Students don’t need to submit their college applications until fall, but they will have plenty of time to look over the new prompts for the Common Application, which were recently released by the organization. The prompts are very similar to those of recent years, with a few notable exceptions. There are 2 more choices, and several of the “old” prompts have been refined. I think they are terrific questions and they will elicit revealing answers from students. The word limit is still 650.
If your next question is: “Should I start writing my essay now?” the answer is NO. But isn’t it good to get a head start? In general, yes, but in this area, I’d suggest waiting at least until June. Why? My experience is that if you write your essay too early, by the time you actually work on your applications in earnest, you’ll have moved beyond the topic you chose and want to write something else. After all, you have five to eight months of life experience between now and the time you press SEND. And don’t worry: you’ll get it done with plenty of time left over even if you start in June or July or August. But don’t wait until the last minute.
My advice for now: Look at the questions. See if any of them leap out at you. File them away for the time being. In the meantime, do some reading and writing on your own. What to read? The New York Times will give you spot-on lessons in clarity and precise writing. The New Yorker will entertain and enlighten you with excellent writing, wit, fascinating subjects including science and technology, CARTOONS, poetry, fiction, and profiles of the most interesting people around.
If you want to talk about the essay process – whether it’s the Common App essay or the supplements, the University of California essays or those for MIT – please shoot me an email or give me a call. Liz@DontSweatTheEssay.com 1-855-99-ESSAY. I’m on the East Coast and work with students around the world on Skype and Google Docs.
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]