I confess: I love the Common App prompts 2022-22. They’re identical to last year’s, and have been nearly the same for the last nine years. The previous prompts were so lifeless and dry that students needed OTHER prompts to inspire them.
As a coach for 12 years, I’ve seen the prompts evolve. Nine years ago they changed dramatically. Every year, the list is studied and analyzed by colleges and the Common App Organization. Fortunately, the consensus is last year’s list of prompts work well. They make it (relatively) easy for students produce a personal statement that conveys valuable information about who they are.
There are 7 Common App essay prompts. Applicants need to CHOOSE ONE and write an essay that’s 250 to 650 words. As intimating as this feels before you do it, once you start writing, you might feel you won’t have enough room! But it’s better to write long than not write enough.
Many students are drawn to #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.
While #7 looks great at first glance — Hey, I can do anything I want! — that has a downside.
With #7, you have no guiding structure. That idea is great if you want to write a short story, a poem, or a piece of experimental prose. No rules, no outlines, nothing that’s required. But the absence of guidance can often lead to freezing up, shutting down, not knowing where to start. Too many choices.
The other — with the except of #1 — offer real structure and intention. Those can be helpful in choosing a topic, knowing where to start, and what to say next.
Look for Outlines in the Common App Essay Prompts 2022-23
Most prompts are made up of three sections that you should focus on; think of it as a 3-act play. In the list below, I have underlined each section. Prompts #4 and #5 are more before and after stories.
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.
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?
Reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea. What prompted your thinking? What was the outcome?
Reflect on something that someone has done for you that has made you happy or thankful in a surprising way. How has this gratitude affected or motivated you? (BEFORE AND AFTER STORY)
Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others. (BEFORE AND AFTER STORY)
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.