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.
Want to read more?
Are You Managing or Controlling Your Child’s College Plans? A short, 5 question quiz to help you better understand your parenting style.
When Should You Submit Those College Applications? A review of Early Decision, Early Action, Regular, and Rolling Admissions.
What NOT To Write About in College Essays: 6 Bad Topics for College Admissions
Quiz: Is Your Teen Ready for College?
Filed Under: College Advice, Essays, For JuniorsTagged With: college admissions, college advice, college applications, college consultant, college counselor, Common App, Common App essay, Common App essays, Common Applicaiton, essays
Some Tips to Consider:
Here is a tip directly from UT Austin:
“Leadership can be demonstrated by positions you hold as an officer in a club or organization, but other types of leadership are important too. Leaders can emerge in various situations at any given time, including outside of the school experience. Please share a brief description of the type of leadership qualities you possess, from school and non-school related experiences, including demonstrations of leadership in your job, your community, or within your family responsibilities, and then share how you hope to demonstrate leadership as a member of our campus community.”
The most effective way to respond to this prompt is to split it into two parts. Part 1 should concern your experience with leadership or cultivating a leadership skill. Part 2 should directly respond to Part 1 by analyzing how the identified skill will apply directly to a campus group or community at UT Austin.
For example, you could begin by describing your experience volunteering or tutoring at a local elementary school. Instead of simply saying you were “a leader” to the younger kids, focus on describing the types of qualities you learned and how. If the kids often struggled with paying attention or staying on task, you could explain how you learned to temper expectations, be patient, and interact with a cool head. When the kids recognized how patient and composed you were, they adopted the same demeanor when solving problems and improved drastically. You could even go in-depth about particular moments or instances in which you learned a certain skill or developed a leadership quality. Further, you can also discuss what leadership means to you, potentially touching on the types of qualities you value in a leader.
Following your anecdote, you can specifically show how your leadership qualities will be used at UT Austin. For example, if you are interested in leading outreach projects in local Austin communities or even other countries, you can explain how the quality of “patience” will come in handy when convincing organizations to let you work with them. If you do a mission trip in another country, patience is often crucial for forming relationships and overcoming social or linguistic barriers, as well. The point of this example is to show how clearly you must organize the response and how the specific quality you discuss in your personal anecdote must also motivate your application to UT Austin.