2018-19 Common application essay prompts tips, samples trichomoniasis in women

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.

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?


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.

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.

Here, again, the Common Application gives you a lot of options for approaching the question. With the ability to write about an intellectual challenge, a research query, an ethical dilemma, you can essentially write about any issue that you find important. Note that you do not have to have solved the problem, and some of the best essays will explore problems that need to be solved in the future. Be careful with that opening word describe–you’ll want to spend much more time analyzing the problem than describing it. This essay prompt, like all of the options, is asking you to be introspective and share with the admissions folks what it is that you value.

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 actual 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 my list of bad essay topics). 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.

This option is entirely new for 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.

The popular topic of your choice option had been removed from the Common Application between 2013 and 2016, but it’s now back again for 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.

Some Final Thoughts: 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, and they don’t spend 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.