, flesh, blood. Dare I say it out loud? Here, in my own home? Within seconds, my reflexes kicked in. Get over the shock. Gloves, napkins, towels. How does one heal a bird? I rummaged through the house, keeping a wary eye on my cat. Donning yellow rubber gloves, I tentatively picked up the bird.
Never mind the cat's hissing and protesting scratches, you need to save the bird. You need to ease its pain. But my mind was blank. I stroked the bird with a paper towel to clear away the blood, see the wound. The wings were crumpled, the feet mangled. A large gash extended close to its jugular rendering its breathing shallow, unsteady. The rising and falling of its small breast slowed. Was the bird dying? No, please, not yet. Why was this feeling so familiar, so tangible? The long drive, the green hills, the white church, the funeral.
The Chinese mass, the resounding amens, the flower arrangements. Me, crying silently, huddled in the corner. The Hsieh family huddled around the casket. So many apologies. The body. Kari Hsieh. Still familiar, still tangible. Hugging Mrs. Hsieh, I was a ghost, a statue. My brain and my body competed. Emotion wrestled with fact.
Kari was dead, I thought. But I could still save the bird.
My brain and my body competed. The program. When did you become interested in the field and why? When he reveals each lesson at the end, one after the other, we sense how all these seemingly random events are connected. By now you know exactly what you will write about and how you want to tell the story. Brainstorm Get your creative juices flowing by brainstorming all the possible ideas you can think of to address your college essay question.
This past summer, I took a month-long course on human immunology at Stanford University. Suddenly I started scratching my neck, feeling the hives that had started to form. I rushed to the restroom to throw up because my throat was itchy and I felt a weight on my chest. If this sounds like you, then please share your story. Use humor if appropriate. A single grammatical error or typo could indicate carelessness—not a trait you want to convey to a college admission officer.
Sometimes the simple things in life will give the reader insight into who you are. With this in mind: Do assure your audience that you understand and look forward to the challenges of the program and the field, not just the benefits. You can even write your own question! Even if undertaken on a full-time basis, you will be committing several years of your life to a process with no certain outcome. It was their lack of passion that led me to my educational goals.
You may want to start by just getting something—anything—on paper. See if a parent, teacher, counselor, or other trusted advisor will read your essay and share practical advice to improve upon it. This is post-secondary education and you are not entirely sure you can handle it. The wings were crumpled, the feet mangled. Check every sentence and punctuation mark.
If you are having trouble, ask a friend or relative to make a list of your strengths or unique qualities that you plan to read on your own and not argue about immediately. I stroked the bird with a paper towel to clear away the blood, see the wound. Admissions officers have seen it all. Describe a topic, idea, or concept you find so engaging that it makes you lose all track of time. Don't just say your mission to Guatemala opened your eyes and leave it at that; describe how working with orphaned children really changed your perspective on Western life and why.
Dig into your topic by asking yourself how and why. Then, in high school, I developed an enthusiasm for Chinese. As I studied Chinese at my school, I marveled how if just one stroke was missing from a character, the meaning is lost. We have tons—tons— here , including lots of real-world examples!
The truth is, I was always jealous of my brother. Application Essays What this handout is about This handout will help you write and revise the personal statement required by many graduate programs, internships, and special academic programs. But my mind was blank. Proofread Once satisfied with your revised college admissions essay, it's time to proofread for clarity, spelling, and grammar. For example, don't tell me that you're an empathetic person.
Total essay is now words. Gloves, napkins, towels. As a general rule of thumb though, try to stay as close to words as possible without going too far over or under.