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How to Write the Common Application Essays 2023-2024 (With Examples)

The Common App essay is one of the most important parts of your application, but it can be extremely daunting if you’re not familiar with creative writing or what admissions officers are looking for.

In this blog post, we’ll provide advice on how to break down these prompts, organize your thoughts, and craft a strong, meaningful response that admissions officers will notice. If you’d like more free personalized help, you can get your essays reviewed and explore school-by-school essay help on CollegeVine.

Why the Common App Essay Matters

Admissions is a human process. While admissions committees look at grades, test scores, and extracurriculars, there are five students that have great qualifications in those areas for every spot in a university’s class. As an applicant, you need an admissions counselor to choose you over everyone else — to advocate specifically for you. 

This is where essays come in; they are an opportunity for you to turn an admissions counselor into an advocate for your application! Of your essays, the Common App is the most important since it is seen by most of the colleges to which you apply. It is also your longest essay, which gives you more space to craft a narrative and share your personality, feelings, and perspective.

It’s not hyperbole to say that getting the Common App essay right is the single most important thing you can do to improve your chances of admission as a senior. 

Overview of the Common App

The Common App essay is the best way for admissions committees to get to know you. While SAT scores, your past course load, and your grades provide a quantitative picture of you as a student, the Common App essay offers adcoms a refreshing glimpse into your identity and personality. For this reason, try to treat the essay as an opportunity to tell colleges why you are unique and what matters to you.

Since your Common App essay will be seen by numerous colleges, you will want to paint a portrait of yourself that is accessible to a breadth of institutions and admissions officers (for example, if you are only applying to engineering programs at some schools, don’t focus your Common App on STEM at the expense of your other applications — save that for your supplemental essays).

In short, be open and willing to write about a topic you love, whether it is sports, music, politics, food, or watching movies. The Common App essay is more of a conversation than a job interview.

What Makes a Great Common App Essay?

A great Common App essay is, first and foremost, deeply personal. You are relying on the admissions committee to choose you over someone else, which they are more likely to do if they feel a personal connection to you. In your essay, you should delve into your feelings, how you think about situations/problems, and how you make decisions.

Good essays also usually avoid cliche topics . A couple overdone themes include an immigrant’s journey (particularly if you’re Asian American), and a sports accomplishment or injury. It’s not that these topics are bad, but rather that many students write about these subjects, so they don’t stand out as much. Of course, some students are able to write a genuine and unique essay about one of these topics, but it’s hard to pull off. You’re better off writing about more nuanced aspects of your identity!

You should also, of course, pay close attention to your grammar and spelling, use varied sentence structure and word choice, and be consistent with your tone/writing style. Take full advantage of the available 650 words, as writing less tends to mean missed opportunities.

Finally, it’s a good practice to be aware of your audience – know who you are writing for! For example, admissions officers at BYU will probably be very religious, while those at Oberlin will be deeply committed to social justice.

See some examples of great Common App essays to get a better idea of what makes a strong essay.

How your Common App Essay Fits with Your Other Essays

The Common App is one part of a portfolio of essays that you send to colleges, along with supplemental essays at individual colleges. With all of your essays for a particular college, you want to create a narrative and tell different parts of your story. So, the topics you write about should be cohesive and complementary, but not repetitive or overlapping. 

Before jumping in to write your Common App essay, you should think about the other schools that you’re writing essays for and make sure that you have a strategy for your entire portfolio of essays and cover different topics for each. If you have strong qualifications on paper for the colleges you are targeting, the best narratives tend to humanize you. If you have weaker qualifications on paper for your colleges, the best narratives tend to draw out your passion for the topics or fields of study that are of interest to you and magnify your accomplishments. 

Strategy for Writing the Common App Essays

Because the Common App essay is 650 words long and has few formal directions, organizing a response might seem daunting. Fortunately, at CollegeVine, we’ve developed a straightforward approach to formulating strong, unique responses.

This section outlines how to: 1) Brainstorm , 2) Organize , and 3) Write a Common App essay.

Before reading the prompts, brainstorming is a critical exercise to develop high-level ideas. One way to construct a high-level idea would be to delve into a passion and focus on how you interact with the concept or activity. For example, using “creative writing” as a high-level idea, one could stress their love of world-building, conveying complex emotions, and depicting character interactions, emphasizing how writing stems from real-life experiences.

A different idea that doesn’t involve an activity would be to discuss how your personality has developed in relation to your family; maybe one sibling is hot-headed, the other quiet, and you’re in the middle as the voice of reason (or maybe you’re the hot-head). These are simply two examples of infinitely many ideas you could come up with.

To begin developing your own high-level ideas, you can address these Core Four questions that all good Common App essays should answer:

  • “Who Am I?”
  • “Why Am I Here?”
  • “What is Unique About Me?”
  • “What Matters to Me?”

The first question focuses on your personality traits — who you are. The second question targets your progression throughout high school (an arc or journey). The third question is more difficult to grasp, but it involves showing why your personality traits, methods of thinking, areas of interest, and tangible skills form a unique combination. The fourth question is a concluding point that can be answered simply, normally in the conclusion paragraph, i.e., “Running matters to me” or “Ethical fashion matters to me.”

You can brainstorm freeform or start with a specific prompt in mind.

Sometimes, it can be helpful to start by jotting down the 3-5 aspects of your personality or experiences you’ve had on a piece of paper. Play around with narratives that are constructed out of different combinations of these essential attributes before settling on a prompt. 

For example, you might note that you are fascinated by environmental justice, have had success in Model Congress, and are now working with a local politician to create a recycling program in your school district. You may also have tried previous initiatives that failed. These experiences could be constructed and applied to a number of Common App prompts. You could address a specific identity or interest you have associated with public advocacy, discuss what you learned from your failed initiatives, explore how you challenged the lack of recycling at your school, fantasize about solving waste management issues, etc. 

Selecting a prompt that you identify with

For example, consider the following prompt: 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?

Perhaps you had been a dedicated and active member of your school’s debate team until one of your parents lost their jobs, leaving you unable to afford the high membership and travel dues. You decided to help out by getting a job after school, and responded to your familial hardship with grace and understanding (as opposed to anger). A few months later, and after speaking with your former debate coach and your parents, you set up a system to save up for your own trips so that you could still participate in debate!

In general, the most common mistake CollegeVine sees with Common App essays is that they aren’t deeply personal. Your essay should be specific enough that it could be identified as yours even if your name wasn’t attached. 

If you get stuck, don’t worry! This is very common as the Common App is often the first personal essay college applicants have ever written. One way of getting unstuck if you feel like you aren’t getting creative or personal enough is to keep asking yourself “why”

For example: I love basketball…

  • Because I like having to think on the fly and be creative while running our offense.

It can often help to work with someone and bounce ideas off them. Teachers are often a bad idea – they tend to think of essays in an academic sense, which is to say they often fail to apply the admissions context. Further, it is unlikely that they know you well enough to provide valuable insight. Friends in your own year can be a good idea because they know you, but you should be careful about competitive pressures applying within the same high school. Older friends, siblings, or neighbors who have successfully navigated the admissions process at your target universities (or good universities) strike that medium between no longer being competitive with you for admissions but still being able to help you brainstorm well because they know you.

Overall, there is no single “correct” topic. Your essay will be strong as long as you are comfortable and passionate about your idea and it answers the Core Four questions.

Common App essays are not traditional five-paragraph essays. You are free to be creative in structure, employ dialogue, and use vivid descriptions—and you should! Make sure that context and logic are inherent in your essay, however. From paragraph to paragraph, sentence to sentence, your ideas should be clear and flow naturally. Great ways to ensure this are using a story arc following a few major points, or focusing on cause and effect.

The traditional approach

This involves constructing a narrative out of your experiences and writing a classic personal essay. You are free to be creative in structure, employ dialogue, and use vivid descriptions—and you should! Make sure that context and logic are inherent in your essay, however. From paragraph to paragraph, sentence to sentence, your ideas should be clear and flow naturally. Great ways to ensure this are using a story arc following a few major points, or focusing on cause and effect.

The creative approach

Some students prefer to experiment with an entirely new approach to the personal essay. For example, a student who is passionate about programming could write their essay in alternating lines of Binary and English. A hopeful Literature major could reimagine a moment in their life as a chapter of War and Peace, adopting Tolstoy’s writing style. Or, you could write about a fight with your friend in the form of a third person sports recap to both highlight your interest in journalism and reveal a personal story. Creative essays are incredibly risky and difficult to pull off. However, a creative essay that is well executed may also have the potential for high reward.

Your Common App essay must display excellent writing in terms of grammar and sentence structure. The essay doesn’t need to be a Shakespearean masterpiece, but it should be well-written and clear.

A few tips to accomplish this are:

  • Show, don’t tell
  • Be specific
  • Choose active voice, not passive voice
  • Avoid clichés
  • Write in a tone that aligns with your goals for the essay. For example, if you are a heavy STEM applicant hoping to use your Common App essay to humanize your application, you will be undermined by writing in a brusque, harsh tone.

“Show, don’t tell” is vital to writing an engaging essay, and this is the point students struggle with most.  Instead of saying, “I struggled to make friends when I transferred schools,” you can show your emotions by writing, “I scanned the bustling school cafeteria, feeling more and more forlorn with each unfamiliar face. I found an empty table and ate my lunch alone.”

In many cases, writing can include more specific word choice . For example, “As a kid, I always played basketball,” can be improved to be “Every day after school as a kid, I ran home, laced up my sneakers, and shot a basketball in my driveway until the sun went down and I could barely see.”

To use active voice over passive voice , be sure that your sentence’s subject performs the action indicated by the verb, rather than the action performing onto the subject. Instead of writing “this project was built by my own hands,” you would say “I built this project with my own hands.”

Finally, avoid clichés like adages, sayings, and quotes that do not bring value to your essay. Examples include phrases like “Be the change you wish to see in the world” (it’s also important to know that sayings like these are often seriously misquoted—Gandhi did not actually utter these words) and lavish claims like “it was the greatest experience of my life.”

A few tips for the writing (and re-writing!) process

  • If you have enough time, write a 950 word version of your personal statement first and then cut it down to the official word limit of 650. In many cases, the extra writing you do for this draft will contain compelling content. Using this, you can carve out the various sections and information that allow you to tell your story best. 
  • Revise your draft 3-5 times. Any more, you are probably overthinking and overanalyzing. Any less, you are not putting in the work necessary to optimize your Common App essay.
  • It can be easy for you to get lost in your words after reading and rereading, writing and rewriting. It is best to have someone else do your final proofread to help you identify typos or sentences that are unclear.

Deciding on a Prompt

This section provides insights and examples for each of the 7 Common App essay prompts for the 2023-2024 cycle. Each of these prompts lends itself to distinct topics and strategies, so selecting the prompt that best aligns with your idea is essential to writing an effective Common App essay.

Here are this year’s prompts (click the link to jump to the specific prompt):

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, discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others., 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..

This prompt offers an opportunity to engage with your favorite extracurricular or academic subject, and it allows you to weave a narrative that displays personal growth in that area. An essay that displays your personality and a unique interest can be attention-grabbing, particularly if you have an unconventional passion, such as blogging about Chinese basketball or unicycling.

Don’t feel intimidated if you don’t have a passion that is immediately “unique,” however. Even an interest like “arctic scuba diving” will fail as an essay topic if it’s not written with insight and personality. Instead of attempting to impress the Admissions Officer by making up unusual or shocking things, think about how you spend your free time and ask yourself why you spend it that way. Also think about your upbringing, identity, and experiences and ask yourself, “What has impacted me in a meaningful way?”

Here Are A Few Response Examples:

Background – A person’s background includes experiences, training, education, and culture. You can discuss the experience of growing up, interacting with family, and how relationships have molded who you are. A background can include long-term interactions with arts, music, sciences, sports, writing, and many other learned skills. Background also includes your social environments and how they’ve influenced your perception. In addition, you can highlight intersections between multiple backgrounds and show how each is integral to you.

One student wrote about how growing up in a poor Vietnamese immigrant family inspired her to seize big opportunities, even if they were risky or challenging. She describes the emotional demand of opening and running a family grocery store. (Note: Names have been changed to protect the identity of the author and subjects in all the examples.)

The callouses on my mother’s hands formed during the years spent scaling fish at the  market in Go Noi, Vietnam. My mother never finished her formal education because she  labored on the streets to help six others survive. Her calloused hands not only scaled fish, they  also slaved over the stove, mustering a meal from the few items in the pantry. This image  resurfaces as I watch my mother’s calloused hands wipe her sweat-beaded forehead while she  manages the family business, compiling resources to provide for the family. 

Living in an impoverished region of Vietnam pushed my parents to emigrate. My two  year-old memory fails me, but my mother vividly recounts my frightened eyes staring up at her on my first plane ride. With life packed into a single suitcase, my mother’s heart, though,  trembled more than mine. Knowing only a few words of English, my mother embarked on a  journey shrouded in a haze of uncertainty. 

Our initial year in America bore an uncanny resemblance to Vietnam – from making one  meal last the entire day to wearing the same four shirts over and over again. Through thin walls, I  heard my parents debating their decision to come to the United States, a land where they knew  no one. My grandparents’ support came in half-hearted whispers cracking through long-distance  phone calls. My dad’s scanty income barely kept food on the table. We lived on soup and rice for  what seemed an interminable time. 

However, an opportunity knocked on my parents’ door: a grocery store in the town of  Decatur, Mississippi, was up for rent. My parents took the chance, risking all of their savings.  To help my parents, I spent most of my adolescent afternoons stocking shelves, mopping floors,  and even translating. My parents’ voices wavered when speaking English; through every attempt to communicate with their customers, a language barrier forged a palpable presence in each  transaction. My parents’ spirits faltered as customers grew impatient. A life of poverty awaited us in Vietnam if the business was not successful. 

On the first day, the business brought in only twenty dollars. Twenty dollars. My mother and my father wept after they closed the shop. Seeing the business as a failure, my mom commenced her packing that night; returning to Vietnam seemed inevitable. 

The next business day, however, sales increased ten-fold. More and more customers  came each successive day. My mom’s tears turned into—well, more tears, but they were tears of  joy. My mother unpacked a bag each night. 

Fifteen years later, my parents now own Blue Bear Grocery. My parents work, work,  work to keep the shelves stocked and the customers coming. The grocery store holds a special  place in my heart: it is the catalyst for my success. My parents serve as my role-models, teaching  me a new lesson with every can placed on the shelf. One lesson that resurfaces is the importance  of pursuing a formal education, something that my parents never had the chance of. 

When the opportunity to attend the Mississippi School for Mathematics and Science  (MSMS) presented itself, I took it and ran, as did my parents by leaving Vietnam and by buying  the store. Although I am not managing hundreds of products, I am managing hundreds of  assignments at MSMS – from Mu Alpha Theta tutoring to lab reports to student government to British literature. 

Had I not immigrated, my hands would be calloused from the tight grip of the knife  scaling fish rather than from the tight grip on my pencil. My hands would be calloused from scrubbing my clothes covered in fish scales rather than from long hours spent typing a research paper. 

Although the opportunities that my parents and I pursued are different, our journey is  essentially the same: we walk a road paved with uncertainty and doubt with the prospect of success fortified by our hearts and our hands.

Identity – this can mean racial identity, sexual orientation, gender, or simply one’s place within a specific community (even communities as unique as, say, players of World of Warcraft). With the topic of racial identity, it’s important to remember the audience (college admissions counselors often lean progressive politically), so this might not be the best place to make sweeping claims about today’s state of race relations. However, reflecting on how your culture has shaped your experiences can make for a compelling essay. Alternatively, focusing on a dominant personality trait can also make for a compelling theme. For example, if you’re extremely outgoing, you could explain how your adventurousness has allowed you to learn from a diverse group of friends and the random situations you find yourself in. One important thing to note: the topic of identity can easily lack originality if you cover a common experience such as feeling divided between cultures, or coming out. If such experiences are integral to who you are, you should still write about them, but be sure to show us your unique introspection and reflection.

One student detailed how growing up as an American in Germany led to feelings of displacement. Moving to America in high school only exacerbated her feelings of rootlessness. Her transcultural experiences, however, allowed her to relate to other “New Americans,” particularly refugees. Helping a young refugee girl settle into the US eventually helped the writer find home in America as well:

Growing up, I always wanted to eat, play, visit, watch, and be it all: sloppy joes and spaetzle, Beanie Babies and Steiff, Cape Cod and the Baltic Sea, football and fussball, American and German. 

My American parents relocated our young family to Berlin when I was three years old. My exposure to America was limited to holidays spent stateside and awfully dubbed Disney Channel broadcasts. As the few memories I had of living in the US faded, my affinity for Germany grew. I began to identify as “Germerican,” an ideal marriage of the two cultures. As a child, I viewed my biculturalism as a blessing. I possessed a native fluency in “Denglisch” and my family’s Halloween parties were legendary at a time when the holiday was just starting to gain popularity outside of the American Sector. 

Insidiously, the magic I once felt in loving two homes was replaced by a deep­rooted sense of rootlessness. I stopped feeling American when, while discussing World War II with my grandmother, I said “the US won.” She corrected me, insisting I use “we” when referring to the US’s actions. Before then, I hadn’t realized how directly people associated themselves with their countries. I stopped feeling German during the World Cup when my friends labeled me a “bandwagon fan” for rooting for Germany. Until that moment, my cheers had felt sincere. I wasn’t part of the “we” who won World Wars or World Cups. Caught in a twilight of foreign and familiar, I felt emotionally and psychologically disconnected from the two cultures most familiar to me. 

After moving from Berlin to New York state at age fifteen, my feelings of cultural homelessness thrived in my new environment. Looking and sounding American furthered my feelings of dislocation. Border patrol agents, teachers, classmates, neighbors, and relatives all “welcomed me home” to a land they could not understand was foreign to me. Americans confused me as I relied on Urban Dictionary to understand my peers, the Pledge of Allegiance seemed nationalistic, and the only thing familiar about Fahrenheit was the German after whom it was named. Too German for America and too American for Germany, I felt alienated from both. I wanted desperately to be a member of one, if not both, cultures. 

During my first weeks in Buffalo, I spent my free time googling “Berlin Family Seeks Teen” and “New Americans in Buffalo.” The latter search proved most fruitful: I discovered New Hope, a nonprofit that empowers resettled refugees, or “New Americans,” to thrive. I started volunteering with New Hope’s children’s programs, playing with and tutoring young refugees. 

It was there that I met Leila, a twelve-­year-­old Iraqi girl who lived next to Hopeprint. In between games and snacks, Leila would ask me questions about American life, touching on everything from Halloween to President Obama. Gradually, my confidence in my American identity grew as I recognized my ability to answer most of her questions. American culture was no longer completely foreign to me. I found myself especially qualified to work with young refugees; my experience growing up in a country other than that of my parents’ was similar enough to that of the refugee children New Hope served that I could empathize with them and offer advice. Together, we worked through conflicting allegiances, homesickness, and stretched belonging. 

Forging a special, personal bond with young refugees proved a cathartic outlet for my insecurities as it taught me to value my past. My transculturalism allowed me to help young refugees integrate into American life, and, in doing so, I was able to adjust myself. Now, I have an appreciation of myself that I never felt before. “Home” isn’t the digits in a passport or ZIP code but a sense of contentedness. By helping a young refugee find comfort, happiness, and home in America, I was finally able to find those same things for myself.

The above essay was written by Lydia Schooler, a graduate of Yale University and one of our CollegeVine advisors. If you enjoyed this essay and are looking for expert college essay and admissions advice, consider booking a session with Lydia .

Interests – Interest are basically synonymous to activities, but slightly broader (you could say that interests encompass activities); participation in an interest is often less organized than in an activity. For instance, you might consider cross country an activity, but cooking an interest. Writing about an interest is a way to highlight passions that may not come across in the rest of your application. If you’re a wrestler for example, writing about your interest in stand-up comedy would be a refreshing addition to your application. You should also feel free to use this topic to show what an important activity on your application really means to you. Keep in mind, however, that many schools will ask you to describe one of your activities in their supplemental essays (usually about 250 words), so choose strategically—you don’t want to write twice on the same thing.

Read a successful essay answering this prompt.

This prompt lends itself to consideration of what facets of your personality allow you to overcome adversity. While it’s okay to choose a relatively mundane “failure” such as not winning an award at a Model UN conference, another (perhaps more powerful) tactic is to write about a foundational failure and assess its impact on your development thereafter.

There are times in life when your foundation is uprooted. There are times when you experience failure and you want to give up since you don’t see a solution. This essay is about your response when you are destabilized and your actions when you don’t see an immediate answer.

For example, if you lost a friend due to an argument, you can analyze the positions from both sides, evaluate your decisions, and identify why you were wrong. The key is explaining your thought process and growth following the event to highlight how your thinking has changed. Did you ever admit your fault and seek to fix the problem? Have you treated others differently since then? How has the setback changed the way you view arguments and fights now? Framing the prompt in this way allows you to tackle heavier questions about ethics and demonstrate your self-awareness.

If you haven’t experienced a “big” failure, another angle to take would be to discuss smaller, repeated failures that are either linked or similar thematically. For example, if you used to stutter or get nervous in large social groups, you could discuss the steps you took to find a solution. Even if you don’t have a massive foundational challenge to write about, a recurring challenge can translate to a powerful essay topic, especially if the steps you took to overcome this repeated failure help expose your character.

One student described his ignorance of his brother’s challenges — the writer assumed that because his brother Sam was sociable, Sam  was adjusting fine to their family’s move. After an angry outburst from Sam  and a long late-night conversation, the writer realizes his need to develop greater sensitivity and empathy. He now strives to recognize and understand others’ struggles, even if they’re not immediately apparent.

“You ruined my life!” After months of quiet anger, my brother finally confronted me. To my shame, I had been appallingly ignorant of his pain.

Despite being twins, Max and I are profoundly different. Having intellectual interests from a young age that, well, interested very few of my peers, I often felt out of step in comparison with my highly-social brother. Everything appeared to come effortlessly for Max and, while we share an extremely tight bond, his frequent time away with friends left me feeling more and more alone as we grew older.

When my parents learned about The Green Academy, we hoped it would be an opportunity for me to find not only an academically challenging environment, but also – perhaps more importantly – a community. This meant transferring the family from Drumfield to Kingston. And while there was concern about Max, we all believed that given his sociable nature, moving would be far less impactful on him than staying put might be on me.

As it turned out, Green Academy was everything I’d hoped for. I was ecstatic to discover a group of students with whom I shared interests and could truly engage. Preoccupied with new friends and a rigorous course load, I failed to notice that the tables had turned. Max, lost in the fray and grappling with how to make connections in his enormous new high school, had become withdrawn and lonely. It took me until Christmas time – and a massive argument – to recognize how difficult the transition had been for my brother, let alone that he blamed me for it.

Through my own journey of searching for academic peers, in addition to coming out as gay when I was 12, I had developed deep empathy for those who had trouble fitting in. It was a pain I knew well and could easily relate to. Yet after Max’s outburst, my first response was to protest that our parents – not I – had chosen to move us here. In my heart, though, I knew that regardless of who had made the decision, we ended up in Kingston for my benefit. I was ashamed that, while I saw myself as genuinely compassionate, I had been oblivious to the heartache of the person closest to me. I could no longer ignore it – and I didn’t want to.

We stayed up half the night talking, and the conversation took an unexpected turn. Max opened up and shared that it wasn’t just about the move. He told me how challenging school had always been for him, due to his dyslexia, and that the ever-present comparison to me had only deepened his pain.

We had been in parallel battles the whole time and, yet, I only saw that Max was in distress once he experienced problems with which I directly identified. I’d long thought Max had it so easy – all because he had friends. The truth was, he didn’t need to experience my personal brand of sorrow in order for me to relate – he had felt plenty of his own.

My failure to recognize Max’s suffering brought home for me the profound universality and diversity of personal struggle; everyone has insecurities, everyone has woes, and everyone – most certainly – has pain. I am acutely grateful for the conversations he and I shared around all of this, because I believe our relationship has been fundamentally strengthened by a deeper understanding of one another. Further, this experience has reinforced the value of constantly striving for deeper sensitivity to the hidden struggles of those around me. I won’t make the mistake again of assuming that the surface of someone’s life reflects their underlying story.

This prompt is difficult to answer because most high schoolers haven’t participated in the types of iconoclastic protests against societal ills that lend themselves to an awe-inspiring response. A more tenable alternative here could be to discuss a time that you went against social norms, whether it was by becoming friends with someone who seemed like an outcast or by proudly showing off a geeky passion.

And if you ever participated in a situation in tandem with adults and found some success (i.e., by blogging, starting a tutoring organization, or participating in political campaigns), you could discuss your experiences as a young person without a college degree in professional circles. However, avoid sounding morally superior (as if you’re the only person who went against this convention, or that you’re better than your peers for doing so).

Another way to answer this prompt is to discuss a time when you noticed a need for change. For example, if you wondered why medical records are often handwritten, or why a doctor’s visit can be long and awkward, maybe you challenged the norm in healthcare by brainstorming an electronic-recording smartphone app or a telemedicine system. In a similar way, if you led a fundraiser and recognized that advertising on social media would be more effective than the traditional use of printed flyers, you could write about a topic along those lines as well. Focus on what action or experience caused you to recognize the need for change and follow with your actions and resulting outcome.

As a whole, this prompt lends itself to reflective writing, and more specifically, talking the reader through your thought processes. In many cases, the exploration of your thought processes and decision-making is more important than the actual outcome or concept in question. In short, this essay is very much about “thinking,” rumination, and inquisition. A good brainstorming exercise for this prompt would be to write your problem on a sheet of paper and then develop various solutions to the problem, including a brief reason for justification. The more thorough you are in justifying and explaining your solutions in the essay, the more compelling your response will be.

While this prompt may seem to be asking a simple question, your answer has the potential to provide deep insights about who you are to the admissions committee. Explaining what you are grateful for can show them your culture, your community, your philosophical outlook on the world, and what makes you tick. 

The first step to writing this essay is to think about the “something” and “someone” of your story. It is imperative to talk about a unique moment in your life, as the prompt asks for gratitude that came about in a surprising way. You will want to write about a story that you are certain no one else would have. To brainstorm, ask yourself: “if I told a stranger that I was grateful for what happened to me without any context, would they be surprised?” 

Note that the most common answers to this prompt involve a family member, teacher, or sports coach giving the narrator an arduous task ─ which, by the end of the story, the narrator becomes grateful for because of the lessons they learned through their hard work. Try to avoid writing an essay along these lines unless you feel that your take on it will be truly original.

Begin your essay by telling a creative story about the “something” that your “someone” did that made you thankful. Paint a picture with words here ─ establish who you were in the context of your story and make the character development of your “someone” thorough. Show the admissions committee that you have a clear understanding of yourself and the details of your world. 

Keep in mind, however, that the essay is ultimately about you and your growth. While you should set the scene clearly, don’t spend too much time talking about the “something” and “someone.”

Your story should then transition into a part about your unexpected epiphany, e.g. “Six months after Leonard gave me that pogo stick, I started to be grateful for the silly thing…” Explain the why of your gratitude as thoroughly as you can before you begin to talk about how your gratitude affected or motivated you. Have a Socratic seminar with yourself in your head ─ ask yourself, “why am I grateful for the pogo stick?” and continue asking why until you arrive at a philosophical conclusion. Perhaps your reason could be that you eventually got used to the odd looks that people gave you as you were pogoing and gained more self-confidence. 

Finally, think about how learning to be grateful for something you would not expect to bring you joy and thankfulness has had a positive impact on your life. Gaining more self-confidence, for example, could motivate you to do an infinite number of things that you were not able to attempt in the past. Try to make a conclusion by connecting this part to your story from the beginning of the essay. You want to ultimately show that had [reference to a snippet of your introduction, ideally an absurd part] never have happened, you would not be who you are today.

Remember to express these lessons implicitly through the experiences in your essay, and not explicitly. Show us your growth through the changes in your life rather than simply stating that you gained confidence. For instance, maybe the pogo stick gift led you to start a pogo dance team at your school, and the team went on to perform at large venues to raise money for charity. But before your pogo days, you had crippling stage fright and hated even giving speeches in your English class. These are the kinds of details that make your essay more engaging. 

This prompt is expansive in that you can choose any accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked personal growth or new understanding.

One option is to discuss a formal accomplishment or event (whether it is a religious ritual or social rite of passage) that reflects personal growth. If you go this route, make sure to discuss why the ritual was meaningful and how specific aspects of said ritual contributed to your personal growth. An example of this could be the meaning of becoming an Eagle Scout to you, the accomplishment of being elected to Senior Leadership, or completing a Confirmation. In the case of religious topics, however, be sure to not get carried away with details, and focus on the nature of your personal growth and new understanding — know your audience.

Alternatively, a more relaxed way to address this prompt is using an informal event or realization, which would allow you to show more personality and creativity. An example of this could be learning how to bake with your mother, thus sparking a newfound connection with her, allowing you to learn about her past. Having a long discussion about life or philosophy with your father could also suffice, thus sparking more thoughts about your identity. You could write about a realization that caused you to join a new organization or quit an activity you did not think you would enjoy, as doing so would force you to grow out of your comfort zone to try new things.

The key to answering this prompt is clearly defining what it is that sparked your growth, and then describing in detail the nature of this growth and how it related to your perception of yourself and others. This part of the essay is crucial, as you must dedicate sufficient time to not undersell the description of how you grew instead of simply explaining the experience and then saying, “I grew.” This description of how you grew must be specific, in-depth, and it does not have to be simple. Your growth can also be left open-ended if you are still learning from your experiences today.

One student wrote about how her single mother’s health crisis prompted her to quickly assume greater responsibility as a fourteen-year-old. This essay describes the new tasks she undertook, as well as how the writer now more greatly cherishes her time with her mother.

Tears streamed down my face and my mind was paralyzed with fear. Sirens blared, but the silent panic in my own head was deafening. I was muted by shock. A few hours earlier, I had anticipated a vacation in Washington, D.C., but unexpectedly, I was rushing to the hospital behind an ambulance carrying my mother. As a fourteen-year-old from a single mother household, without a driver’s license, and seven hours from home, I was distraught over the prospect of losing the only parent I had. My fear turned into action as I made some of the bravest decisions of my life. 

Three blood transfusions later, my mother’s condition was stable, but we were still states away from home, so I coordinated with my mother’s doctors in North Carolina to schedule the emergency operation that would save her life. Throughout her surgery, I anxiously awaited any word from her surgeon, but each time I asked, I was told that there had been another complication or delay. Relying on my faith and positive attitude, I remained optimistic that my mother would survive and that I could embrace new responsibilities.

My mother had been a source of strength for me, and now I would be strong for her through her long recovery ahead. As I started high school, everyone thought the crisis was over, but it had really just started to impact my life. My mother was often fatigued, so I assumed more responsibility, juggling family duties, school, athletics, and work. I made countless trips to the neighborhood pharmacy, cooked dinner, biked to the grocery store, supported my concerned sister, and provided the loving care my mother needed to recover. I didn’t know I was capable of such maturity and resourcefulness until it was called upon. Each day was a stage in my gradual transformation from dependence to relative independence.

Throughout my mother’s health crisis, I matured by learning to put others’ needs before my own. As I worried about my mother’s health, I took nothing for granted, cherished what I had, and used my daily activities as motivation to move forward. I now take ownership over small decisions such as scheduling daily appointments and managing my time but also over major decisions involving my future, including the college admissions process. Although I have become more independent, my mother and I are inseparably close, and the realization that I almost lost her affects me daily. Each morning, I wake up ten minutes early simply to eat breakfast with my mother and spend time with her before our busy days begin. I am aware of how quickly life can change. My mother remains a guiding force in my life, but the feeling of empowerment I discovered within myself is the ultimate form of my independence. Though I thought the summer before my freshman year would be a transition from middle school to high school, it was a transformation from childhood to adulthood.

This prompt allows you to expand and deepen a seemingly small or simple idea, topic, or concept. One example could be “stars,” in that you could describe stargazing as a child, counting them, recognizing constellations, and then transforming that initial captivation into a deeper appreciation of the cosmos as a whole, spurring a love of astronomy and physics.

Another example could be “language,” discussing how it has evolved and changed over the course of history, how it allows you to look deeper into different cultures, and how learning different languages stretches the mind. A tip for expanding on these topics and achieving specificity is to select particular details of the topic that you find intriguing and explain why.

For example, if you’re passionate about cooking or baking, you could use specific details by explaining, in depth, the intricate attention and artistry necessary to make a dish or dessert. You can delve into why certain spices or garnishes are superior in different situations, how flavors blend well together and can be mixed creatively, or even the chemistry differences between steaming, searing, and grilling.

Regardless of your topic, this prompt provides a great opportunity to display writing prowess through elegant, specific descriptions that leverage sensory details. Describing the beauty of the night sky, the rhythms and sounds of different languages, or the scent of a crème brûlée shows passion and captivation in a very direct, evocative way.

The key to writing this essay is answering the question of why something captivates you instead of simply ending with “I love surfing.” A tip would be to play off your senses (for applicable topics), think about what you see, feel, smell, hear, and taste.

In the case of surfing, the salty water, weightlessness of bobbing over the waves, and fresh air could cater to senses. Alternatively, for less physical topics, you can use a train of thought and descriptions to show how deeply and vividly your mind dwells on the topic.

Well-executed trains of thought or similar tactics are successful ways to convey passion for a certain topic. To answer what or who you turn to when you want to learn more, you can be authentic and honest—if it’s Wikipedia, a teacher, friend, YouTube Channel, etc., you simply have to show how you interact with the medium.

When brainstorming this particular essay, a tip would be to use a web diagram, placing the topic in the middle and thinking about branching characteristics, themes, or concepts related to the topic that are directly engaging and captivating to you. In doing so, you’ll be able to gauge the depth of the topic and whether it will suffice for this prompt.

In the following example, a student shares their journey as they learn to appreciate a piece of their culture’s cuisine.

As a wide-eyed, naive seven-year-old, I watched my grandmother’s rough, wrinkled hands pull and knead mercilessly at white dough until the countertop was dusted in flour. She steamed small buns in bamboo baskets, and a light sweetness lingered in the air. Although the mantou looked delicious, their papery, flat taste was always an unpleasant surprise. My grandmother scolded me for failing to finish even one, and when I complained about the lack of flavor she would simply say that I would find it as I grew older. How did my adult relatives seem to enjoy this Taiwanese culinary delight while I found it so plain?

During my journey to discover the essence of mantou, I began to see myself the same way I saw the steamed bun. I believed that my writing would never evolve beyond a hobby and that my quiet nature crippled my ambitions. Ultimately, I thought I had little to offer the world. In middle school, it was easy for me to hide behind the large personalities of my friends, blending into the background and keeping my thoughts company. Although writing had become my emotional outlet, no matter how well I wrote essays, poetry, or fiction, I could not stand out in a sea of talented students. When I finally gained the confidence to submit my poetry to literary journals but was promptly rejected, I stepped back from my work to begin reading from Whitman to Dickinson, Li-Young Lee to Ocean Vuong. It was then that I realized I had been holding back a crucial ingredient–my distinct voice. 

Over time, my taste buds began to mature, as did I. Mantou can be flavored with pork and eggplant, sweetened in condensed milk, and moistened or dried by the steam’s temperature. After I ate the mantou with each of these factors in mind, I noticed its environment enhanced a delicately woven strand of sweetness beneath the taste of side dishes: the sugar I had often watched my grandmother sift into the flour. The taste was nearly untraceable, but once I grasped it I could truly begin to cherish mantou. In the same way the taste had been lost to me for years, my writer’s voice had struggled to shine through because of my self-doubt and fear of vulnerability.

As I acquired a taste for mantou, I also began to strengthen my voice through my surrounding environment. With the support of my parents, peer poets, and the guidance of Amy Tan and the Brontё sisters, I worked tirelessly to uncover my voice: a subtle strand of sweetness. Once I stopped trying to fit into a publishing material mold and infused my uninhibited passion for my Taiwanese heritage into my writing, my poem was published in a literary journal. I wrote about the blatant racism Asians endured during coronavirus, and the editor of Skipping Stones Magazine was touched by both my poem and my heartfelt letter. I opened up about being ridiculed for bringing Asian food to school at Youth Leadership Forum, providing support to younger Asian-American students who reached out with the relief of finding someone they could relate to. I embraced writing as a way to convey my struggle with cultural identity. I joined the school’s creative writing club and read my pieces in front of an audience, honing my voice into one that flourishes out loud as well.

Now, I write and speak unapologetically, falling in love with a voice that I never knew I had. It inspires passion within my communities and imparts tenacity to Asian-American youth, rooting itself deeply into everything I write. Today, my grandmother would say that I have finally unearthed the taste of mantou as I savor every bite with a newfound appreciation. I can imagine her hands shaping the dough that has become my voice, and I am eager to share it with the world.

Your GPA and SAT don’t tell the full admissions story

We’ll let you know what your chances are at your dream schools!

This prompt allows you to express what you want to express if it doesn’t align directly with the other prompts. While this prompt is very open-ended, it doesn’t mean you can adapt any essay you’ve written and think it will suffice. Always refer back to the Strategy section of this article and make sure the topic and essay of your choice addresses the Core Four questions necessary for a good Common App essay.

This prompt, more than the others, poses a high risk but also a high-potential reward. Writing your own question allows you to demonstrate individuality and confidence. Here, you can craft an innovative essay that tackles a difficult topic (for example, whether to raise or lower taxes) or presents information with a unique format (such as a conversation with an historical figure).

We encourage you to try something unconventional for this prompt, like comparing your personality to a Picasso painting, using an extended philosophical metaphor to describe your four years of high school, or writing in a poetic style to display your love of poetry. If you are extremely passionate about a topic or an expert in a certain area, for example Renaissance technology or journalism during World War II, you can use this prompt to show your authority on a subject by discussing it at a high level.

Be careful to frame the essay in a way that is accessible to the average reader while still incorporating quality evidence and content that would qualify you as an expert. As always, exercise caution in writing about controversial social or political topics, and always make sure to consider your audience and what they’re looking for in a student.

Sometimes an unconventional essay can capture Admissions Officers’ attention and move them in a profound way; other times, the concept can fly completely over their heads. Be sure to execute the essay clearly and justify your decision by seeking high-quality feedback from reliable sources. As always, the essay should demonstrate something meaningful about you, whether it is your personality, thought process, or values.

Here’s what the experts have to say about this prompt…

This prompt, like the others, is really asking you to tell the story of who you are. Your essay should be personal and should talk about something significant that has shaped your identity.

Here are a few broad themes that can work well: academic interest; culture, values, and diversity; extracurricular interests; and your impact on the community. You should highlight one of these themes using creative, vividly descriptive narrative. Make sure to not fall into the common pitfall of talking about something else -- an extracurricular activity, for example -- more than yourself.

A student I advised had a great idea to respond to this prompt -- an essay about how they do their best thinking while sitting on a tree branch near their home. Not only was it unique and personal, but it allowed the student to show what they think about, dream about, and value. That's the main goal for any applicant responding to prompt 7.

common essay for bsc

Alex Oddo Advisor on CollegeVine

All of the Common App prompts are broad in scope, but this one really takes the cake! I typically advise using the first six prompts as guardrails for your brainstorm, but in doing so, you may come up with a topic that doesn’t cleanly fit with any of the first six prompts. That’s where this prompt can come in handy.

Or, you might have an idea that’s really out there (like writing about your love of sonnets as a series of sonnets). Essentially, this prompt is a good fit for essays that are anywhere from slightly unconventional to extremely atypical.

If this all feels a bit confusing - don’t worry! How you write your story is much more important than what prompt you end up choosing. At the end of the day, these are just guides to help you cultivate a topic and are not meant to stress you out.

common essay for bsc

Priya Desai Advisor on CollegeVine

Students who want to complete the CommonApp’s seventh prompt need to have already gone through the other prompts and determined that their story cannot fit with those. Thus, generally speaking, I advise my students to not use the final prompt unless it is absolutely necessary.

If an admission officer believes that your essay could have been used with one of the other prompts, this may lead them to have a perception about you as a student that might not be accurate.

Nevertheless, as my colleagues have pointed out, what matters is the essay the most and not necessarily the prompt. That being said, the test of whether or not you as a student can follow directions is part of the prompt selection and how well you answer it. If you choose the final prompt and yet your answer could work with another available prompt, this will not put you in your best light.

In conclusion, only use this prompt when absolutely necessary, and remember that the purpose of the personal statement is to give the admissions officers a glimpse into who you are as a person, so you want to use this space to showcase beautiful you.

common essay for bsc

Veronica Prout Advisor on CollegeVine

Where to get your common app essay edited.

At selective schools, your essays account for around 25% of your admissions decision. That’s more than grades (20%) and test scores (15%), and almost as much as extracurriculars (30%). Why is this? Most students applying to top schools will have stellar academics and extracurriculars. Your essays are your chance to stand out and humanize your application. That’s why it’s vital that your essays are engaging, and present you as someone who would enrich the campus community.

Before submitting your application, you should have someone else review your essays. That’s why we created our free  Peer Essay Review tool , where you can get a free review of your essay from another student. You can also improve your own writing skills by reviewing other students’ essays. 

If you want a college admissions expert to review your essay, advisors on CollegeVine have helped students refine their writing and submit successful applications to top schools.  Find the right advisor for you  to improve your chances of getting into your dream school!

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common essay for bsc

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The 2021-2022 Common App Essay: How to Write a Great Essay That Will Get You Accepted

Common App essay - magoosh

If you’re reading this, then you’ve probably started the very exciting process of applying to college—and chances are you may be a little overwhelmed at times. That’s OK! The key to getting into the right college for you is taking each step of the application process in stride, and one of those steps is completing the Common App and the Common App essay.

In this post, you’ll learn what the Common Application essay is, how to write one (including a free checklist to help you with the process), example essays, and much more. Let’s get started!

Table of Contents

What is the Common App, and More Importantly, What is the Common App Essay? Quick Facts on the 2021-2022 Common App Essay How Do You Write a Common App Essay?

What Should I Avoid in My Common App Essay? What Are Some Good Common App Essay Examples?

Common Application Essay FAQs

What is the common app, and more importantly, what is the common app essay.

What is the Common App essay - magoosh

The “Common App,” short for the Common Application , is a general application used to apply to multiple college undergraduate programs at once. It’s accepted by hundreds of colleges in the United States as well as some colleges internationally.

The idea is that the Common App is a “one-stop shop” so you don’t have to complete a million separate applications. That said, plenty of colleges still require their own application components, and the Common App, as user-friendly as it aims to be, can still feel like a bit of a challenge to complete.

Part of the reason the Common App can seem intimidating is because of the Common App essay component, which is required of all students who submit a college application this way. But never fear! In reality, the Common App essay is easy to ace if you know how to approach it and you give it your best.

So without further ado, let’s take a look at anything and everything you need to know about the 2021-2022 Common App essay in order to help you get into the school of your dreams. We’ve also created a downloadable quick guide to writing a great Common Application essay.

Button to download 2021-2022 Common App Essay

Quick Facts on the 2021-2022 Common App Essay

Common App essay facts - magoosh

Below are just a few of the short and sweet things you need to know about the 2021-2022 Common App essay, but we’ll elaborate on some of this content later in this post.

How Do You Write a Common App Essay?

How to write a Common App essay - magoosh

The million dollar question about the Common App essay is obviously, “How do I actually write it?!”

Now there’s something to keep in mind before exploring how to compose the Common App essay, and that’s the purpose of this task. You may be wondering:

  • What are college admissions boards actually looking for?
  • Why are you being asked to write this essay?

College admissions boards want to see that you can compose a compelling, well-crafted essay. After four years of high school, you’re expected to be able to craft a clear and concise piece of writing that addresses a specific subject.

So yes, you’re actually being evaluated on your essay writing skills, but the purpose of the Common Application essay is deeper than that—it’s to present the type of person and thinker that you are.

Regardless of which prompt you choose, colleges are trying to get a sense of how thoughtfully and critically you can reflect on your life and the world around you .

And furthermore, they want to get a sense of who you are—your interests, your personality, your values—the dimensional aspects of you as an applicant that simply can’t be expressed in transcripts and test scores . In short, you want to stand out and be memorable.

That said, there is no exact formula for “cracking the case” of the Common App essay, but there are plenty of useful steps and tips that can help you write a great essay.

(In a hurry? Download our quick and concise handout that sums up some of the keys to the Common App essay!)

1) Familiarize Yourself With the Common App Prompts and How to Approach Them

The Common App recently released the 2021-2022 essay prompts , which are almost the same as last year’s prompts, but with one BIG difference.

The prompt about problem solving (formerly prompt #4) has been replaced with a prompt about gratitude and how it has motivated you. According to Common App President and CEO Jenny Rickard, this change was inspired by new scientific research on the benefits of writing about gratitude and the positive impact others have had on our lives.

Additionally, the Common App now includes an optional Covid-19 prompt where you can discuss how you’ve personally been affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Now, let’s take a look at each 2021-2022 Common App prompt individually. You’ll notice that every prompt really has two parts to it:

  • share, explain and describe a narrative, and
  • reflect on, analyze, and draw meaning from it.

Let’s take a look.

  Prompt #1: A snapshot of your story

Prompt: 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.

  • Discuss a background, identity, or interest that you feel is meaningful to who you are and/or that or sets you apart from others.
  • Reflect on why this attribute is meaningful and how it has shaped you as a person.

  Prompt #2: An obstacle you overcame

Prompt: 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?

  • Recount a time you faced a challenge, setback, or failure.
  • Reflect on how this affected you, what you learned from it, and if it led to any successes later down the line.

  Prompt #3: A belief or idea you questioned or challenged

Prompt: Reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea. What prompted your thinking? What was the outcome?

  • Explain a time that you questioned a particular belief or way of thinking.
  • Elaborate on what prompted this questioning, what the outcome was, and why this outcome was significant.

  Prompt #4: An experience of gratitude that has motivated you

Prompt: 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?

  • Describe the specific experience or interaction that made you feel a sense of gratitude. Make sure to explain who did something nice for you and why it was surprising or unexpected.
  • Explain, as specifically as possible, how this feeling of gratitude changed or motivated you. What actions did you take a result? How did your mindset change?

  Prompt #5: An accomplishment or event that sparked personal growth

Prompt: Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others.

  • Describe an accomplishment or event that sparked personal growth for you.
  • Reflect on the nature of this growth and/or a new understanding you gained in the process.

  Prompt #6: An interest so engaging you lose track of time

Prompt: 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?

  • Discuss a topic, idea, or interest that is so engaging to you that you lose track of time when focused on it.
  • Reflect on and explain why this interest is so important to you, and your method of learning more about it.

  Prompt #7: An essay topic of your choice

Prompt: 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.

  • Discuss any subject matter or philosophical question of interest to you.
  • Reflect on the implications of this subject or question, and how it has shaped you, transformed you, impacted your life, etc.

  Now keep in mind that to some degree, it doesn’t actually matter which prompt you choose to answer, so long as you write and present yourself well. But you obviously want to pick whichever Common App essay prompt speaks to you most, and the one you think will provide you the meatiest and most meaningful material.

This is an outstanding guide to choosing the right Common App essay prompt, but as a rule of thumb, the “right” prompt will probably stand out to you. If you have to rack your brain, for example, to think of a challenge you’ve overcome and how the experience has shaped you, then that prompt probably isn’t the right one.

Authenticity is key, so choose the prompt you can answer thoroughly.

2) Brainstorm

Whether you know immediately which prompt you’re going to choose or not, do yourself a huge favor and brainstorm . Take out a notebook and jot down or free write all of the ideas that spring to your mind for as many of the prompts that you’re considering. You might be surprised what ideas you generate as you start doing this, and you might be surprised which ideas seem to have the most content and examples to elaborate on.

Also, it’s important to note that your subject matter doesn’t have to be highly dramatic or spectacular. You don’t have to recount a near-death experience, an epic overseas adventure, a 180-degree turn of faith, etc. Your ordinary life, when reflected upon thoughtfully, is interesting and profound.

3) Answer the Question (and Stay on Topic!)

This may sound painfully obvious, but for some of us, it can be hard to stay on topic. Each prompt is posed as a question , so don’t lose sight of that and let your essay devolve into a story about yourself that never really gets at the heart of the prompt.

As you’re drafting your essay—say after each paragraph—pause and refer back to the question, making sure each paragraph plays some part in actually responding to the prompt.

4) Structure and Organize Your Essay Effectively

The Common App essay isn’t like many of the other argumentative essays you’ve been taught to write in school. It is argumentative in that you are essentially arguing for why you are a good candidate for a particular college, using your personal experience as support, but it’s more than that.

The Common Application essay is essentially a narrative essay that is reflective and analytical by nature. This means that regardless of which prompt you select, you’ll be sharing something personal about yourself, and then reflecting on and analyzing why what you shared is important.

And even if this isn’t an essay format that you’re accustomed to writing, you can still rely on your knowledge of basic essay structures to help you. You’ll still need a clear introduction, body, and conclusion.

Let’s talk about those three pieces now.

Introduction

The purpose of an introduction is 1) to grab the reader’s attention and compel them to continue reading, and 2) to introduce the reader to the general subject at hand.

So the most important part of the introduction is a unique attention-getter that establishes your personal voice and tone while piquing the reader’s interest. An example of a good hook could be a brief illustrative anecdote, a quote, a rhetorical question, and so on.

Now, you may be wondering, “Do I need a thesis statement?” This is a great question and the simple answer is no.

This is because some students prefer to hook their reader with a bit of mystery and let their story unfold organically without a thesis sentence “spoiling” what is to come. This doesn’t mean you can’t have a thesis sentence, it just means you don’t need one. It just depends on how you want to build your personal narrative, and what serves you best.

That said, your essay does need a greater message or lesson in it, which is another way of saying a thesis . You just don’t necessarily have to write it out in the introduction paragraph.

It might help you to keep a thesis in mind or even write it down just for your own sake, even if you don’t explicitly use it in your introduction. Doing so can help you stay on track and help you build up to a stronger reflection.

Here are some examples of narrative thesis statements:

  • I moved a lot as a child on account of having a parent in the military, which led me to become highly adaptable to change.
  • The greatest obstacle I’ve overcome is my battle with leukemia, which has taught me both incredible resilience and reverence for the present.
  • An accomplishment that I achieved was making the varsity volleyball team, which has made me grow tremendously as a person, specifically in the areas of self-confidence and collaboration.

As discussed earlier, there are two parts to each prompt: explanation and reflection . Each part should be addressed throughout the essay, but how you organize your content is up to you.

A good rule of thumb for structuring the body of your essay is as follows:

  • Situate your reader: provide context for your story by focusing in on a particular setting, subject matter, or set of details. For example, you may frame an essay about an internship at the zoo with the phrase, “Elephants make the best friends.” Your reader knows immediately that the subject matter involves your interaction with animals, specifically elephants.
  • Explain more about your topic and how it affected you, using specific examples and key details.
  • Go deeper. Elaborate and reflect on the message at hand and how this particular topic shaped the person you are today.

Note that while there are no set rules for how many paragraphs you should use for your essay, be mindful of breaking paragraphs whenever you naturally shift gears, and be mindful of too-long paragraphs that just feel like walls of text for the reader.

Your conclusion should flow nicely from your elaboration, really driving home your message or what you learned. Be careful not to just dead-end your essay abruptly.

This is a great place to speculate on how you see the subject matter informing your future, especially as a college student and beyond. For example, what might you want to continue to learn about? What problems do you anticipate being able to solve given your experience?

5) Write Honestly, Specifically, and Vividly

It may go without saying, but tell your own story, without borrowing from someone else’s or embellishing. Profound reflection, insight, and wisdom can be gleaned from the seemingly simplest experiences, so don’t feel the need to stray from the truth of your unique personal experiences.

Also, make sure to laser in on a highly specific event, obstacle, interest, etc. It is better to go “narrower and deeper” than to go “wider and shallower,” because the more specific you are, the more vivid and engrossing your essay will naturally be.

For example, if you were a camp counselor every summer for the last few years, avoid sharing several summers’ worth of content in your essay. Focus instead on one summer , and even better, on one incident during that summer at camp.

And on that note, remember to be vivid! Follow the cardinal rule of writing: show and don’t tell . Provide specific details, examples, and images in order to create a clear and captivating narrative for your readers.

6) Be Mindful of Voice and Tone

Unlike in most academic essays, you can sound a bit less stuffy and a bit more like yourself in the Common App essay. Your essay should be professional, but can be conversational. Try reading it aloud; does it sound like you? That’s good!

Be mindful, however, of not getting too casual or colloquial in it. This means avoiding slang, contractions, or “text speak” abbreviations (e.g. “lol”), at least without deliberate context in your story (for example, if you’re recounting dialogue).

You’re still appealing to academic institutions here, so avoid profanity at all costs, and make sure you’re still upholding all the rules for proper style, grammar, and punctuation.

7) Revise and Proofread

This one is a biggie. Give yourself time during your application process to revise, rework, and even rewrite your essay several times. Let it grow and change and become the best version it can be. After you write your first draft, walk away from it for a couple days, and return to it with fresh eyes. You may be surprised by what you feel like adding, removing, or changing.

And of course, make sure your essay is pristine before you submit it. Triple and quadruple check for spelling and usage errors, typos, etc. Since this isn’t a timed essay you have to sit for (like the ACT essay test , for example), the college admissions readers will expect your essay to be polished and sparkling.

A tried and true method for both ensuring flow and catching errors is reading your essay aloud. You may sound a little silly, but it really works!

What Should I Avoid in My Common App Essay?

What to avoid in Common App essay - magoosh

Resume Material

Your Common App essay is your chance to provide a deeper insight into you as a person, so avoid just repeating what you’d put on a resume. This is not to say you can’t discuss something mentioned briefly on your resume in greater depth, but the best essays offer something new that helps round out the whole college application.

Controversy

Okay, now this one is a bit tricky. On the one hand, you should write boldly and honestly, and some of the prompts (the one about challenging a particular belief, for example) are appropriate for addressing potentially contentious topics.

But that said, avoid being controversial or edgy for the sake of being controversial or edgy. Be steadfast in your beliefs for the greater sake of the narrative and your essay will be naturally compelling without being alienating to your readers.

Vague Stories

If you have a personal story that you’re not entirely comfortable sharing, avoid it, even if it would make a great essay topic in theory. This is because if you’re not comfortable writing on the subject matter, you’ll end up being too vague, which won’t do your story or overall application justice. So choose a subject matter you’re familiar with and comfortable discussing in specifics.

Unless they really, truly serve your essay, avoid general platitudes and cliches in your language. It is definitely encouraged to have an essay with a moral, lesson, or greater takeaway, but try to avoid summing up what you’ve learned with reductive phrases like “slow and steady wins the race,” “good things come in small packages,” “actions speak louder than words,” “you can’t judge a book by its cover,” and so on.

What Are Some Good Common App Essay Examples?

Common App essay examples - magoosh

There are tons of Common App essays out there, including these Common App essay examples accepted at Connecticut College, which include explanations from admissions readers about why they were chosen.

But let’s take a look here at two versions of an example essay, one that is just okay and one that is great.

Both Common App essay examples are crafted in response to prompt #2, which is:

Essay Version #1, Satisfactory Essay:

During my sophomore year of high school, I tore my ACL, which stands for “anterior cruciate ligament,” and is the kiss of death for most athletic careers. This injury ended up being one of the greatest obstacles of my life. It was also, however, a turning point that taught me to see opportunity amidst adversity.

It was particularly awful that I was just about to score a winning goal during a championship hockey game when I was checked by a guy on the opposing team and came crashing down on my knee. It was pain unlike anything I’d ever felt before, and I knew immediately that this was going to be bad.

For the few months that followed the accident, I was lost, not really knowing what to do with myself. I didn’t know who I was anymore because hockey had been my whole world and sense of identity. Between working out, attending practice, playing home and away games, and watching games to learn more, it was my lifeblood. Losing my ability to play took a toll on me physically and emotionally and I grew lethargic and depressed.

And then one day I heard my school would be adding an advanced multimedia art class for those students who wanted to continue studying art beyond what was already offered. I had taken the handful of art classes my school offered and really enjoyed and excelled at them—though I had never considered them more than just fun electives to fill my scheduled, as required.

After a couple of weeks of the class, I began feeling better. Suddenly I wanted to draw or paint everything I looked at. I wanted to share the world around me as I saw it with others, to connect with people in a way I’d never done before. I met and made friends with many new people in that art class, people I would have never known if I hadn’t taken it, which also opened me up to all kinds of new mindsets and experiences.

We’re all familiar with the common adage, “When one door closes, another opens,” and this is exactly what happened for me. I might never have pursued art more seriously if I hadn’t been taken out of hockey. This has served as a great reminder for me to stay open to new opportunities. We never know what will unexpectedly bring us joy and make us more well-rounded people.

Areas for Improvement in Version #1:

  • It lacks a compelling hook.
  • The discussion of the obstacle and reflection upon it are both a bit rushed.
  • It could use more vivid and evocative language.
  • It uses a cliche (“one door closes”).
  • It is somewhat vague at times (e.g. what kinds of “new mindsets and experiences” did the writer experience? In what ways are they now more “well-rounded”?).

Now let’s apply this feedback and revise the essay.

Essay Version #2, Excellent Essay:

My body was splayed out on the ice and I was simultaneously right there, in searing pain, and watching everything from above, outside of myself. It wasn’t actually a “near death” experience, but it was certainly disorienting, considering that just seconds before, I was flying down the ice in possession of the puck, about to score the winning goal of our championship game.

Instead, I had taken a check from an opposing team member, and had torn my ACL (or anterior cruciate ligament), which is the kiss of death for most athletic careers.

My road to recovery included two major surgeries, a couple months on crutches, a year of physical therapy, and absolutely zero athletic activity. I would heal, thankfully, and regain movement in my knee and leg, but I was told by doctors that I may never play hockey again, which was devastating to me. Hockey wasn’t just my passion—it was my life’s goal to play professionally.

For the few months that followed the accident, I was lost, feeling like a ghost haunting my own life, watching everything but unable to participate. I didn’t know who I was anymore because hockey had been my whole world and sense of identity. Between working out, attending practice, playing home and away games, and watching games to learn more, it was my lifeblood. Losing my ability to play took a toll on me physically and emotionally, and I grew lethargic and depressed.

And then one day I heard my school would be adding an advanced multimedia art class after school for those students who wanted to study art more seriously. I had already taken the handful of art classes my school offered and really enjoyed them—though I had never considered them more than just fun electives to fill my schedule, as required. And, because of hockey, I certainly had never had afternoons open.

After a couple of weeks of the class, I began to feel alive again, like “myself” but renewed, more awake and aware of everything around me. Suddenly I wanted to draw or paint everything I looked at, to bring everything I saw to life. It wasn’t just that I’d adopted a new hobby or passion, it was that I began looking more closely and critically at the world around me. I wanted to share what I saw with others, to connect with people in a way I’d never done before.

My art teacher selected a charcoal portrait of mine to be showcased in a local art show and I’ve never been more proud of myself for anything. Many of my friends, family members, and teammates came to see the show, which blew me away, but also I realized then just how much of my own self worth had been attached to people’s perception of me as a successful athlete. I learned how much better it feels to gain self worth from within. Unlike hockey, which I’d trained to be good at since I was a toddler, art is something that made me much more vulnerable. I didn’t do it to try to be the best, I did it because it felt good. And getting out of my comfort zone in this way gave me a sense of confidence I had never known prior, despite all my time on the ice during high-stakes games.

Today, I’m back in skates and able to play hockey, but will probably not play professionally; while I am disappointed, I’m also at peace with it. We make plans in life, and sometimes life has other plans for us that we have to adapt to and embrace, which is the more profound lesson I’ve learned in the healing process. We can crumple in the face of obstacles, or we can look for a silver lining and allow ourselves to grow into more complex, dynamic, well-rounded people. I don’t know what the rest of life holds for me, but I do know that I’m going to keep making art, and I’m going to keep opening myself up to new opportunities and experiences.

Strengths of Version #2:

  • It has a compelling hook that draws the reader in.
  • It has a clear beginning, middle, and end (expressed as an introduction, body, and conclusion).
  • It directly addresses the prompt at hand and sticks to it.
  • It focuses on one specific incident.
  • It is well balanced in its explanation of and reflection on a given experience.
  • It uses a clear, unique voice and tone as well as vivid, evocative language.
  • It has a logical and cohesive flow.
  • It is highly personal while also polished and professional.

Hopefully these examples have given you ideas of how you can take your Common App essay from good to great. If you have more questions about how to write a Common App essay, keep reading our FAQs below.

Common App essay FAQs - magoosh

How much do I actually have to write for the Common App essay?

Last year, the Common App essay was capped at 650 words with a minimum of 250 words required. The best essays tend to range between 500-650 words.

Think of it this way as you start to draft: 500 words is one single-spaced page (250 words is one double-spaced page), so you should write roughly a page to page and half of typed, single-spaced content.

Where can I find the official Common App essay prompts?

Here are the 2021-2022 Common App essay prompts , which are the same as last year’s, with the exception of a new prompt #4 and the addition of a Covid-19 Common App prompt .

Do I need a title for the Common App essay?

A title is not required for the Common App essay, but you are, of course, more than welcome to include one if you’d like.

Where can I go for more information about the Common App essay?

All of the necessary information for the Common App and the Common App essay can be found on the Common Application home page.

For further reading, here are some posts that tackle and dispel common myths about the Common App essay:

Myth: The Common App essay must sound professional. Myth: Colleges can’t tell if someone helps write a common app essay.

If you haven’t already, you can download our free Common App essay checklist .

Happy Writing!

There you have it! The Common App essay can actually be quite rewarding to write if you give yourself enough time to prepare for it thoroughly. Remember, it’s all about you, and you’re the authority on that! So hunker down and don’t forget to have fun in the writing process.

We’d also love to hear from you! What questions or concerns do you still have about the Common Application essay? What are you thinking about writing on?

Comment below, and good luck!

Nadyja Von Ebers

Nadyja von Ebers is one of Magoosh’s Content Creators. Nadyja holds an MA in English from DePaul University and has taught English and at the high school and college levels for twelve years. She has a decade of experience teaching preparation for the AP exams, the SAT, and the ACT, among other tests. Additionally, Nadyja has worked as an academic advisor at college level and considers herself an expert in all things related to college-prep. She’s applied her college expertise to posts such as UCLA Admissions: The SAT Scores, ACT Scores, and GPA You Need to Get in and A Family Guide to College Admissions . Nadyja loves helping students reach their maximum potential and thrives in both literal and virtual classrooms. When she’s not teaching, she enjoys reading and writing for pleasure and loves spending time in or near the ocean. You can connect with her on LinkedIn !

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Successful Common App Essays

Common app essays →, harvard essays →, mit essays →, princeton essays →, stanford essays →, yale essays →, common app essay | katie.

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…...

Common App Essay: Wooden Pulpits and Iron Podiums

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Common App Essay: A meaningful background, identity, interest, or talent | Grace

Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you,…...

Common App Essay: Recount an incident or time when you experienced failure | Jessica

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…....

Common App Essay | Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth | Valerie

Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others. 10:00 AM – Museum…...

Common App Essay | A meaningful background, identity, interest, or talent | Joseph

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The 2021-22 Common Application Essay Prompts

Tips and Guidance for the 7 Essay Options on the New Common Application

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For the 2021-22 application cycle, the Common Application  essay prompts remain unchanged from the 2020-21 cycle with the exception of an all new option #4. As in the past, with the inclusion of the popular "Topic of Your Choice" option, you have the opportunity to write about anything you want to share with the folks in the admissions office.

The current prompts are the result of much discussion and debate from the member institutions who use the Common Application. The essay length limit stands at 650 words (the minimum is 250 words), and students will need to choose from the seven options below. The essay prompts are designed to encourage reflection and introspection. The best essays focus on self-analysis, rather than spending 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. If your essay doesn't include some self-analysis, you haven't fully succeeded in responding to the prompt.

According to the folks at the Common Application , in the 2018-19 admissions cycle, Option #7 (topic of your choice) was the most popular and was used by 24.1% of applicants. The second most popular was Option #5 (discuss an accomplishment) with 23.7% of applicants. In third place was Option #2 on a setback or failure. 21.1% of applicants chose that option.

From the Admissions Desk

"While the transcript and grades will always be the most important piece in the review of an application, essays can help a student stand out. The stories and information shared in an essay are what the Admissions Officer will use to advocate for the student in the admissions committee."

–Valerie Marchand Welsh Director of College Counseling, The Baldwin School Former Associate Dean of Admissions, University of Pennsylvania

Always keep in mind why colleges are asking for an essay: they want to get to know you better. Nearly all selective colleges and universities (as well as many that aren't overly selective) have holistic admissions, and they consider many factors in addition to numerical measures such as grades and standardized test scores. Your essay is an important tool for presenting something you find important that may not come across elsewhere in your application. Make sure your essay presents you as the type of person a college will want to invite to join their community.

Below are the seven options with some general tips for each:

Option #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.

"Identity" is at the heart of this prompt. What is it that makes you you? The prompt gives you a lot of latitude for answering the question since you can write a story about your "background, identity, interest, or talent." Your "background" can be a broad environmental factor that contributed to your development such as growing up in a military family, living in an interesting place, or dealing with an unusual family situation. 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. 

  • See more Tips and Strategies for Essay Option #1
  • Sample essay for option #1: "Handiwork" by Vanessa
  • Sample essay for option #1: "My Dads" by Charlie
  • Sample essay for option #1: "Give Goth a Chance"
  • Sample essay for option #1: "Wallflower"

Option #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?

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? Introspection and honesty are key with this prompt.

  • See more Tips and Strategies for Essay Option #2
  • Sample essay for option #2: "Striking Out" by Richard
  • Sample essay for option #2: "Student Teacher" by Max

Reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea. What prompted your thinking? What was the outcome?

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. If the belief you challenged doesn't give the admissions folks a window into your personality, then you haven't succeeded with this prompt.

  • See more Tips and Strategies for Essay Option #3
  • Sample essay for option #3: "Gym Class Hero" by Jennifer

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?

Here, again, the Common Application gives you a lot of options for approaching the question since it is entirely up to you to decide what the "something" and "someone" will be. This prompt was added to the Common Application in the 2021-22 admissions cycle in part because it gives students the opportunity to write something heartfelt and uplifting after all the challenges of the previous year. The best essays for this prompt show that you are a generous person who recognizes the contributions others have made to your personal journey. Unlike many essays that are all about "me, me, me," this essay shows your ability to appreciate others. This type of generosity is an important character trait that schools look for when inviting people to join their campus communities.

  • See more Tips and Strategies for Essay Option #4

Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others.

This question was reworded in 2017-18 admissions cycle, and the current language is a huge improvement. 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 actually 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 the list of bad essay topics for more about this issue). 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.

  • See more Tips and Strategies for Essay Option #5
  • Sample essay for option #5: "Buck Up" by Jill

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?

This option was entirely new in 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. While you may lose track of time when running or playing football, sports are probably not the best choice for this particular question.

  • See more Tips and Strategies for Essay Option #6

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.

The popular "topic of your choice" option had been removed from the Common Application between 2013 and 2016, but it returned again with 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.

  • See more Tips and Strategies for Essay Option #7
  • Sample essay for option #7: "My Hero Harpo" by Alexis
  • Sample essay for option #7: "Grandpa's Rubik's Cube"

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 rather than merely describing a place or event.

The folks at The Common Application have cast a wide net with these questions, and nearly anything you want to write about could fit under at least one of the options. If your essay could fit under more than one option, it really doesn't matter which one you choose. Many admissions officers, in fact, don't even look at which prompt you chose—they just want to see that you have written a good essay.

  • Tips for Writing an Essay on an Event That Led to Personal Growth
  • Tips for the Pre-2013 Personal Essay Options on the Common Application
  • Common Application Essay Option 2 Tips: Learning from Failure
  • Topic of Your Choice: Common Application Essay Tips
  • Common Application Essay Option 4—Gratitude
  • Common Application Essay Option 3 Tips: Challenging a Belief
  • Common Application Essay on a Meaningful Place
  • A Sample Essay for Common Application Option #7: Topic of Your Choice
  • 2020-21 Common Application Essay Option 4—Solving a Problem
  • Common Application Essay, Option 1: Share Your Story
  • "Grandpa's Rubik's Cube"—Sample Common Application Essay, Option #4
  • "Gym Class Hero" - a Common Application Essay Sample for Option #3
  • 5 Tips for a College Admissions Essay on an Important Issue
  • Common Application Essay Option 6: Losing Track of Time
  • Tips for an Application Essay on a Significant Experience
  • "My Dads" - Sample Common Application Essay for Option #1

common essay for bsc

How To Write Effective Common Essay 2021 (With Examples)

common essay for bsc

Most of the colleges expect you to submit an essay or personal statement as part of your application .

It may sound like a burden, and it will undoubtedly take a solid amount of work. But it gives you an excellent opportunity to make a difference at decision time. 

Admissions committees put the utmost weight on your high school grades and your test scores. However, some colleges receive applications from many worthy students with similar scores and grades. So they use your essay, along with your letters of recommendation and extracurricular activities, to find out what sets you apart from the other talented candidates.

What would you like to showcase before the college admission staff if they are looking beyond your high school grades and standardized test scores?

Significance of the Common Application Essay

By now, you will know what a common application, a.k.a. common app, is.

It is an application accessed by over seven hundred colleges in the US, including the Ivy League and many other reputed colleges. So when you fill in all your academic and personal details like your name, high school name, extracurricular activities, etc., on the Common App , all colleges who use it can get your details from there. This is where you will also find the Common App Essay, a.k.a. the Personal Statement.

This entire topic is devoted to this Common App Essay.

Not all colleges reach out for the Common App as they will have their processes in place for getting this information. All the effort you put into compiling the Common App Essay will undoubtedly assist you – whether your college application is through the Common or non-Common App. It will further ease your efforts when you also have to compile additional or minor essays.

Those colleges that fall into the non-Common App using category also require essays or brief answers to questions.

But what is the significance of the Common App Essay?

Many colleges believe that it is impractical to gauge a student’s aptitude and college readiness by simply reviewing his high school grades, standardized test scores, how many challenging courses were taken, etc. So they don’t have any ‘grade/score requirement’ to be eligible to apply.

Rather than just looking at an applicant’s statistics, they endeavor to see each applicant as a person. College admission staff are human too and would be crushed with a lack of enthusiasm if their task primarily comprised going through high school grades, SAT/ACT scores, TOEFL scores, and AP/IB scores all the time.

Just ensuring that your grades and standardized test scores are outstanding is not a sure ticket to your favorite college. You must also have a stunning Personal Statement to complement your academic performance.

Are you wondering why?

Your Personal Statement talks about you – the real you and not about your grades and other statistics. It is the single document in your application that communicates naturally without putting down cold figures by which you can be assessed. This is the only route available to you to speak to the college admissions staff about yourself so that they see you as a person and not just someone with a bunch of numbers.

There is a shortage of students with excellent grades and test scores who apply to the US’s best colleges. So every college has the luxury of having their pick when considering the academic capabilities. Still, they need to identify the student for his talents and potential and not just by his grades. They will be looking for information about the natural person with all those excellent scores.

You may have your reservations about how vital the Personal Statement is – if it can be a game-changer. Your essay is of great significance, and you should spend considerable time – ideally a few months, in putting it together. How influential your essay is will differ from one college to another.

Experienced counselors reckon that the essay can corner up to 30% of the selection process. So can you imagine! You put in so much time and effort for excellent high school grades, SAT/ACT, TOEFL, AP/IB scores, internship, volunteering, community service, etc., but it will add up to 70% or a little more on your chances of being accepted.

How do you get an idea of how effective your essay is and that you must spend time on it like you will on the other academic and extracurricular Statement so that you write one that will help you get accepted at your favorite college?

The College Essay is no enigma!

Let’s be clear on what these essays are.

The Personal Statement

This is a 600-650-word essay Common Application Essay that will be part of your Common App and can be viewed by those colleges who access it. This Personal Statement is the only means for the college admission staff to know you as an individual. So both Personal Statement and Common App Essay are the same.

Secondary or Supplemental Essays

Some colleges request essays with specific guidelines that will be an added document besides the Personal Statement. It can range from discussing one of your extracurricular activities or considering a famous quote and discuss it.

Listed below are Common App Essay Cues. These cues are more or less what colleges have been asking over the last couple of years. We’ll discuss these cues in detail subsequently.

  • A student’s social circumstances, family environment, individuality, aptitude, or passions are perhaps so significant that he strongly feels that his application will be half-done without mentioning it.

Does this sound like you? If yes, tell us all about it.

All hardships come with a silver lining. They offer us the wisdom and experience that help us deal with future situations successfully.

Describe a situation or event when you had to confront a problem, difficult situation, or debacle. Were you broken, or did you meet the challenge head-on? What did this event teach you?

There must have been an instance when you disputed or protested against an opinion or point of view. why did you take such a stance and what came out of the stand you took.

Narrate a difficult situation you’ve overcome or that you’d like to sort out. It could be a cerebral poser, a social problem, or even something very close to your heart – however small or big it may be.

Discuss why it is significant to you and how you resolved it, or what can be done to see it through.

Narrate an occurrence, achievement, or newfound awareness that set off your personal development and helped you see people and the things around you in a new light., discuss a subject, belief, or issue that you can get so engrossed with that you forget about everything else. why do you find it fascinating what do you do to feed your curiosity and hunger to know more about it.

  • Write an essay on a subject of your liking. It’s acceptable if you had written it earlier or it was something you wrote to a cue given by someone.
  • What fires your imagination? Or thrills you? Or conveys what you are? Put down your thoughts in 650 words.

Then, your Personal Statement should steer clear of putting down all the information that is already there in your resume or Common App Activity section . You should by no means attempt to project yourself as some kind of superhero who accomplished the impossible at such a young age. Don’t use melodrama to magnify what you may have endured. You needn’t bring in your family or your views on ethnicity, class, or gender into your essay. It is necessary to try to show the college admissions staff that side of your personality that only your family, friends, teachers, and peers are familiar with.

Whatever you choose to write, ensure that it is relevant and sincere.

The above-mentioned Common App Essay Cues are a mixed bag, and you have an option to write about any of them. You should mull over the stories you can share and then choose which one to go with. It is usually an available choice, and you’ve nothing to lose with the choice you make.

Get acquainted with these students.

We will now walk you through some students’ situations and how they dealt with putting together an outstanding Personal Statement and got accepted at reputed colleges in the US.

Student#1 Robbie

Robbie plans to pursue pre-med at college. She is however, still in two minds about it. She has always been a multitasker and has participated in many unrelated activities. Robbie participated in numerous singing events but never won any prizes. She played golf, was in the school debate team, and participated in the theatre too.

But what is missing from Robbie’s CV?

She dreams of participating in the US Women’s Open (Golf), adores her mother, and has more best friends than she can count.

Student#2 Agnes

Agnes has a way with words. She finds writing so easy that she can’t imagine how anyone can flounder for words. However, she is not part of the school bulletin team. She has never dared to send in any of her poems or articles to publications, so she can’t confidently admit that she is a writer.

She is also a keen mock trial participant, and she’s very good at it – her friends tell her that she has it in her to become an excellent lawyer. However, Agnes has reservations about pursuing Law, Philosophy, or Political Science and isn’t sure she wants to become a lawyer.

But what is missing from Agnes’ CV?

She loves trekking and loves even more to draw and paint landscapes that come as a package deal with trekking.

Student#3 Ryan

Ryan is good at his studies – his grades are good, but none of the subjects excite him, so he’s pretty undecided about what he should pursue. Whenever he has some spare time, Ryan teaches math at the local orphanage. He plays cricket and is in the dance troupe too.

But what is missing from Ryan’s CV?

Ryan plays the violin that he pursues only because his mother wants him to. He’s very close to his younger brother and is in awe of his older sister, who’s now away at college.

Student#4 Sam

Sam studies at the best public school in his small mountain town. His family is comfortably off, but Sam chooses to work at the local café after school. This leaves him with little time to pursue any extracurricular activities, and in any case, his school doesn’t have much to offer there.

Sam likes biology but isn’t sure if he wants to attend pre-med at college. He doesn’t see himself pursuing medicine and is quite bewildered about what program to follow at college.

Sam loves mountain climbing and has been doing it with his Uncle as a young boy. His father doesn’t like mountain climbing, and he’s very close to his Uncle.

Taking the first step to write

Staring at a blank sheet and wondering how to begin writing is a barrier that even a well-versed author has to struggle with. As a high school student, it is reasonably expected when you feel uncertain about getting going with writing.

You have so much to say and are bursting with enthusiasm to make an impression. Right? But how do you express yourself without going over the top with your narrative?

The only remedy to combat such anxiety – of not knowing how to begin and what tone of voice to use in your narrative, is to compose yourself, charge your creative cells, and then get down to writing.

We’ll handhold you to take charge of putting together your Common App Essay, secondary, and supplemental essays long before they are needed. We recommend trashing procrastination right away. June is the best time to get started. Wondering why?

You must be already sighing at the thought of spending your summer working hard on this. But treat this as a warm-up to get into the groove and accomplish the most challenging part of your applications before August. By then, you will have thought through what you want to put down.

The added benefit of attending to this task as early as June is that you will have the first draft of your Personal Statement ready to share with the teachers you will request college recommendation letters. Your recommenders will have something to connect with within their notes by having early access to your Common App Essay.

This small effort will go a long way in ensuring that your application doesn’t just mention details about you but gives a peek into the natural person you are, your aspirations, your beliefs, etc. Therefore each document in your Common App will complement each other and work as a part of the whole story that is you.

Work with the suggested timelines to match your schedules, but you must begin working hard on this in the summer.

Discussing and ideating essay themes and using cues (2-3 weeks)

To begin, you should peruse the Common App cues to identify which of them excites you and you can relate to. We’ve listed signals to help you further ideate and begin the initial writing during summer.

Let’s begin with Cue #7 since it’s not specific but more comprehensive. We will, after that, go by numerical order.

You are free to choose the theme of your essay – it could be something that you’ve written in the past or something you wrote to another cue, or something that is of your thinking.

  • What are the things that matter to you? Enumerate on all those subjects or themes. What is it that is the prime subject of conversation amongst your family and your friends?

(This is not about mentioning your extracurricular activities). Narrate an event or story that summarizes this subject that is important to you.

  • Which relative who lives with you is dear and important to you? Narrate a situation when this family member helped you in sailing through rough waters. Is there a significant heart-to-heart talk that you had with him? Tell us about it.
  • Reflect for a minute – which person in your family, a friend, or teacher is essential to you? How did you both connect? When and where did you meet? Tell us about it. Was there a time when you discussed something of relevance and significance to you? Tell us about it.
  • Discuss incidents that are significant to you. These circumstances may not necessarily have been substantial, shocking, disastrous, or show how you impacted the community. It could be a particular time that is significant – like one summer, perhaps? It could even be what you encountered when you were with a friend or relative on a given day or during a few weeks or months.

Something to note:

Such distinct experiences or situations come in handy when you are putting down your first thoughts on your Common App Essay. You should narrate an incident that you’ve spoken about to others in the past.

The wisest advice we can give you is always to use such instances, experiences, or events to convey your story in your Common App Essay.

A student’s social circumstances, family environment, individuality, aptitude, or passions are maybe so significant that he strongly feels that his application will be half-done without a mention about it. Do you fit into this picture? Tell us about it.

  • Recount your childhood – where did you live and grow up? Tell us about your community, surroundings, town, or even city. Was it a quiet place or a bustling metropolis? Why do you feel it is special and unique? What impact has this place had on you? If you were asked to describe something distinct about this place to a person who has never been there, what would you say? E.g., does it have a nature trail, amusement park, regattas?
  • Where did your parents live? Does it influence your everyday life? What was it like when you visited the place? Tell us about your reaction to seeing it for the first time.
  • Is there someplace that is dearer to you than your own home? Narrate to us what your first impressions of that place were. Was it a place you visited in the summer? How did that place become significant in your life? Tell us about it.
  • What is the one thing that makes you unforgettable? What is it that the people in your neighborhood associate you with? When did you do this thing that people remember you by? What was significant about this thing that you did? Did you sing non-stop for three hours? Or did you step back when you felt your friend should win the singing competition?
  • Describe what you did during summers when you were a kid and later when you were in high school. Narrate the one summer day that you still remember. Why do you still remember it? Did what happened that day impact how you presently are? Tell us about it.
  • Have you ever been faced with significant life changes? Moving to a new neighborhood or city? Switching school? Faced with the passing away of a loved one or a dear friend? (It’s best to leave out your romantic failures.)

Describe that one day when you had to come to terms with that change – when you moved to a different house, your last day at your old school, or the first day at your new school when you were told of the passing away dear one.

  • Was there an instance when you gave up an extracurricular activity or a part-time job? What happened? Tell us why you made such a decision.
  • Which was the most challenging class in high school for you? Why was it difficult? Describe a class project that you found challenging.

Also, describe a class project that helped you break barriers and made you rethink your views about something.

  • Were you ever compelled to participate in something that you were not very good at? What happened eventually? Narrate how you went about participating in it and who encouraged you in your effort.
  • Have you encountered a mental or physical disability? Or did you ever have to deal with a serious challenge? Reflect on that happening and how glad you are with yourself at how you dealt with the situation.
  • What moral code that you imbibed as a child do you cherish? Are they still dear to you? Describe how you learned and made them your own? Was it something you saw your grandpa do? Or was it something your mother taught you?

On the other hand, have your views on this changed since? How did the change come about? Did a teacher influence you? Or a friend?

  • Does your family believe in something quite the opposite of yours? What caused the dissent? Narrate a difference of opinion that you had with somebody – it could have been a friendly squabble or more than that. Describe an instance when you were glad how you conducted yourself in the argument.
  • In what instance were you far off the mark about something? Describe how it dawned on you that you were incorrect? Did anybody help you see the light?
  • Has there been a class project that has kept you awake late into the night? Was it challenging? Tell us about it.
  • Have you been influenced by a book or an article? Has it put before you some brutal truths about the world? What was your takeaway? What do you plan to do about it? What was your first reaction when you read this book/article? Who shared this book/article with you? Have you discussed it subsequently with anybody? Have you reviewed and revisited the book/article?
  • Are there instances at home when there is an argument at the dinner table? Does this happen often? Do you have thoughts on how it can be resolved? Narrate one such instance. You could even narrate any other memorable dinner.
  • Is there something happening in the world that leaves you furious and fuming? Was there an event that triggered this fury? Recount the event visually and your responses to what you saw.
  • Generally, people believe that a small figment of imagination can change things forever. Has there been such an instance in your life? Describe it. Narrate it like you were telling us a story.
  • Has something dawned on you out of the blue? How did it happen? Where were you? What were you doing? Who else was with you – or were you alone?
  • Set aside all your awards, trophies, grades – all the material proof of your accomplishments. Describe something about yourself that makes you feel highly gratified and which is so intangible.
  • What if your family went away for the weekend and left you to your own devices over a weekend? How would you start your day? Even if this is pure conjecture, narrate what happened like it’s a story. Describe in which room you spent time, what you did? Or did you opt to get out of the empty house? Where did you go? What did you do?
  • Is there an instance when you began doing something without anybody suggesting that you do it? Are you self-motivated? Narrate how you started doing something by yourself without goading.
  • In what instances do your friends seek you out for assistance? Narrate a model that you feel you acted well and could be of sound aid to a friend. Also, narrate an instance when someone else was of immense help to you.

By now, with all these discussions and ideating, Robbie, Agnes, Ryan, and Sam will have found so many exciting things about themselves that are not on their CV, which they can elaborate upon.

Writing without reservation (3-4 weeks)

The cues shared above should help you begin writing – but before getting down to even drafting your Personal Statement, simply write without worrying about spelling or grammatical errors. The idea is to overcome any blocks or inhibitions that you may have about writing.

Such writing can loosen you up into writing freely, and you can even enjoy writing when you write without reservation.

Your Personal Statement should read like you are talking to the reader. The reader shouldn’t feel that you are trying hard to impress and sound mature or knowledgeable. This is a possibility if you are all clammed up and tense while writing.

Listed below are a few tips to help you in writing without reservation:

Invest in a few notebooks

Yes, that’s right. You should use a pen to write on paper. Writing by hand nudges your sensibilities in a different way that no computer keyboard can match. You cannot delete what you’ve written – even if you strike it out, it’ll still be there for posterity, legible for future reference. Also, because you can’t delete it, writing itself will feel natural.

Allocate 6 minutes to write without reservation every morning

Get into to habit of spending 6 minutes writing every morning. Set a reminder alarm and a timer when you start, so there is no room for delay. Simply register – this is about writing without reservation for the whole time. If you are at a loss for words, write those very words or anything to keep up writing continuity.

If you are unsure of what to write, peruse the Common App essay cues mentioned above – they are so comprehensive that one of them will help you begin on something.

For instance, when Agnes puts pen to paper, she will not be discussing how participating in a mock trial and excelling in it helped her decide to pursue law. Instead, when she begins writing, she’ll start re-living that day. She will describe the atmospherics, what she was wearing, who accompanied her, and perhaps overate at lunch and feel uncomfortable. She’ll possibly question why she even agreed to participate in the trial. Was it because she wanted to have an argument that wouldn’t lead to much unpleasantness, or was it the theatrics and excitement that appealed to her?

Instead of setting a time limit – if you feel the burden of six minutes, set yourself a target of writing three pages. Initially, you can put it down in powerful writing, so you feel at ease.

Neither discuss nor go over what you’ve written with anybody

Although it will be very tempting, do not share what you’ve registered with your family or teachers. You shouldn’t review it either, as you will want to edit or improve on what you wrote. For now, let what you’ve written stay dormant.

In doing this, you will allow the story to speak instead of bull-dozing what you think the story should be. This is one of the gravest blunders while writing – including your Personal Statement, pushing your way into an account that only needs to be stated.

Let’s explain this.

For instance, let’s discuss Sam, who learned mountain climbing from his Uncle – an eventful summer and that particular person in his life. As the experience and the relationship means so much to him, Sam is enthusiastic and would instead plunge right away into drafting his story. Even as he’s writing, he begins questioning his choice – mountaineering is just a summer passion, and he’s nowhere near being an expert at it. Then, maybe he shows what he has written to his teacher. The teacher reacts to it at face value – not realizing it is not even a draft yet and asks him to write about something else as this is not flying.

So give due regard to the methods we suggest and let what you’ve written rest in your notebook for a bit.

When you begin early, it will give you the luxury of having time on your side. Writing every day through summer will prepare you for the all-important task of writing your Personal Statement. By July-end, you will be able to review what you’ve written without reservation.

Timeframes for writing your Common App Essay – in six months, three months, one month, or less than a month

You should begin working on your college essays during the summer before your final high school year. But setting aside six months (June-December) for such a task may be difficult if you are already busy with other activities.

Listed below are other timeframes within which you can plan to ideate and write without reservation and accomplish your task.

Six months – June-December (best suited for early decision application deadline)

  • June: Ideate, discuss, and write with the cues for 2-3 weeks
  • July: Write without reservation for 3-4 weeks
  • July-end/early August: Finish compiling the first draft of your Common App Essay
  • Mid-August: Finish editing your first draft – this is when you will have to work hard on it
  • The second half of August: Write out further drafts – draft#3 and draft#4
  • Early September: Show your fourth draft to your counselor, teacher, or adviser and request advice and feedback
  • September-end: Finish your final draft

Finish the secondary essays in October since November is usually the deadline for early decision applications. In November, finish with any remaining secondary pieces for colleges with December/January deadlines for submitting regular decision applications.

Three months – August-October (pushing hard to meet the early decision application deadline)

  • The first fortnight of August: Ideate, discuss and write with the cues
  • The second half of August: Write without reservation
  • Early September: Finish compiling the first draft of your Common App Essay
  • Week 2 of September: Finish editing your first draft – this is when you will have to work hard on it
  • Week 3 and 4 of September: Write out further drafts – draft#3 and draft#4
  • Early October: Show your fourth draft to your counselor, teacher, or adviser and request advice and feedback
  • By mid-October: Finish your final draft

Finish the secondary essays in the latter part of October since November is usually the deadline for early decision applications. In November, finish with any remaining secondary essays for colleges with December/January deadlines for submitting regular decision applications.

One month – October-November (to meet the regular decision application deadline)

  • Early October: Ideate, discuss, and write with the cues second week of October: Write without reservation third week of October: Finish compiling the first draft of your Common App Essay
  • Last week of October: Finish editing your first draft – this is when you will have to work hard on it.
  • The first fortnight of November: Write out further drafts – draft#3 and draft#4
  • Mid-November: Show your fourth draft to your counselor, teacher, or adviser and request advice and feedback
  • Last week of November: Finish your final draft.

Finish the secondary essays in December for colleges with December/January deadlines for submitting regular decision applications.

Crushed for time – Beginning in November (if you have begun your application process very late and have less than a month to submit applications)

  • 2-4 days: Ideate, discuss, and write with the cues.
  • 2-3: Write without reservation.
  • Two days after writing without reservation: Finish compiling the first draft of your Common App Essay.
  • Three days after finishing the first draft: Finish your second draft – this is when you will have to work hard on it. And then, show your draft to your counselor, teacher, or adviser and request advice and feedback.
  • Two days after getting feedback: Finish writing draft#3
  • Two days after finishing draft#3: Finish fourth and your final draft if you still have time on your hands

The application deadlines vary in some colleges. For instance, the University of California, Los Angeles – a reputed college, has a November application submission deadline. So you must compile your college list along with the list of all application deadlines and admission requirements by the end September  of so that you do not miss the bus and have to sit out for a year.

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Birmingham–Southern College | BSC

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Want to see your chances of admission at Birmingham–Southern College | BSC?

We take every aspect of your personal profile into consideration when calculating your admissions chances.

Birmingham–Southern College | BSC’s 2023-24 Essay Prompts

Common app personal essay.

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.

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?

Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others.

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.

What will first-time readers think of your college essay?

2022-2023 Common App Essay Prompts

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The Common App essay prompts will remain the same for 2022-2023. Because as we enter the third year of a global pandemic, consistency is not a bad thing.

That’s not the only reason, of course. We know from our most recent survey on the topic that over 95% of every group who responded--students, counselors, teachers, and admission officers--agree that the prompts spark effective essays. That’s why we kept them the same last year as well, with the exception of adding a new one about gratitude .

As we’ve said in the past, this announcement is not an invitation to juniors to start writing. And it’s definitely not a signal that they start thinking about applying. Those things will come in time. We share this news in January because it’s when some schools begin conversations about college options. It’s a time for learning, reflecting, and planning. That’s where the prompts can be useful: in helping students understand the aspects of their lives that colleges are curious about. 

"We share this news in January because it’s when some schools begin conversations about college options. It’s a time for learning, reflecting, and planning. That’s where the prompts can be useful: in helping students understand the aspects of their lives that colleges are curious about." Scott Anderson, Senior Director, Common App

Something else we’ve said in the past: prompts are not topics. They are simply questions designed to spark thinking. Our Telling Your Story resource shows students just how much flexibility they have in what they write when the time comes.

Below is the full set of essay prompts for 2022-2023. We will also retain the optional COVID-19 question within the Additional Information section.

  • 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?
  • Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others.
  • 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.

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College Essays

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If you grow up to be a professional writer, everything you write will first go through an editor before being published. This is because the process of writing is really a process of re-writing —of rethinking and reexamining your work, usually with the help of someone else. So what does this mean for your student writing? And in particular, what does it mean for very important, but nonprofessional writing like your college essay? Should you ask your parents to look at your essay? Pay for an essay service?

If you are wondering what kind of help you can, and should, get with your personal statement, you've come to the right place! In this article, I'll talk about what kind of writing help is useful, ethical, and even expected for your college admission essay . I'll also point out who would make a good editor, what the differences between editing and proofreading are, what to expect from a good editor, and how to spot and stay away from a bad one.

Table of Contents

What Kind of Help for Your Essay Can You Get?

What's Good Editing?

What should an editor do for you, what kind of editing should you avoid, proofreading, what's good proofreading, what kind of proofreading should you avoid.

What Do Colleges Think Of You Getting Help With Your Essay?

Who Can/Should Help You?

Advice for editors.

Should You Pay Money For Essay Editing?

The Bottom Line

What's next, what kind of help with your essay can you get.

Rather than talking in general terms about "help," let's first clarify the two different ways that someone else can improve your writing . There is editing, which is the more intensive kind of assistance that you can use throughout the whole process. And then there's proofreading, which is the last step of really polishing your final product.

Let me go into some more detail about editing and proofreading, and then explain how good editors and proofreaders can help you."

Editing is helping the author (in this case, you) go from a rough draft to a finished work . Editing is the process of asking questions about what you're saying, how you're saying it, and how you're organizing your ideas. But not all editing is good editing . In fact, it's very easy for an editor to cross the line from supportive to overbearing and over-involved.

Ability to clarify assignments. A good editor is usually a good writer, and certainly has to be a good reader. For example, in this case, a good editor should make sure you understand the actual essay prompt you're supposed to be answering.

Open-endedness. Good editing is all about asking questions about your ideas and work, but without providing answers. It's about letting you stick to your story and message, and doesn't alter your point of view.

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Think of an editor as a great travel guide. It can show you the many different places your trip could take you. It should explain any parts of the trip that could derail your trip or confuse the traveler. But it never dictates your path, never forces you to go somewhere you don't want to go, and never ignores your interests so that the trip no longer seems like it's your own. So what should good editors do?

Help Brainstorm Topics

Sometimes it's easier to bounce thoughts off of someone else. This doesn't mean that your editor gets to come up with ideas, but they can certainly respond to the various topic options you've come up with. This way, you're less likely to write about the most boring of your ideas, or to write about something that isn't actually important to you.

If you're wondering how to come up with options for your editor to consider, check out our guide to brainstorming topics for your college essay .

Help Revise Your Drafts

Here, your editor can't upset the delicate balance of not intervening too much or too little. It's tricky, but a great way to think about it is to remember: editing is about asking questions, not giving answers .

Revision questions should point out:

  • Places where more detail or more description would help the reader connect with your essay
  • Places where structure and logic don't flow, losing the reader's attention
  • Places where there aren't transitions between paragraphs, confusing the reader
  • Moments where your narrative or the arguments you're making are unclear

But pointing to potential problems is not the same as actually rewriting—editors let authors fix the problems themselves.

Want to write the perfect college application essay?   We can help.   Your dedicated PrepScholar Admissions counselor will help you craft your perfect college essay, from the ground up. We learn your background and interests, brainstorm essay topics, and walk you through the essay drafting process, step-by-step. At the end, you'll have a unique essay to proudly submit to colleges.   Don't leave your college application to chance. Find out more about PrepScholar Admissions now:

Bad editing is usually very heavy-handed editing. Instead of helping you find your best voice and ideas, a bad editor changes your writing into their own vision.

You may be dealing with a bad editor if they:

  • Add material (examples, descriptions) that doesn't come from you
  • Use a thesaurus to make your college essay sound "more mature"
  • Add meaning or insight to the essay that doesn't come from you
  • Tell you what to say and how to say it
  • Write sentences, phrases, and paragraphs for you
  • Change your voice in the essay so it no longer sounds like it was written by a teenager

Colleges can tell the difference between a 17-year-old's writing and a 50-year-old's writing. Not only that, they have access to your SAT or ACT Writing section, so they can compare your essay to something else you wrote. Writing that's a little more polished is great and expected. But a totally different voice and style will raise questions.

Where's the Line Between Helpful Editing and Unethical Over-Editing?

Sometimes it's hard to tell whether your college essay editor is doing the right thing. Here are some guidelines for staying on the ethical side of the line.

  • An editor should say that the opening paragraph is kind of boring, and explain what exactly is making it drag. But it's overstepping for an editor to tell you exactly how to change it.
  • An editor should point out where your prose is unclear or vague. But it's completely inappropriate for the editor to rewrite that section of your essay.
  • An editor should let you know that a section is light on detail or description. But giving you similes and metaphors to beef up that description is a no-go.

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Proofreading (also called copy-editing) is checking for errors in the last draft of a written work. It happens at the end of the process and is meant as the final polishing touch. Proofreading is meticulous and detail-oriented, focusing on small corrections. It sands off all the surface rough spots that could alienate the reader.

Because proofreading is usually concerned with making fixes on the word or sentence level, this is the only process where someone else can actually add to or take away things from your essay . This is because what they are adding or taking away tends to be one or two misplaced letters.

Laser focus. Proofreading is all about the tiny details, so the ability to really concentrate on finding small slip-ups is a must.

Excellent grammar and spelling skills. Proofreaders need to dot every "i" and cross every "t." Good proofreaders should correct spelling, punctuation, capitalization, and grammar. They should put foreign words in italics and surround quotations with quotation marks. They should check that you used the correct college's name, and that you adhered to any formatting requirements (name and date at the top of the page, uniform font and size, uniform spacing).

Limited interference. A proofreader needs to make sure that you followed any word limits. But if cuts need to be made to shorten the essay, that's your job and not the proofreader's.

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A bad proofreader either tries to turn into an editor, or just lacks the skills and knowledge necessary to do the job.

Some signs that you're working with a bad proofreader are:

  • If they suggest making major changes to the final draft of your essay. Proofreading happens when editing is already finished.
  • If they aren't particularly good at spelling, or don't know grammar, or aren't detail-oriented enough to find someone else's small mistakes.
  • If they start swapping out your words for fancier-sounding synonyms, or changing the voice and sound of your essay in other ways. A proofreader is there to check for errors, not to take the 17-year-old out of your writing.

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What Do Colleges Think of Your Getting Help With Your Essay?

Admissions officers agree: light editing and proofreading are good—even required ! But they also want to make sure you're the one doing the work on your essay. They want essays with stories, voice, and themes that come from you. They want to see work that reflects your actual writing ability, and that focuses on what you find important.

On the Importance of Editing

Get feedback. Have a fresh pair of eyes give you some feedback. Don't allow someone else to rewrite your essay, but do take advantage of others' edits and opinions when they seem helpful. ( Bates College )

Read your essay aloud to someone. Reading the essay out loud offers a chance to hear how your essay sounds outside your head. This exercise reveals flaws in the essay's flow, highlights grammatical errors and helps you ensure that you are communicating the exact message you intended. ( Dickinson College )

On the Value of Proofreading

Share your essays with at least one or two people who know you well—such as a parent, teacher, counselor, or friend—and ask for feedback. Remember that you ultimately have control over your essays, and your essays should retain your own voice, but others may be able to catch mistakes that you missed and help suggest areas to cut if you are over the word limit. ( Yale University )

Proofread and then ask someone else to proofread for you. Although we want substance, we also want to be able to see that you can write a paper for our professors and avoid careless mistakes that would drive them crazy. ( Oberlin College )

On Watching Out for Too Much Outside Influence

Limit the number of people who review your essay. Too much input usually means your voice is lost in the writing style. ( Carleton College )

Ask for input (but not too much). Your parents, friends, guidance counselors, coaches, and teachers are great people to bounce ideas off of for your essay. They know how unique and spectacular you are, and they can help you decide how to articulate it. Keep in mind, however, that a 45-year-old lawyer writes quite differently from an 18-year-old student, so if your dad ends up writing the bulk of your essay, we're probably going to notice. ( Vanderbilt University )

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Now let's talk about some potential people to approach for your college essay editing and proofreading needs. It's best to start close to home and slowly expand outward. Not only are your family and friends more invested in your success than strangers, but they also have a better handle on your interests and personality. This knowledge is key for judging whether your essay is expressing your true self.

Parents or Close Relatives

Your family may be full of potentially excellent editors! Parents are deeply committed to your well-being, and family members know you and your life well enough to offer details or incidents that can be included in your essay. On the other hand, the rewriting process necessarily involves criticism, which is sometimes hard to hear from someone very close to you.

A parent or close family member is a great choice for an editor if you can answer "yes" to the following questions. Is your parent or close relative a good writer or reader? Do you have a relationship where editing your essay won't create conflict? Are you able to constructively listen to criticism and suggestion from the parent?

One suggestion for defusing face-to-face discussions is to try working on the essay over email. Send your parent a draft, have them write you back some comments, and then you can pick which of their suggestions you want to use and which to discard.

Teachers or Tutors

A humanities teacher that you have a good relationship with is a great choice. I am purposefully saying humanities, and not just English, because teachers of Philosophy, History, Anthropology, and any other classes where you do a lot of writing, are all used to reviewing student work.

Moreover, any teacher or tutor that has been working with you for some time, knows you very well and can vet the essay to make sure it "sounds like you."

If your teacher or tutor has some experience with what college essays are supposed to be like, ask them to be your editor. If not, then ask whether they have time to proofread your final draft.

Guidance or College Counselor at Your School

The best thing about asking your counselor to edit your work is that this is their job. This means that they have a very good sense of what colleges are looking for in an application essay.

At the same time, school counselors tend to have relationships with admissions officers in many colleges, which again gives them insight into what works and which college is focused on what aspect of the application.

Unfortunately, in many schools the guidance counselor tends to be way overextended. If your ratio is 300 students to 1 college counselor, you're unlikely to get that person's undivided attention and focus. It is still useful to ask them for general advice about your potential topics, but don't expect them to be able to stay with your essay from first draft to final version.

Friends, Siblings, or Classmates

Although they most likely don't have much experience with what colleges are hoping to see, your peers are excellent sources for checking that your essay is you .

Friends and siblings are perfect for the read-aloud edit. Read your essay to them so they can listen for words and phrases that are stilted, pompous, or phrases that just don't sound like you.

You can even trade essays and give helpful advice on each other's work.

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If your editor hasn't worked with college admissions essays very much, no worries! Any astute and attentive reader can still greatly help with your process. But, as in all things, beginners do better with some preparation.

First, your editor should read our advice about how to write a college essay introduction , how to spot and fix a bad college essay , and get a sense of what other students have written by going through some admissions essays that worked .

Then, as they read your essay, they can work through the following series of questions that will help them to guide you.

Introduction Questions

  • Is the first sentence a killer opening line? Why or why not?
  • Does the introduction hook the reader? Does it have a colorful, detailed, and interesting narrative? Or does it propose a compelling or surprising idea?
  • Can you feel the author's voice in the introduction, or is the tone dry, dull, or overly formal? Show the places where the voice comes through.

Essay Body Questions

  • Does the essay have a through-line? Is it built around a central argument, thought, idea, or focus? Can you put this idea into your own words?
  • How is the essay organized? By logical progression? Chronologically? Do you feel order when you read it, or are there moments where you are confused or lose the thread of the essay?
  • Does the essay have both narratives about the author's life and explanations and insight into what these stories reveal about the author's character, personality, goals, or dreams? If not, which is missing?
  • Does the essay flow? Are there smooth transitions/clever links between paragraphs? Between the narrative and moments of insight?

Reader Response Questions

  • Does the writer's personality come through? Do we know what the speaker cares about? Do we get a sense of "who he or she is"?
  • Where did you feel most connected to the essay? Which parts of the essay gave you a "you are there" sensation by invoking your senses? What moments could you picture in your head well?
  • Where are the details and examples vague and not specific enough?
  • Did you get an "a-ha!" feeling anywhere in the essay? Is there a moment of insight that connected all the dots for you? Is there a good reveal or "twist" anywhere in the essay?
  • What are the strengths of this essay? What needs the most improvement?

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Should You Pay Money for Essay Editing?

One alternative to asking someone you know to help you with your college essay is the paid editor route. There are two different ways to pay for essay help: a private essay coach or a less personal editing service , like the many proliferating on the internet.

My advice is to think of these options as a last resort rather than your go-to first choice. I'll first go through the reasons why. Then, if you do decide to go with a paid editor, I'll help you decide between a coach and a service.

When to Consider a Paid Editor

In general, I think hiring someone to work on your essay makes a lot of sense if none of the people I discussed above are a possibility for you.

If you can't ask your parents. For example, if your parents aren't good writers, or if English isn't their first language. Or if you think getting your parents to help is going create unnecessary extra conflict in your relationship with them (applying to college is stressful as it is!)

If you can't ask your teacher or tutor. Maybe you don't have a trusted teacher or tutor that has time to look over your essay with focus. Or, for instance, your favorite humanities teacher has very limited experience with college essays and so won't know what admissions officers want to see.

If you can't ask your guidance counselor. This could be because your guidance counselor is way overwhelmed with other students.

If you can't share your essay with those who know you. It might be that your essay is on a very personal topic that you're unwilling to share with parents, teachers, or peers. Just make sure it doesn't fall into one of the bad-idea topics in our article on bad college essays .

If the cost isn't a consideration. Many of these services are quite expensive, and private coaches even more so. If you have finite resources, I'd say that hiring an SAT or ACT tutor (whether it's PrepScholar or someone else) is better way to spend your money . This is because there's no guarantee that a slightly better essay will sufficiently elevate the rest of your application, but a significantly higher SAT score will definitely raise your applicant profile much more.

Should You Hire an Essay Coach?

On the plus side, essay coaches have read dozens or even hundreds of college essays, so they have experience with the format. Also, because you'll be working closely with a specific person, it's more personal than sending your essay to a service, which will know even less about you.

But, on the minus side, you'll still be bouncing ideas off of someone who doesn't know that much about you . In general, if you can adequately get the help from someone you know, there is no advantage to paying someone to help you.

If you do decide to hire a coach, ask your school counselor, or older students that have used the service for recommendations. If you can't afford the coach's fees, ask whether they can work on a sliding scale —many do. And finally, beware those who guarantee admission to your school of choice—essay coaches don't have any special magic that can back up those promises.

Should You Send Your Essay to a Service?

On the plus side, essay editing services provide a similar product to essay coaches, and they cost significantly less . If you have some assurance that you'll be working with a good editor, the lack of face-to-face interaction won't prevent great results.

On the minus side, however, it can be difficult to gauge the quality of the service before working with them . If they are churning through many application essays without getting to know the students they are helping, you could end up with an over-edited essay that sounds just like everyone else's. In the worst case scenario, an unscrupulous service could send you back a plagiarized essay.

Getting recommendations from friends or a school counselor for reputable services is key to avoiding heavy-handed editing that writes essays for you or does too much to change your essay. Including a badly-edited essay like this in your application could cause problems if there are inconsistencies. For example, in interviews it might be clear you didn't write the essay, or the skill of the essay might not be reflected in your schoolwork and test scores.

Should You Buy an Essay Written by Someone Else?

Let me elaborate. There are super sketchy places on the internet where you can simply buy a pre-written essay. Don't do this!

For one thing, you'll be lying on an official, signed document. All college applications make you sign a statement saying something like this:

I certify that all information submitted in the admission process—including the application, the personal essay, any supplements, and any other supporting materials—is my own work, factually true, and honestly presented... I understand that I may be subject to a range of possible disciplinary actions, including admission revocation, expulsion, or revocation of course credit, grades, and degree, should the information I have certified be false. (From the Common Application )

For another thing, if your academic record doesn't match the essay's quality, the admissions officer will start thinking your whole application is riddled with lies.

Admission officers have full access to your writing portion of the SAT or ACT so that they can compare work that was done in proctored conditions with that done at home. They can tell if these were written by different people. Not only that, but there are now a number of search engines that faculty and admission officers can use to see if an essay contains strings of words that have appeared in other essays—you have no guarantee that the essay you bought wasn't also bought by 50 other students.

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  • You should get college essay help with both editing and proofreading
  • A good editor will ask questions about your idea, logic, and structure, and will point out places where clarity is needed
  • A good editor will absolutely not answer these questions, give you their own ideas, or write the essay or parts of the essay for you
  • A good proofreader will find typos and check your formatting
  • All of them agree that getting light editing and proofreading is necessary
  • Parents, teachers, guidance or college counselor, and peers or siblings
  • If you can't ask any of those, you can pay for college essay help, but watch out for services or coaches who over-edit you work
  • Don't buy a pre-written essay! Colleges can tell, and it'll make your whole application sound false.

Ready to start working on your essay? Check out our explanation of the point of the personal essay and the role it plays on your applications and then explore our step-by-step guide to writing a great college essay .

Using the Common Application for your college applications? We have an excellent guide to the Common App essay prompts and useful advice on how to pick the Common App prompt that's right for you . Wondering how other people tackled these prompts? Then work through our roundup of over 130 real college essay examples published by colleges .

Stressed about whether to take the SAT again before submitting your application? Let us help you decide how many times to take this test . If you choose to go for it, we have the ultimate guide to studying for the SAT to give you the ins and outs of the best ways to study.

Want to improve your SAT score by 160 points or your ACT score by 4 points?   We've written a guide for each test about the top 5 strategies you must be using to have a shot at improving your score. Download them for free now:

Anna scored in the 99th percentile on her SATs in high school, and went on to major in English at Princeton and to get her doctorate in English Literature at Columbia. She is passionate about improving student access to higher education.

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Important English Essay Topics For BA, BSc Exams List

Table of Contents

Important English Essay Topics for BA, BSc Exams List is available here for all those who are going to attempt the annual examination. These essay topics are the same for private and regular candidates. Also for those students who are going to attempt BA, BSc examinations annually or supplementary. So if you are also among those candidates who are going to attempt English papers then you are here on the right way to get the list of important essay lists. Candidates, there are a huge number of essays that lies in the BA, BSc syllabus but according to the board paper point of view, there are almost 15 to 20 essays that are more important. Here on this page, we will provide you with the list and the most important essays are bold. Well, you are suggested to read these all essays as these are very important to increase your English vocabulary. Essays also increase your general knowledge.

No Matter you are appearing in the annual exams for BA or BSC English is a Compulsory Subject for all students from all over Pakistan whether it is Punjab University, Sargodha University, Faisalabad University, Karachi University, Peshawar University, Gujrat University or any other University of Pakistan. The down complete list of Important English Essay Topics For BA and BSc are prepared while taking consideration from the expert paper makers of bachelor exams. So students if you need to get good passing marks in the annual examination then you need to prepare all these Essay Topics which are given below on this page.

Important Essay Topics For BA English

  • English Essay on the Role of Women in Society
  • English Essay on Pollution
  • English Essay on The Best Day of My Life
  • English Essay on Education
  • English Essay on The Main problems facing Pakistan
  • English Essay on Benefits of Having a Sea Port
  • English Essay on Cities
  • English Essay on My Favorite Hero in History
  • English Essay on My First Day of School
  • English Essay on Quaid e Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah
  • English Essay on Allama Iqbal
  • English Essay on Music Addiction
  • English Essay on Unity of Muslims of the World
  • English Essay on Social Evils in Pakistan
  • English Essay on The effects of World War II on Pakistan and the World
  • English Essay on Science and Arts
  • English Essay on Corruption
  • English Essay on Load Shedding
  • English Essay on Overpopulation
  • English Essay on Dengue Fever
  • English Essay on Terrorism
  • English Essay on Democracy
  • English Essay on Energy Crisis in Pakistan
  • English Essay on Life in a Big City
  • English Essay on the Importance of Science

Important English Essay Topics For BA, BSc Exams List

So these are all the Important English Essay Topics for BA, BSc Exams List. You are suggested to learn all these essays so that if this time the authority changes the topic then you should be able to write any essay by your own vocabulary.

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Minimum 5 to 6

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Essay Topics – List of 500+ Essay Writing Topics and Ideas

List of 500+ essay writing topics and ideas.

Essay topics in English can be difficult to come up with. While writing essays , many college and high school students face writer’s block and have a hard time to think about topics and ideas for an essay. In this article, we will list out many good essay topics from different categories like argumentative essays, essays on technology, environment essays for students from 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th grades. Following list of essay topics are for all – from kids to college students. We have the largest collection of essays. An essay is nothing but a piece of content which is written from the perception of writer or author. Essays are similar to a story, pamphlet, thesis, etc. The best thing about Essay is you can use any type of language – formal or informal. It can biography, the autobiography of anyone. Following is a great list of 100 essay topics. We will be adding 400 more soon!

But Before that you may wanna read some awesome Essay Writing Tips here .

500+ essay topics for students and children

Get the Huge list of 100+ Speech Topics here

Argumentative Essay Topics

  • Should plastic be banned?
  • Pollution due to Urbanization
  • Education should be free
  • Should Students get limited access to the Internet?
  • Selling Tobacco should be banned
  • Smoking in public places should be banned
  • Facebook should be banned
  • Students should not be allowed to play PUBG

Essay Topics on Technology

  • Wonder Of Science
  • Mobile Phone

Essay Topics on Festivals on Events

  • Independence Day (15 August)
  • Teachers Day
  • Summer Vacation
  • Children’s Day
  • Swachh Bharat Abhiyan
  • Janmashtami
  • Republic Day

Essay Topics on Education

  • Education Essay
  • Importance of Education
  • Contribution of Technology in Education

common essay for bsc

Essay Topics on Famous Leaders

  • Mahatma Gandhi
  • APJ Abdul Kalam
  • Jawaharlal Nehru
  • Swami Vivekananda
  • Mother Teresa
  • Rabindranath Tagore
  • Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel
  • Subhash Chandra Bose
  • Abraham Lincoln
  • Martin Luther King
  • Lal Bahadur Shashtri

Essay Topics on Animals and Birds

  • My Favorite Animal

Essays Topics About Yourself

  • My Best Friend
  • My Favourite Teacher
  • My Aim In Life
  • My Favourite Game – Badminton
  • My Favourite Game – Essay
  • My Favourite Book
  • My Ambition
  • How I Spent My Summer Vacation
  • India of My Dreams
  • My School Life
  • I Love My Family
  • My Favourite Subject
  • My Favourite Game Badminton
  • My Father My Hero
  • My School Library
  • My Favourite Author
  • My plans for summer vacation

Essay Topics Based on Environment and Nature

  • Global Warming
  • Environment
  • Air Pollution
  • Environmental Pollution
  • Water Pollution
  • Rainy Season
  • Climate Change
  • Importance Of Trees
  • Winter Season
  • Deforestation
  • Natural Disasters
  • Save Environment
  • Summer Season
  • Trees Our Best Friend Essay In English

Essay Topics Based on Proverbs

  • Health Is Wealth
  • A Stitch in Time Saves Nine
  • An Apple a Day Keeps Doctor Away
  • Where there is a will, there is way
  • Time and Tide wait for none

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Essay Topics for Students from 6th, 7th, 8th Grade

  • Noise Pollution
  • Environment Pollution
  • Women Empowerment
  • Time and Tide Wait for none
  • Science and Technology
  • Importance of Sports
  • Sports and Games
  • Time Management
  • Cleanliness is next to Godliness
  • Cleanliness
  • Rome was not Built in a Day
  • Unemployment
  • Clean India
  • Cow Essay In English
  • Describe Yourself
  • Festivals Of India
  • Ganesh Chaturthi
  • Healthy Food
  • Importance Of Water
  • Plastic Pollution
  • Value of Time
  • Honesty is the Best Policy
  • Gandhi Jayanti
  • Human Rights
  • Knowledge Is Power
  • Same Sex Marriage
  • Childhood Memories
  • Cyber Crime
  • Kalpana Chawla
  • Punctuality
  • Rani Lakshmi Bai
  • Spring Season
  • Unity In Diversity
  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Online Shopping
  • Indian Culture
  • Healthy Lifestyle
  • Indian Education System
  • Disaster Management
  • Environmental Issues
  • Freedom Fighters
  • Grandparents
  • Save Fuel For Better Environment
  • Importance Of Newspaper
  • Lal Bahadur Shastri
  • Raksha Bandhan
  • World Environment Day
  • Narendra Modi
  • What Is Religion
  • Charity Begins at Home
  • A Journey by Train
  • Ideal student
  • Save Water Save Earth
  • Indian Farmer
  • Safety of Women in India
  • Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan
  • Capital Punishment
  • College Life
  • Natural Resources
  • Peer Pressure
  • Nature Vs Nurture
  • Romeo And Juliet
  • Generation Gap
  • Makar Sankranti
  • Constitution of India
  • Girl Education
  • Importance of Family
  • Importance of Independence Day
  • Brain Drain
  • A Friend In Need Is A Friend Indeed
  • Action Speaks Louder Than Words
  • All That Glitters Is Not Gold
  • Bhagat Singh
  • Demonetization
  • Agriculture
  • Importance of Discipline
  • Population Explosion
  • Poverty in India
  • Uses Of Mobile Phones
  • Water Scarcity
  • Train Journey
  • Land Pollution
  • Environment Protection
  • Indian Army
  • Uses of Internet
  • All that Glitters is not Gold
  • Balanced Diet
  • Blood Donation
  • Digital India
  • Dussehra Essay
  • Energy Conservation
  • National Integration
  • Railway Station
  • Sachin Tendulkar
  • Health And Hygiene
  • Importance Of Forest
  • Indira Gandhi
  • Laughter Is The Best Medicine
  • Career Goals
  • Mental Health
  • Save Water Save Life
  • International Yoga Day
  • Winter Vacation
  • Soil Pollution
  • Every Cloud Has A Silver Lining
  • Indian Culture And Tradition
  • Unity Is Strength
  • Unity is Diversity
  • Wildlife Conservation
  • Cruelty To Animals
  • Nelson Mandela
  • Of Mice And Men
  • Organ Donation
  • Life in a Big City
  • Democracy in India
  • Waste Management
  • Biodiversity
  • Afforestation
  • Female Foeticide
  • Harmful Effects Of Junk Food
  • Rain Water Harvesting
  • Save Electricity
  • Social Media
  • Social Networking Sites
  • Sound Pollution
  • Procrastination
  • Life in an Indian Village
  • Life in Big City
  • Population Growth
  • World Population Day
  • Greenhouse Effect
  • Statue of Unity
  • Traffic Jam
  • Beti Bachao Beti Padhao
  • Importance of Good Manners
  • Good Manners
  • Cyber Security
  • Green Revolution
  • Health And Fitness
  • Incredible India
  • Make In India
  • Surgical Strike
  • Triple Talaq
  • A Good Friend
  • Importance of Friends in our Life
  • Should Plastic be Banned
  • Nationalism
  • Traffic Rules
  • Effects of Global Warming
  • Fundamental Rights
  • Solar System
  • National Constitution Day
  • Good Mother
  • Importance of Trees in our Life
  • City Life Vs Village Life
  • Importance of Communication
  • Conservation of Nature
  • Man vs. Machine
  • Indian Economy
  • Mothers Love
  • Importance of National Integration
  • Black Money
  • Greenhouse effect
  • Untouchability
  • Self Discipline
  • Global Terrorism
  • Conservation of Biodiversity
  • Newspaper and Its Uses
  • World Health Day
  • Conservation of Natural Resources
  • A Picnic with Family
  • Indian Heritage
  • Status of Women in India
  • Child is Father of the Man
  • Reading is Good Habit
  • Plastic Bag
  • Terrorism in India
  • Library and Its Uses
  • Life on Mars
  • Urbanization
  • Pollution Due to Diwali
  • National Flag of India
  • Vocational Education
  • Importance of Tree Plantation
  • Summer Camp
  • Vehicle Pollution
  • Women Education in India
  • Seasons in India
  • Freedom of the Press
  • Caste System
  • Environment and Human Health
  • Mountain Climbing
  • Depletion of Natural Resources
  • Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar
  • Health Education
  • Effects of Deforestation
  • Life after School
  • Starvation in India
  • Jan Dhan Yojana
  • Impact of Privatization
  • Election Commission of India
  • Election and Democracy
  • Prevention of Global Warming
  • Impact of Cinema in Life
  • Subhas Chandra Bose
  • Dowry System
  • Ganesh Chaturthi Festival
  • Role of Science in Making India
  • Impact of Global Warming on Oceans
  • Pollution due to Festivals
  • Ambedkar Jayanti
  • Ek Bharat Shreshtha Bharat
  • Family Planning in India
  • Democracy vs Dictatorship
  • National Festivals of India
  • Sri Aurobindo
  • Casteism in India
  • Organ trafficking
  • Consequences of Global Warming
  • Role of Human Activities in Global Warming
  • Issues and Problems faced by Women in India
  • Role of Judiciary in the Country Today
  • Sugamya Bharat Abhiyan
  • PUBG Mobile Game Addiction
  • Role of Youths in Nation Building
  • Value of Oxygen and Water in Life/Earth
  • Farmer Suicides in India
  • Start-up India
  • Pollution Due to Firecrackers
  • Life of Soldiers
  • Child Labour
  • Save Girl Child
  • Morning Walk
  • My School Fete
  • Essay on Financial Literacy
  • Essay On Sustainable Development
  • Essay On Punjab
  • Essay On Travel
  • My Home Essay
  • Child Marriage Essay
  • Importance Of English Language Essay
  • Essay On Mass Media
  • Essay On Horse
  • Essay On Police
  • Essay On Eid
  • Essay On Solar Energy
  • Animal Essay
  • Essay On Mango
  • Gender Discrimination Essay
  • Essay On Advertisement
  • My First Day At School Essay
  • My Neighborhood Essay
  • True Friendship Essay
  • Work Is Worship Essay
  • Essay On Self Confidence
  • Essay On Superstition
  • Essay On Bangalore
  • Sex Vs Gender Essay
  • Essay On Social Issues
  • Time Is Money Essay
  • Essay About Grandmothers
  • Essay On Hard Work
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How To Stand Out In The Ivy League During Your Freshman Year

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Harvard College

This spring, many students felt the relief and exuberance that comes with an acceptance letter from one’s dream school. Many students attending Ivy League and other top universities are valedictorians and leaders in their high school communities; they excelled throughout their high school careers and graduated with the accolades to prove it. Yet, these students are often in for a rude awakening when they arrive on campus. Though they were exceptional at their high schools, they are a dime a dozen in the Ivy League. This realization can cause many students to feel imposter syndrome and wonder how they can stand out and make an impression on their professors and peers in such a competitive environment.

The more that students prepare themselves for this adjustment, the better. Standing out in college is a different endeavor than standing out in high school—it requires time, intentionality, and a willingness to be uncomfortable and challenge yourself. Most importantly, it takes practice, and if students seek to hone this skill from their first semester on campus, they will set themselves up for success for the next four years.

For students preparing for their first semester in college, here are five strategies to navigate the transition into the Ivy League with confidence, purpose, and distinction:

1. Make your voice heard in the classroom

At Ivy League and many other top schools, faculty-to-student ratios and class sizes tend to be small, allowing greater opportunity for you to establish yourself in the classroom and engage with your professors directly. Many students are weighed down by self-doubt and the desire to avoid making mistakes in their first semester, and as such, they are reluctant to raise their hands or offer their input. But one of the best ways to establish connections with professors is to use your voice in the classroom—college is about learning and growing, so don’t be afraid to get a question wrong or develop your ideas through conversation. Doing so will allow you to connect with others in class, build your intellectual skill set, and demonstrate your curiosity and earnest desire to learn.

2. Engage in activities outside of the classroom

Beyond academics, the Ivy League is known for vibrant opportunities to learn and connect with others outside of the classroom. Whether you're interested in student government, the performing arts, guest lectures, community service, or intramural athletics, there’s an opportunity to explore your passions. Join clubs and organizations that align with your interests and values, and consider taking on leadership roles to showcase your initiative and organizational skills. Engaging in extracurricular activities will not only enrich your college experience but also afford you the opportunity to get to know people outside of your major or residence hall.

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Biden vs. trump 2024 election polls: biden losing support among key voting blocs, japanese fans are puzzled that yasuke is in assassin s creed shadows, 3. cultivate your network.

One of the most valuable assets you'll gain during your time in the Ivy League is your network of peers, professors, and mentors. Take the time to connect with your classmates and professors, attend faculty office hours, and engage in meaningful discussions. One of the best ways to build your network is to simply put yourself out there—a student’s college years are the prime opportunity to connect with even the most distinguished scholars in their field, as they not only likely have connections through their institution, but professors (even at other universities) are more likely to respond to students who reach out for their advice. If one knowledgeable person doesn’t respond or have the bandwidth to advise you on a particular project or query, move on to the next person on your list!

4. Pursue Research, Internship, and Study Abroad Opportunities

The Ivy League offers unparalleled access to research, internship, and study abroad opportunities that can complement your academic studies and expand your horizons. For instance, Harvard offers a multitude of distinguished research positions for undergraduates, ranging from thesis research to research assistantships. The University of Pennsylvania sent students to 48 countries through their study abroad offerings in the 2022-2023 academic year. Meanwhile, Princeton offers more than 400 programs in 140 countries through which students may study abroad. Whether conducting groundbreaking research in your field of study or gaining real-world experience through internships, the plethora of opportunities available to you at an Ivy League university will not only enhance your resume but also deepen your understanding of your chosen field and prepare you for future success.

5. Carve out your niche

Finally, just as high school is a time to hone your passions and demonstrate them in action in your community, college is a more rigorous opportunity to identify and make a name for yourself within a niche industry or discipline. The best way to begin doing so is to have conversations with professors, graduate students, and older students in your field. Ask them questions like: Where do you see the field expanding or moving in the next five years? What are the most significant recent developments in this profession/field? What subjects do you think have been largely unexplored? What advice would you give to emerging scholars in this discipline? While pursuing a subject of true interest to you is indeed important, it is also important to consider how you will contribute uniquely to your subject of interest, and thereby maximize your odds of success in the job market.

Finally, keep in mind that you can (and should) begin practicing these skills in high school. The more you engage in these activities, the more natural they will be when you are on campus at a top university.

Christopher Rim

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There’s a New Covid Variant. What Will That Mean for Spring and Summer?

Experts are closely watching KP.2, now the leading variant.

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A man wearing a mask coughs into his hand on a subway train.

By Dani Blum

For most of this year, the JN.1 variant of the coronavirus accounted for an overwhelming majority of Covid cases . But now, an offshoot variant called KP.2 is taking off. The variant, which made up just one percent of cases in the United States in mid-March, now makes up over a quarter.

KP.2 belongs to a subset of Covid variants that scientists have cheekily nicknamed “FLiRT,” drawn from the letters in the names of their mutations. They are descendants of JN.1, and KP.2 is “very, very close” to JN.1, said Dr. David Ho, a virologist at Columbia University. But Dr. Ho has conducted early lab tests in cells that suggest that slight differences in KP.2’s spike protein might make it better at evading our immune defenses and slightly more infectious than JN.1.

While cases currently don’t appear to be on the rise, researchers and physicians are closely watching whether the variant will drive a summer surge.

“I don’t think anybody’s expecting things to change abruptly, necessarily,” said Dr. Marc Sala, co-director of the Northwestern Medicine Comprehensive Covid-19 Center in Chicago. But KP.2 will most likely “be our new norm,’” he said. Here’s what to know.

The current spread of Covid

Experts said it would take several weeks to see whether KP.2 might lead to a rise in Covid cases, and noted that we have only a limited understanding of how the virus is spreading. Since the public health emergency ended , there is less robust data available on cases, and doctors said fewer people were using Covid tests.

But what we do know is reassuring: Despite the shift in variants, data from the C.D.C. suggests there are only “minimal ” levels of the virus circulating in wastewater nationally, and emergency department visits and hospitalizations fell between early March and late April.

“I don’t want to say that we already know everything about KP.2,” said Dr. Ziyad Al-Aly, the chief of research and development at the Veterans Affairs St. Louis Healthcare System. “But at this time, I’m not seeing any major indications of anything ominous.”

Protection from vaccines and past infections

Experts said that even if you had JN.1, you may still get reinfected with KP.2 — particularly if it’s been several months or longer since your last bout of Covid.

KP.2 could infect even people who got the most updated vaccine, Dr. Ho said, since that shot targets XBB.1.5, a variant that is notably different from JN.1 and its descendants. An early version of a paper released in April by researchers in Japan suggested that KP.2 might be more adept than JN.1 at infecting people who received the most recent Covid vaccine. (The research has not yet been peer-reviewed or published.) A spokesperson for the C.D.C. said the agency was continuing to monitor how vaccines perform against KP.2.

Still, the shot does provide some protection, especially against severe disease, doctors said, as do previous infections. At this point, there isn’t reason to believe that KP.2 would cause more severe illness than other strains, the C.D.C. spokesperson said. But people who are 65 and older, pregnant or immunocompromised remain at higher risk of serious complications from Covid.

Those groups, in particular, may want to get the updated vaccine if they haven’t yet, said Dr. Peter Chin-Hong, an infectious disease specialist at the University of California, San Francisco. The C.D.C. has recommended t hat people 65 and older who already received one dose of the updated vaccine get an additional shot at least four months later.

“Even though it’s the lowest level of deaths and hospitalizations we’ve seen, I’m still taking care of sick people with Covid,” he said. “And they all have one unifying theme, which is that they’re older and they didn’t get the latest shot.”

The latest on symptoms and long Covid

Doctors said that the symptoms of both KP.2 and JN.1 — which now makes up around 16 percent of cases — are most likely similar to those seen with other variants . These include sore throat, runny nose, coughing, head and body aches, fever, congestion, fatigue and in severe cases, shortness of breath. Fewer people lose their sense of taste and smell now than did at the start of the pandemic, but some people will still experience those symptoms.

Dr. Chin-Hong said that patients were often surprised that diarrhea, nausea and vomiting could be Covid symptoms as well, and that they sometimes confused those issues as signs that they had norovirus .

For many people who’ve already had Covid, a reinfection is often as mild or milder than their first case. While new cases of long Covid are less common now than they were at the start of the pandemic, repeat infections do raise the risk of developing long Covid, said Fikadu Tafesse, a virologist at Oregon Health & Science University. But researchers are still trying to determine by how much — one of many issues scientists are trying to untangle as the pandemic continues to evolve.

“That’s the nature of the virus,” Dr. Tafesse said. “It keeps mutating.”

Dani Blum is a health reporter for The Times. More about Dani Blum

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    Prompt 2: Overcoming challenges. Prompt 3: Questioning a belief or idea. Prompt 4: Appreciating an influential person. Prompt 5: Transformative event. Prompt 6: Interest or hobby that inspires learning. Prompt 7: Free topic. Other interesting articles. Frequently asked questions about college application essays.

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    Because the Common App essay is 650 words long and has few formal directions, organizing a response might seem daunting. Fortunately, at CollegeVine, we've developed a straightforward approach to formulating strong, unique responses. This section outlines how to: 1) Brainstorm, 2) Organize, and 3) Write a Common App essay.

  5. The 2021-2022 Common App Essay: How to Write a Great Essay ...

    The "Common App," short for the Common Application, is a general application used to apply to multiple college undergraduate programs at once.It's accepted by hundreds of colleges in the United States as well as some colleges internationally. The idea is that the Common App is a "one-stop shop" so you don't have to complete a million separate applications.

  6. 177 College Essay Examples for 11 Schools + Expert Analysis

    Now, let's get to the good stuff: the list of 177 college essay examples responding to current and past Common App essay prompts. Connecticut College. 12 Common Application essays from the classes of 2022-2025 . Hamilton College. 7 Common Application essays from the class of 2026; 7 Common Application essays from the class of 2022

  7. Top 41 Common Application Essays That Worked

    Common App Essay: Wooden Pulpits and Iron Podiums. #7: Open-Ended Prompt Each time I dance I am becoming more of who I am. That is why I adore dance.

  8. 2021-22 Common Application Essay Prompts: Tips, Samples

    For the 2021-22 application cycle, the Common Application essay prompts remain unchanged from the 2020-21 cycle with the exception of an all new option #4. As in the past, with the inclusion of the popular "Topic of Your Choice" option, you have the opportunity to write about anything you want to share with the folks in the admissions office.

  9. How To Write Effective Common Essay 2021 (With Examples)

    2-4 days: Ideate, discuss, and write with the cues. 2-3: Write without reservation. Two days after writing without reservation: Finish compiling the first draft of your Common App Essay. Three days after finishing the first draft: Finish your second draft - this is when you will have to work hard on it.

  10. Common App Essay Prompts

    Below is the complete list of the Common App essay prompts. 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 ...

  11. 27 Outstanding College Essay Examples From Top Universities 2024

    The "Dead Bird" Example College Essay Example. This was written for a Common App college application essay prompt that no longer exists, which read: Evaluate a significant experience, risk, achievement, ethical dilemma you have faced and its impact on you. Smeared blood, shredded feathers. Clearly, the bird was dead.

  12. 14 College Essay Examples From Top-25 Universities (2024-2025)

    College essay example #1. This is a college essay that worked for Harvard University. (Suggested reading: How to Get Into Harvard Undergrad) This past summer, I had the privilege of participating in the University of Notre Dame's Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program .

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    Table of contents. Essay 1: Sharing an identity or background through a montage. Essay 2: Overcoming a challenge, a sports injury narrative. Essay 3: Showing the influence of an important person or thing. Other interesting articles. Frequently asked questions about college application essays.

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    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.

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    Or feel free to call us in admission at 205/226-4696 or e-mail us at [email protected]. We want to make this process easy for you! Financial Aid. Supplemental Forms. Confirmation of Enrollment Deposit Information.

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  17. 4 Tips for Writing a Stellar Boston College Essay

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    By Scott Anderson. The Common App essay prompts will remain the same for 2022-2023. Because as we enter the third year of a global pandemic, consistency is not a bad thing. That's not the only reason, of course. We know from our most recent survey on the topic that over 95% of every group who responded--students, counselors, teachers, and ...

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    Example #3 - 12. Example #4 - Flying. Example #5 - Arab Spring in Bahrain. Example #6 - Poop, Animals and the Environment. Example #7 - Entoptic Phenomena. Example #8 - The Builder & Problem Solver. Example #10 - The Little Porch and a Dog (With Spanish Translation) Example #10 - Life As an Undocumented Student.

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    Have a fresh pair of eyes give you some feedback. Don't allow someone else to rewrite your essay, but do take advantage of others' edits and opinions when they seem helpful. ( Bates College) Read your essay aloud to someone. Reading the essay out loud offers a chance to hear how your essay sounds outside your head.

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    English Essay on Overpopulation. English Essay on Dengue Fever. English Essay on Terrorism. English Essay on Democracy. English Essay on Energy Crisis in Pakistan. English Essay on Life in a Big City. English Essay on the Importance of Science. So these are all the Important English Essay Topics for BA, BSc Exams List.

  22. Common App Essay Question : r/ApplyingToCollege

    This sounds like a really unique and interesting topic! If you can draw those connections between the game and your life/personal growth, it could be a really good essay. I've seen people write about all sorts of stuff, like that one girl who wrote about costco and got into Ivy League schools. You could literally pick anything, Fortnite included.

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  24. How To Stand Out In The Ivy League During Your Freshman Year

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