For many high school seniors, it can be maddeningly frustrating to choose the “right” Common App essay topic because the options are so broad. Take a look at the seven available essay prompts for the 2018-19 Common App. (These prompts are unchanged from the 2017-18 application season.) As we noted in a previous blog post, prompt number 7 actually grants students permission to write their own essay question and respond to it. How open-ended can you get?
Answer: Your essay can draw on whatever moves you, regardless of when the anecdote, event, or inciting incident you’re writing about occurred. However, what matters most, in terms of timeline, is that you show your readers how the event not only influences you now but will continue to inflect your thinking about yourself and the world as the years roll on.
My upbringing has numbed me to unpredictability and chaos. With a family of seven, my home was loud, messy, and spottily supervised. My siblings arguing, the dog barking, the phone ringing—all meant my house was functioning normally. My Dad, a retired Navy pilot, was away half the time. When he was home, he had a parenting style something like a drill sergeant. At the age of nine, I learned how to clear burning oil from the surface of water. My Dad considered this a critical life skill—you know, in case my aircraft carrier should ever get torpedoed. “The water’s on fire! Clear a hole!” he shouted, tossing me in the lake without warning. While I’m still unconvinced about that particular lesson’s practicality, my Dad’s overarching message is unequivocally true: much of life is unexpected, and you have to deal with the twists and turns.
But why college? I want a higher education. I want more than just the textbook fed classrooms in high school. A community which prizes revolutionary ideals, a sharing of multi-dynamical perspectives, an environment that ultimately acts as a medium for movement, similar to the punk rock community. I do not see college as a mere stepping stone for a stable career or a prosperous life, but as a supplement for knowledge and self-empowerment; it is a social engine that will jettison us to our next paradigm shift.
Getting along with other people is necessary for anyone and living with five families has made me more sensitive to others’ needs: I have learned how to recognize when someone needs to talk, when I should give advice and when to simply listen, and when someone needs to be left alone; in the process, I have become much more adaptable. I’m ready to change, learn, and be shaped by my future families.

For applicants to Columbia College, please tell us what from your current and past experiences (either academic or personal) attracts you specifically to the field or fields of study that you noted in the Member Questions section. If you are currently undecided, please write about any field or fields in which you may have an interest at this time. (300 words or less)

Throughout this guide, we’re going to refer to a few example essays. Some of these are made up but others are closely based on essays we have worked with students on over the past ten-plus years—and these students successfully met their admissions goals, including getting into multiple Ivy League and other top-tier schools. Let’s meet our students now!
The Connor Porter Memorial Scholarship was created in 2013 through a generous donation from Connor's family members. Connor passed away on July 26, 2012 in a plane crash with his father, Pat, and another friend shortly after winning bronze in the Division III foil event at the Summer Nationals in Anaheim. Connor had many friends in the fencing world and was well known for his sportsmanship and [...] More
My older sister is the first in my family to go to college. I was always the shyer one. She's taught me through her efforts that the only limits you have are the ones you place on yourself. With my sister's example I have followed in the footsteps of never letting money become a reason why I can't or won't do something. If my sister can do it, I can do it. I see the leadership characteristic is genetic and it runs in my entire family. I witness my parents be leaders everyday as they tackle cultural obstacles in a country that wasn't the one they were born into, speaking a language that is not their own, and raising children to succeed in a system of higher education; one they never had the privilege to be part of. My family and I are one. We stack our efforts, and obstacles on top of each other to further our successes as a whole. When I think back to my family's story I'm amazed to think that my grandpa came to the US in the midst of WW2, a bracero, leaving his family to help feed millions of Americans in time of war. My grandpa, a man of the fields, paved the way so I could defy the odds with my prosperity.
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With 100 words, you can only focus on one or two elements of your life. Think about your biggest selling points – the things that show you are the ideal candidate. Start by introducing yourself and your educational status. Then jump into the main topic of the essay. You may not have room to mention how the scholarship will help your education. Instead, mention how your education can help your career. The other information will be implied.
2. Tension, conflict, and opportunity to show growth. Josh might write a lovely reflection on how close he and his brother were, or how much he likes his little sister—but that doesn’t give the admissions committee much to work with. Why? Because your topic needs to display your ability to grow, to show change over a period of time. If Josh has always had a perfect relationship with his sister, well—first, no one will believe that!, and second, Josh is not really telling a story. So as you’re identifying the right anecdote for your essay, make sure you have a point of tension—a point where we, the reader, wonder if everything will turn out okay. For J, this might mean beginning with a time before he and his sister were close—say, when all the siblings were in the house and there wasn’t much time for the two to connect. Then Josh would tell us about what changed as soon as the brother left, and in there he might find an opening anecdote.
Have you ever walked through the aisles of a warehouse store like Costco or Sam’s Club and wondered who would buy a jar of mustard a foot and a half tall? We’ve bought it, but it didn’t stop us from wondering about other things, like absurd eating contests, impulse buys, excess, unimagined uses for mustard, storage, preservatives, notions of bigness…and dozens of other ideas both silly and serious. Write an essay somehow inspired by super-huge mustard.
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One of many students’ and parents’ biggest fears is the sheer anonymity of the process. You, the college applicant, have worked hard through high school, earning great grades, expanding your worldview through extracurriculars or jobs, and contributing to your community… and now, it can seem pretty unjust to throw yourself at the mercy of an application system that seems arbitrary, blind to your personality, or even uncaring.
My name is Christian Wood. I am a high school senior who will be attending the University of Nevada, Reno in the fall. I am getting a degree in journalism so I can become an online journalist. My goal is to work for the Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, Huffington Post, or another news outlet that has a strong online presence. The internet is already where most people get their news, and the industry will be even bigger by the time I graduate. Getting a degree in journalism with a focus on digital media will set me up for a fulfilling, fast-paced career fit for the future.
Make a list of experiences that have been important to you. These do not have to be dramatic, tragic, traumatic, or prove that you changed the world, though they can be any of those. Perhaps a particular summer that mattered a lot? Or an experience with friend or family member who shaped you—it could be a specific day spent with them, or a weekend, a summer, a year?
Things to consider:An educational opportunity can be anything that has added value to your educational experience and better prepared you for college. For example, participation in an honors or academic enrichment program, or enrollment in an academy that’s geared toward an occupation or a major, or taking advanced courses that interest you — just to name a few.
My older sister is the first in my family to go to college. I was always the shyer one. She's taught me through her efforts that the only limits you have are the ones you place on yourself. With my sister's example I have followed in the footsteps of never letting money become a reason why I can't or won't do something. If my sister can do it, I can do it. I see the leadership characteristic is genetic and it runs in my entire family. I witness my parents be leaders everyday as they tackle cultural obstacles in a country that wasn't the one they were born into, speaking a language that is not their own, and raising children to succeed in a system of higher education; one they never had the privilege to be part of. My family and I are one. We stack our efforts, and obstacles on top of each other to further our successes as a whole. When I think back to my family's story I'm amazed to think that my grandpa came to the US in the midst of WW2, a bracero, leaving his family to help feed millions of Americans in time of war. My grandpa, a man of the fields, paved the way so I could defy the odds with my prosperity.

But more than punctuality and a special affinity for musical chairs, my family life has taught me to thrive in situations over which I have no power. Growing up, I never controlled my older siblings, but I learned how to thwart their attempts to control me. I forged alliances, and realigned them as necessary. Sometimes, I was the poor, defenseless little brother; sometimes I was the omniscient elder. Different things to different people, as the situation demanded. I learned to adapt.
For Peterfriend, one essay that stood out came from a student who taught skiing to a disabled and nonverbal child. He wrote about how they communicated, and how he felt when he got to see the child ski down his first slope. He wrote that he didn’t realize how much joy he could receive by helping someone else. The story reflected compassion and self-growth.

Every evening at precisely 6:30 p.m., my family and I unfailingly gather in our living room in anticipation of Pat Sajak’s cheerful announcement: “It’s time to spin the wheel!” And the game is afoot, our banter punctuated by the potential of either big rewards or even bigger bankruptcies: “She has to know that word—my goodness, why is she buying a vowel?!”
Students applying to Digital Media Design and Computer and Cognitive Science should address both the specialized program and single-degree choice in their response. For students applying to the other coordinated dual-degree and specialized programs, please answer this question in regards to your single-degree school choice; Your interest in the coordinated dual-degree or specialized program may be addressed through the program-specific essays.

Oberlin requires a general personal essay as well as a short essay (250 words) responding to the question, “How did your interest in Oberlin develop and what aspects of our college community most excite you?” For your personal essay, you may choose from the Common Application or Coalition Application essay prompts listed below, or write on the topic of your choice.
Although I agree that I will never live off of ice skating, the education and skills I have gained from it have opened countless doors. Ice skating has given me the resilience, work ethic, and inspiration to develop as a teacher and an English speaker. It has improved my academic performance by teaching me rhythm, health, and routine. It also reminds me that a passion does not have to produce money in order for it to hold immense value. Ceramics, for instance, challenges me to experiment with the messy and unexpected. While painting reminds me to be adventurous and patient with my forms of self-expression. I don’t know yet what I will live off of from day to day as I mature; however, the skills my passions have provided me are life-long and irreplaceable.
Every 1 in 4 women will be a victim of severe violence by an intimate partner in their lifetime. This means our mothers, sisters, grandmothers or even daughters can be victims of domestic violence. We have to be the ones willing to initiate the conversation because many victims are scared. Everyday more people are speaking up about their own stories. Celebrities such as Bill Clinton, Rihanna, and Halle Berry have spoke about their personal accounts with domestic violence. Through these views, people are seeing domestic violence as a bigger issue and an issue that needs to be opened up about. All in all, domestic violence is all around us.

While the world as a whole may be more technologically advanced than ever before, the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) has outlined 14 Grand Challenges that engineers should focus on to improve life on the planet. Learn about the Grand Challenges at www.engineeringchallenges.organd tell us which challenge is most important, and why. (250 word limit)


The Iranian Scholarship Foundation (ISF) provides scholarships to students of Iranian descent in the United States who demonstrate exceptional academic promise, significant financial need and a dedication to community service. We believe that the future of the global Iranian community rests in the hands of our younger generation and the Iranian Scholarship Foundation is committed to providing the [...] More
The Caruso Affiliated Spirit of American Youth Scholarship will be awarded to two graduating high school seniors who attend a public or private school in the San Fernando and San Gabriel Valleys. Qualifying students will exhibit academic potential, provide examples of how they've contributed to the betterment of their communities, and complete an essay based on how they would invest in their [...] More
At Seattle Pacific, we encourage all students to explore or go deeper in Christian faith and to be inspired to make a difference. SPU’s vision means that you can pursue an education that helps you change the world for the better. How does Seattle Pacific’s vision align with your desires for college? How does your own faith perspective or personal story intersect with our vision?
This is the first stanza of a piece of slam poetry my friend and I wrote and performed at our school’s rendition of TED Talks. Over lunch one day, we discovered we shared a common passion—an insistence on equality in all forms, feminism in particular. We discussed the difficulty of combating social issues, but agreed that spreading awareness was one effective method. This casual exchange evolved into a project involving weeks of collaboration. We realized that together we could make a far greater impact than we ever could have individually, so we composed a ten-minute poem aimed at inspiring people to consider important issues. We began by drafting stanzas, simultaneously editing one another’s writing, and later progressed to memorization, practicing together until our alternating lines flowed and phrases spoken together were completely synchronized. The performance was both memorable and successful, but more importantly, this collaboration motivated us to move forward to establish the Equality Club at our school. Sophomore year, our club volunteered with organizations promoting gender equality, the highlight of the year helping at a marathon for recovering abuse victims. Junior year, we met with our head of school to convey our goals, outline plans and gain support for the coming year, in which we held fundraisers for refugees while educating students. This year we are collaborating with the Judicial Committee to reduce the escalating use of racial slurs at school stemming from a lack of awareness within the student body. From this experience, I learned that it is possible to reach so many more people when working together rather than apart. It also taught me that the most crucial aspect of collaborating is believing in the same cause; the details will come as long as there is a shared passion.
“The day was May 28, 2014.  My doctor told my parents that I would need Spinal Fusion Surgery with rods and screws, and it had to happen quickly.  Before surgery, the doctor suggested strength training for the muscles in my back so that I’d recover faster. I immediately went to the local gym and began working with a personal trainer, Justin.  I learned so much from him including how the body works and how surgery takes time to heal. After surgery, I knew that I wanted to use my experience to help others, just like Justin helped me. My ultimate goal is to own my own gym to help others, just like Justin helped me.  I will also include a nutritional supplement line to make sure clients are fit inside and out. I know I will successfully reach my goals!
From its good-natured bruise-counting competitions to its culture of hard work and perseverance, ice skating provided the nurturing environment that made my other challenges worthwhile. Knowing that each moment on the ice represented a financial sacrifice for my family, I cherished every second I got. Often this meant waking up every morning at 4 a.m. to practice what I had learned in my few precious minutes of coaching. It meant assisting in group lessons to earn extra skating time and taking my conditioning off-ice by joining my high school varsity running teams. Even as I began to make friends and lose my fear of speaking, the rink was my sanctuary. Eventually, however, the only way to keep improving was to pay for more coaching, which my family could not afford. And so I started tutoring Spanish.
The Profile in Courage Essay Contest challenges students to write an original and creative essay that demonstrates an understanding of political courage as described by John F. Kennedy in Profiles in Courage. The maximum word count is 1,000 with a minimum of 700, not including citations and bibliography. Use at least five varied sources such as government documents, letters, newspaper articles, [...] More
Applicants submitting the Coalition Application: Please choose one of the topics above and respond in 300 words or fewer. In addition to writing on your chosen topic, upload an audio file, video, image, or document you have created that is meaningful to you and relates to your essay. Above your essay, include a one-sentence description of what you have submitted.
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Chicago author Nelson Algren said, “A writer does well if in his whole life he can tell the story of one street.” Chicagoans, but not just Chicagoans, have always found something instructive, and pleasing, and profound in the stories of their block, of Main Street, of Highway 61, of a farm lane, of the Celestial Highway. Tell us the story of a street, path, road—real or imagined or metaphorical.
The scholarship is open nationally to high school seniors who have a hearing loss, which requires the use of hearing aid(s) in their daily life. The purpose of this scholarship is to help students with hearing challenges reach their full potential by giving them the gift of sound. This will further allow the students to build confidence and self-esteem as they prepare to begin their college or [...] More
Now, think about the first declarative sentence Ramya makes in that initial draft: “I have always been loyal to the Patriots.” Tip #2: Struggling to define your thesis statement? Look for your first declarative statement! Ramya’s essay can’t be about her perpetual loyalty to the Patriots—that won’t be enough. But the fact that her prose naturally settled on that as its first short, sharp sentence tells us that she’s making a statement she probably believes in. Loyalty now becomes really important as a theme. Common Error #2: Hiding your thesis statement or burying it too low. Since we know that loyalty will have something to do with Ramya’s thesis statement, we now know we want it to arrive at the end of the first paragraph or at the start of the first.

Higher education is expensive and can run into the tens of thousands of dollars per year. The Montgomery G.I. Bill and the Post 9/11 G.I. Bill both provide a strong foundation for educational finance, but even these solid tools often fall short of footing the bill. This scholarship program provides financial support to service men and women who have been awarded the Purple Heart and are [...] More


- First and foremost when looking at an essay, you're going to be looking things like, their ability to write well and their appropriation for college. But we're also using that information to kind of see things like, their resilience and their love of learning and their intellectual curiosity. - I always tell a student, you know, if you had the chance to come meet with the admissions committee and present yourself in person, would you want to do it? And without fail students say, yeah I'd love to have that opportunity. And when I ask why? They say because if they were able to get know the admissions committee, the admissions committee would want to admit because they would know them and they would get to know what their about and what makes them unique and special. - The essay is really neat in that it's one of the only places in the application where they have complete control. Where they can write about the things that they've been involved in and things that they've done. - One piece of advice I would give to every student is to ask someone who know's them a little bit, to read their essay and to tell them what impressions they have of you after reading the essay. - I think the essays that work best are actually quite simple. I think students get really caught up in thinking that this essay has to emcompass your entire life and it has to be groundbreaking and, you know, publishable quality. And that's a lot to ask of a high school student. So I always advice students to stick to the simple things that you know. And the essays that stand out the most in my mind are about simple, simple things, very everyday topics. - I have seen some amazing essays about things like students walking their dog, or even their bus ride to school. - I think our hope is that if a student were to drop the essay on the floor of their high school and someone were to pick it up. It didn't have your name on it. That they'd say for sure, oh I know that is so and so's essay, because it speaks so much about your voice and your experiences and your perspective. - I think my favorite essay that I've ever read came from a student in the midwest. And he wrote about working at a fast food restaurant. And he wrote about how people were treating him as they went through the drive through. And how he was treating them back. He called himself an undercover anthropologist, which admittedly was a little nerdy in a Brown sort of way. But I liked his essay because, I was able to see what he was seeing and feel what he was feeling. So for the purposes of the application, where we as admish officers are trying to get to know the applicant, that's a great essay.
6. Be vivid. A good essay is often compared to a story: In many cases it's an anecdote of an important moment. Provide some details to help the reader see the setting. Use the names (or invent them) for the other people in the story, including your brother, teacher, or coach. This makes it all more human and humane. It also shows the reader that you are thinking about his or her appreciation of your writing, which is something you'll surely want to do.

Some colleges ask for a personal statement, and others provide a choice of topics, or prompts, for a student to write about. The Common Application, which students can use for more than 700 colleges, gives a choice of seven essay prompts this year that include recounting a challenge, setback or failure and what was learned from the experience; a time when the student questioned or challenged a belief or idea; and a problem the student would like to solve.
You might be familiar with The Common Application, Common App for short, which serves as a single application that over seven-hundred colleges, including every Ivy League school (e.g., Harvard, Yale, Princeton) and Stanford, share. The Common App allows you to fill out things like your name, demographics, extracurricular activities, and more, just once for every school that uses it. It is also where you’ll encounter “The Common App Essay,” otherwise known as your personal statement (PS), which is what this guide will focus on.

I’d also like to volunteer to work on a photography project at the Lobkowicz Palace and Nelahozeves Castle, 15km from Prague, where I will find one of the world’s largest private collections of world-famous artworks, artifacts, and a library of over 65,000 volumes. I hope to hone my skills with a camera and take a zoomed-in look at the Prague history. I’m going to wear my Canon t2i like a glove.

Being African, I recognize Africa’s need for home- grown talent in the form of “planners” (assistants with possible solutions) and “searchers” (those with desperate need) working towards international development. I represent both. Coming from Zimbabwe my greatest challenge is in helping to improve the livelihoods of developing nations through sustainable development and good governance principles. The need for policy-makers capable of employing cross-jurisdictional, and cross- disciplinary strategies to solve complex challenges cannot be under-emphasized; hence my application to this scholarship program.
“Wow. I’m glad you are feeling better” and “I can’t believe you went through that” are common reactions people have when they see the scars on my upper chest. Quite frankly, the past nine months have been difficult, literally full of blood, sweat and tears. But through it all, I have been able to maintain my positivity and gratitude knowing that I have gained the invaluable experience of being a patient and discovering the vulnerability and trust that patients give their doctors. Patients indulge information to doctors that they may have never told anyone in their life and in doing so, place a great deal of trust and responsibility in the hands of a doctor. Many patients will not understand the mechanism of disease behind their condition and anticipate that the doctor will explain to them and their family why it is that they are feeling the way they are and ultimately heal them. And that is precisely what my surgeon understood: the privilege of being able to care for patients and the intimacy of the doctor-patient relationship. And as I awoke to the care of my worried parents, the first thing they wanted to discuss was the details of the procedure that was methodically and patiently explained to them by my “good” doctor.

But unlike a story, an essay needs a main point that’s stated explicitly, so beyond describing the event or person, be sure to explain how that event or person changed you. Did you learn a skill you’ve used or would like to continue honing as an undergraduate? Did you learn an important lesson that has shaped how you think or behave in some way? Regardless of the topic you choose, your essay should tell a distinctive, compelling, cohesive story about who you are, how you’ve grown as an individual, and the contributions you’ll make to this particular college campus.
If you have no idea where to start when trying to win a scholarship, you may feel reassured after looking at a few sample essays. They can spur good ideas that might help you outline your work, choose which of your topics is most fitting, and find a writing style that makes you feel comfortable. No matter what approach you take, get at least one other person you trust to review your essay before sending it in. Make revisions as needed and proofread carefully before submitting your scholarship application packet.
The Harry S. Chandler Memorial Scholarship is to be used by a high school graduate from Multnomah, Clackamas, Washington, Clark, Marion, Columbia, Umatilla, or Coos counties in Oregon. Applicants are asked to submit a 2-page essay addressing the meaning of diversity, how diversity has influenced your life so far, the role that diversity will play in achieving your educational goals and/or the [...] More
The scholarship program was introduced in 1990 by CME Group and NPPC to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the CME Live Hog futures. The scholarship was renamed in 2006 to honor the passing of NPPC Board of Director Lois Britt. A lifetime supporter of agriculture, Britt spent 34 years with the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service, finishing out her carrier for 15 years with Murphy-Brown [...] More
For this prompt, stay away from figures that are likely to be written about by hundreds of potential students (presidents, Mother Teresa, etc.), and pick a figure you are actually passionate about and interested in, rather than what you think sounds most academic. If you want to go personal and choose a family member, make sure you have a memorable and unique reason. 

In order to encourage interest in science, students need to experience early interactions. By gradually assimilating into the world of science, children can find themselves capable of mastering science. Additionally, elementary years constitute the most impressionable years of a person’s life. By experiencing science at such a young age, one can find themselves, like me, passionate about science for a lifetime.


The winter of my seventh grade year, my alcoholic mother entered a psychiatric unit for an attempted suicide. Mom survived, but I would never forget visiting her at the ward or the complete confusion I felt about her attempt to end her life. Today I realize that this experience greatly influenced my professional ambition as well as my personal identity. While early on my professional ambitions were aimed towards the mental health field, later experiences have redirected me towards a career in academia.
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