Writing Rules: Don't Be Common On Your Common App Essay

Hot off the presses! The Common Application just announced the 2017-2018 Essay Prompts. 

The Common App Essay demonstrates a student's ability to write clearly and concisely on a selected topic and helps them distinguish themselves in their own voice. What do students want the readers of their application to know about them apart from courses, grades, and test scores? Students can choose the option that best helps them answer that question and write an essay of no more than 650 words, using the prompt to inspire and structure their response. Remember: 650 words is the limit, not the goal. Students should use the full range if they need it, but should not 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]