Common Application Essays / Prompts:
As we have been approaching this year’s January 1 Regular Decision deadline, I’ve been concentrating on essays in my posts here. Today, I want to show you some more samples of excellent Common Application essays so that they might inspire you to a better level of writing.
First, let’s review the choices of topics the Common Application offers. Here are the prompts from which you may choose:
– Some students have a background or story that is so central to their identity that they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.
– Recount an incident or time when you experienced failure. How did it affect you, and what lessons did you learn?
– Reflect on a time when you challenged a belief or idea. What prompted you to act? Would you make the same decision again?
– Describe a place or environment where you are perfectly content. What do you do or experience there, and why is it meaningful to you?
“She untied the aged velvet ribbon holding the stack of envelopes together. Pulling the first letter from the crumbling envelope, she slipped into another world….”
“Only three people knew my real name, and two of them are dead now. The third is sitting across the table stirring a cup of coffee….”
“As he stood up, the bed shifted with his weight. He tried not to think about what he had to do today….”
Who doesn’t fit easily in your setting? Create a main character who is directly challenged by the time or location of your novel and write 500 words about how he or she must learn to cope.
Everything was going well for your main character until yesterday. What happened?
The words your main character says tell only part of the story. When he or she says, “Really. I’m fine,” what is the subtext?
What your main character wants is diametrically opposed to the needs of another character. Who is that other character? Describe him or her as you’re meeting for the first time.
Write the last page of your novel first. What happened? Why?
In 500 words, describe your story’s setting focusing on sensation and feeling-based words. How does the setting affect your character’s body and mind?
Pick one tree, house, or other object from your setting and draw a verbal picture of it.
Tonight, when your main character lies down to sleep, he or she has the most disturbing dream. What happens?
Although he’s in a hurry, your character needs to do one more thing before he leaves the house (or castle, cave, hut, or other dwelling). What is this thing? Why is it so important?
Your character hears a knock on the door. She opens it. As soon as the door is opened, the person on the other side collapses in your character’s arms. Who is it? What has happened?
Your character’s cheeks are burning with embarrassment. If this had happened in private, it would have been bad enough. Now everyone knows. What happened? Where is your character?
This is one of those times your character’s aged grandmother or grandfather warned him about. The worst has come to pass. What is going on?
Your character takes a bite of dinner, which tastes just like home. What is she thinking as she eats?
Just when he thought he’d handled the situation, he hears the snap of a twig outside. Who is there? What is going to happen?
Describe the setting of your childhood home using sensory-rich language. What did the air smell like? What did you hear if you opened a window?
Choose a photograph of yourself from a pivotal time in your life. How was life different before the photo? How did it change after?
Describe yourself as you would have during the period you want to write about. How would you have characterized your appearance? What did you consider your best and worst qualities at that time?
What is the most difficult decision you’ve ever had to make? Why was it so hard?
Pick a year of your life at random. What was happening that year? How did it change you?
How are you like or unlike another person in your memoir or story? Use comparison and contrasting language to develop both of your characters for the reader.
Describe your first kiss without using the word “kiss.”