Before you dive (or cannonball!) into our pool of essay advice, we’d like to leave you with one last little secret: the prompts are not actually as important as you think they are. In fact, in our instructional writing course and private advising, we encourage applicants to root around for their most meaningful stories first and consider the prompts later. This is a process we call the Backwards Brainstorm, and you can learn more about it here. For now, the main point we want you to take away is this: The prompts don’t really matter. What matters is the story you want to tell. (And that you floss at least every other day—trust us, it will pay off in the long run.) We are as sure as ever that every single one of you has a valuable story (or two or twelve!) to communicate to admissions. All it takes is ample time for reflection and a little writerly elbow grease to find it. So take a peek at what the 2018-19 application has in store for you, absorb what these prompts are really asking, and then forget about them (really!) as you explore the endless possibilities.
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Beside us, our comrades were dying, each falling to the ground crying in “agony,” their hands clasping their “wounds.” Suddenly a wish for heroism surged within me: I grabbed Min-young’s arms and rushed towards the enemies’ headquarters, disobeying our orders to remain sentry duty. To tip the tide of the war, I had to kill their captain. We infiltrated the enemy lines, narrowly dodging each attack. We then cleared the pillars of asparagus ferns until the Captain’s lair came into view. I quickly pulled my clueless friend back into the bush.
The CBC Spouses Education Scholarship is for African-American or black students for all majors who are preparing to pursue or are currently pursuing an undergraduate or graduate degree full-time at a U.S. accredited college or university. A minimum 2.5 GPA is also required. Students must also exhibit leadership ability and participate in community service activities. For more information or to [...] More
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 Ravine 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. So when the opportunity to attend the Mississippi School for Mathematics and Science presented itself, I took it and ran, as did my parents by leaving Vietnam and by buying the store. 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.”
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The Apprentice Ecologist Open Space Scholarship is open to middle school, high school, or undergraduate college/university students (ages 13-21) who participate in or lead an environmental stewardship project for the benefit of any lands managed or co-managed by the Open Space Division. In order to apply, you must write an essay about your project and what it meant to you (750-1,500 words) and [...] More
From the way my mentors and I began working two hours earlier than required to meet deadlines, I learned that engineering is the commitment of long hours. From the respect and humility embodied within our team, I learned the value of unity at the workplace. Like my own family at home, our unity and communal commitment to working led to excellent results for everyone and a closer connection within the group.
Sponsored by CME Group & the National Cattlemen's Foundation, ten (10) scholarships of $1,500 will be awarded to outstanding students who are pursuing careers in the beef industry. Fields of study may include education, communications, production, research or any other area involved with the beef industry. The purpose of this program is to identify and encourage talented and thoughtful students [...] More
The application essay is not a résumé, nor is it an epic. And by “not an epic,” I mean both  “not fiction” and “not a grand adventure story about an extraordinary protagonist.” Some students might feel pressured to invent tragic past experiences or monumental achievements to heighten the emotional appeal of their essays, but admission officers can detect bovine feces. They also don’t expect you to have survived trauma or carried out heroic feats by your senior year in high school. So always represent yourself in the best way possible, but make sure you keep that depiction truthful.  
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This connection of past experience to current maturity and self-knowledge is a key element in all successful personal essays. Colleges are very much looking for mature, self-aware applicants. These are the qualities of successful college students, who will be able to navigate the independence college classes require and the responsibility and quasi-adulthood of college life.
Project Sleep's Jack & Julie Narcolepsy Scholarship is the first-ever national narcolepsy scholarship program to support students with narcolepsy while also fostering awareness in high school and college settings. Applicant must be a high school senior who will attend a four-year university starting in the fall and must have a signed letter from an accredited sleep specialist or neurologist with [...] More
The Bird Dog Foundation, Inc. has established a Scholarship Fund to promote interest in wildlife conservation and related subjects. An annual College Scholarship Essay Contest sponsored by the Bird Dog Foundation, Inc. has been in effect for several years now. Applicants must be a high school senior preparing to enter freshman year of college or university. Students attending school within a 75 [...] More
All of these essays rely on connecting with the reader through a heartfelt, highly descriptive scene from the author's life. It can either be very dramatic (did you survive a plane crash?) or it can be completely mundane (did you finally beat your dad at Scrabble?). Either way, it should be personal and revealing about you, your personality, and the way you are now that you are entering the adult world.

Sponsored by CME Group & the National Cattlemen's Foundation, ten (10) scholarships of $1,500 will be awarded to outstanding students who are pursuing careers in the beef industry. Fields of study may include education, communications, production, research or any other area involved with the beef industry. The purpose of this program is to identify and encourage talented and thoughtful students [...] More
Three scholarships of $600 will be awarded to outstanding students who are pursuing careers in the beef industry. Fields of study may include education, communications, production, research or any other area involved in the beef industry. The purpose of this program is to identify and encourage talented and thoughtful students who will emerge as industry leaders.
Technique #2: invented terminology. The second technique is the way Bridget coins her own terms, carrying them through the whole essay. It would be easy enough to simply describe the people she imagined in childhood as helpers or assistants, and to simply say that as a child she wanted to rule the world. Instead, she invents the capitalized (and thus official-sounding) titles “Fixer-Upper” and “Emperor of the World,” making these childish conceits at once charming and iconic. What's also key is that the titles feed into the central metaphor of the essay, which keeps them from sounding like strange quirks that don’t go anywhere.
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Despite (or perhaps in light of) all this intellectual and creative freedom, you may find yourself stuck. Don’t worry, one of the most common questions all high schoolers have is, “What should I write my college essay about?” When I help students brainstorm potential essay topics, I usually ask them dozens of questions, hoping to unearth just a single response that will capture the interest of a college admissions officer. For some students, however, the essay prompts themselves can provide a great source of inspiration. If you’re looking for little nudge in the right direction, take our college essay quiz below. Based on your responses to 14 simple questions, we can help you identify which of the seven Common App essay prompts may best allow you to share your story with colleges. Ready to find out which Common App prompt you are?
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?
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The Arkansas Chamber Singers Vocal/Choral Music Scholarship is established with a mission in focus that will encourage and promote the art of choral music. It is expected that students will master the skills and acquire the knowledge that will lead to the highest quality of choral music performance in the state of Arkansas. All applicants for the Arkansas Chamber Singers Vocal/Choral Music [...] More
The CBC Spouses Visual Arts Scholarship is for African-American or black students with majors in the visual arts including, but not limited to, architecture, ceramics, drawing, fashion, graphic design, illustration, interior design, painting, photography, sketching, video production and other decorative arts. Students must be currently/planning to be enrolled in the upcoming academic year as a [...] More

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In 2015, the city of Melbourne, Australia created a “tree-mail” service, in which all of the trees in the city received an email address so that residents could report any tree-related issues. As an unexpected result, people began to email their favorite trees sweet and occasionally humorous letters. Imagine this has been expanded to any object (tree or otherwise) in the world, and share with us the letter you’d send to your favorite.


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.

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 First County Bank Richard E. Taber Citizenship Award honors high school students, living in the lower Fairfield County area, who consistently demonstrate good citizenship at school, at home, and in the community. The recipient of this award must be a high school senior and have been accepted to an accredited two or four-year college/university, as well as be a current resident of Stamford, [...] More

When I was chosen from hundreds of applicants to take part in a summer internship with Sea World, I fell even more in love with these gentle giants. I also learned a very important and valuable lesson: prior to this internship, I had imagined becoming a marine biologist, working directly with the animals in their care both in captivity and in the wild. However, during the internship, I discovered that this is not where my strengths lie. Unfortunately, I am not a strong student in science or math, which are required skills to become a marine biologist. Although this was a disheartening realization, I found that I possess other strengths can still be of great value to manatees and other endangered marine mammals: my skills as a public relations manager and communicator. During the internship, I helped write new lessons and presentations for elementary school groups visiting the park and developed a series of fun activities for children to help them learn more about manatees as well as conservation of endangered species in general. I also worked directly with the park’s conservation and communication director, and helped develop a new local outreach program designed to educate Floridians on how to avoid hitting a manatee when boating. My supervisor recommended me to the Save the Manatee Foundation so in addition to my full-time internship at Sea World, I interned with the Save the Manatee Foundation part-time. It was there that I witnessed the manatee rescue and conservation effort first hand, and worked directly with the marine biologists in developing fund-raising and awareness-raising campaigns. I found that the foundation’s social media presence was lacking, and, using skills I learned from Sea World, I helped them raise over $5,000 through a Twitter challenge, which we linked to the various social media outlets of the World Wildlife Federation.
OK, that is in no way a direct quotation, nor is it anything close to blank verse, but trust me: the bard would want you to avoid trying to anticipate what the admission staff want to read. So don’t try to be too clever or cutesy in your essay, and don’t try to embellish a perfectly simple story. “We’re trying to discern whether you can you put thoughts on paper in a coherent manner,” says Southwestern University’s Vice President for Strategic Recruitment and Enrollment Tom Delahunt. “The topic doesn’t have to be heavy, like death, dying, or a debilitating illness. It can be light and still give us an indication that you can write and effectively communicate.” Everyday experiences can be meaningful, and you should describe how a particular difficult conversation affected your thinking about cultural differences or how collecting antique typewriters helps you see technology in a different way. But don’t exaggerate the significance of your experience; the effect it’s had on your personal growth does not need to be elevated to the level of global impact.
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.
People often think of language as a connector, something that brings people together by helping them share experiences, feelings, ideas, etc. We, however, are interested in how language sets people apart. Start with the peculiarities of your own personal language—the voice you use when speaking most intimately to yourself, the vocabulary that spills out when you’re startled, or special phrases and gestures that no one else seems to use or even understand—and tell us how your language makes you unique. You may want to think about subtle riffs or idiosyncrasies based on cadence, rhythm, rhyme, or (mis)pronunciation.
The goal of these revisions is to help all applicants, regardless of background or access to counseling, see themselves and their stories within the prompts. They are designed to invite unencumbered discussions of character and community, identity, and aspiration. To this end, we will be creating new educational resources to help students both understand and approach the opportunities the essay presents for them.
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 Ravine 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. So when the opportunity to attend the Mississippi School for Mathematics and Science presented itself, I took it and ran, as did my parents by leaving Vietnam and by buying the store. 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.”
As a child I would often compare my life to my peers; I would often go through all of these hypothetical scenarios in my mind thinking, “If my dad were around I could be like all of the other boys.” As the years went by I always had a sense of optimism that one day I would meet him and he would tell me “I love you and I’ll never leave your side again.” But when the time came and I met him on January 2014 I learned that a man can reject his only son not once, but twice.
I remember in ninth grade thinking how cool it’d be to be on yearbook. Yearbook kids knew which classes everyone was in, they knew which kids were into what extracurricular, and perhaps most importantly, they knew everyone at school. From freshmen to seniors to faculty, yearbook gave them a connection to everyone. Yearbook kids radiated serene confidence in themselves and their work. At my school, that’s how it is: yearbook is a mini-company of 20.
What most intrigues me about engineering is not just the math or the technology, but the practical application. It is through engineering that I can fix up my car... and facilitate submarine navigation. Engineering, in fact, is a lifestyle --  instead of lingering over hardships, I work to solve them and learn from them. Whether the challenge is naval defense or family finances or even just a flat tire on my bike before another night shift, I will be solving these problems and will always be looking to keep rolling on.  

To address a question like this, you need a topic that has real stakes—that is, something that you genuinely struggled with. Even though it can seem as though you should only discuss positive experiences and feelings in your college essay (you want to impress your readers with how awesome you are!), unwavering positivity actually hurts your essay because it makes you seem fake.
The Mae & Mary Scholarship Fund's mission is to financially assist and to empower young people to experience their unlimited potential through education. We are a charitable educational organization dedicated to the advancement of African Americans pursuing careers in medical and healthcare related fields. Applicants must be African American, graduating high school seniors who plan on attending a [...] More

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).
IAPMO formed the foundation - the International Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Foundation (IWSH) - to help provide safe access to clean water and sanitation systems. How would you promote the IWSH projects and what slogan would you use do to so? Students must be a current high school senior; or enrolled or accepted as a full-time student in an accredited technical school, community college, trade [...] More

George Staby has provided scholarships limited to current AGR undergraduates who are enrolled with a declared horticulture-related major in entomology, environmental horticulture, horticulture, landscape gardening, landscape horticulture, ornamental horticulture, pest control, plant breeding, plant pathology, plant science (with horticulture emphasis), pomology, and/or vegetable crops who have [...] More
With upwards of 25 or more essays to write for a balanced college list of 10-12 schools, it’s tempting for students to repurpose essays across applications if the prompts are similar. While students can use the same main essay on the Common App for multiple schools, we always recommend that students tailor their supplemental essays to the individual colleges. Telling Harvard why you want to attend Columbia is a quick way to end up in the “no” pile. Take the time to write original responses to all the prompts. It’s a lot of work, but it will pay off in the end.
Although there is no single thing we are hoping to find out about you, the essay can help you “come to life” and often becomes a way for us to understand your story. Remember, we aren’t looking for perfection. We are looking for the human being behind the roster of activities and grades. Think of the essay as an opportunity rather than an ordeal. Don't psych yourself out by thinking the essay has to do all the heavy lifting in your application. It is only one part in our holistic review that allows us to construct an interesting Oberlin community.
Hafeez Lakhani of Lakhani Coaching summed up the essay this way: “Every college is like a dinner table. What will make you the most interesting contributor to that dinner table conversation? What will make you help everyone else have a more interesting experience?” A good essay, rich with anecdotes and personality, will answer those questions and stand out from the pile.
I have always been a proponent of students starting to prepare for college as early as possible, not only by striving to excel scholastically but also by learning all they can about completing scholarship applications and acquiring financial aid. Unless you are independently wealthy, a crucial step in the process of getting into the school of your dreams is learning how to win free money. You can begin your freshman year in high school by conducting a free scholarship search at www.scholarships.com and by perusing the site for additional financial aid information. Before you go out in search of loans, you need to realize there is free money out there but a lot of people won’t put in the necessary amount of time and effort required to get it. Creating a well-reasoned, informative and well-written scholarship essay is one of the things you can do to give you the edge you need. The trick is to give your best effort, follow directions to the letter, and be as efficient as possible. Follow the steps below and your time spent completing scholarship applications may pay off:
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Our college essay experts go through a rigorous selection process that evaluates their writing skills and knowledge of college admissions. We also train them on how to interpret prompts, facilitate the brainstorming process, and provide inspiration for great essays, with curriculum culled from our years of experience helping students write essays that work. Learn more about our consultants

If you’re starting to feel frustrated or overwhelmed by your essay, take a break and do something else. A short walk around your neighborhood can help clear your mind and help you brainstorm new ideas for your composition. If you’re still feeling overwhelmed, do something completely unrelated to your essay and forget about it completely for a while. If you try to work through the stress, you may end up producing subpar work.
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