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?
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The George Washington University encourages students to think critically and to challenge the status quo. Thus, civil discourse is a key characteristic of our community. Describe a time when you engaged others in meaningful dialogue around an issue that was important to you. Did this exchange create change, new perspectives, or deeper relationships?
This scholarship was established in 2001 by the Kreager family to provide financial assistance to college-bound graduating high school seniors. Graduating high school senior who is a Kalamazoo County resident or attends a high school within Kalamazoo County or a graduating high school senior who is enrolled in South Haven High School; planning to attend an accredited institution for [...] More
“When we‘re connected to others, we become better people,” said Carnegie Mellon University‘s Randy Pausch, author of The Last Lecture.At Carnegie Mellon you‘ll have the opportunity to collaborate with a diverse community of scholars, artists and innovators. Given the students, faculty, staff and resources that have been available to you as a student, how have you collaborated with others, in or out of the classroom? Or, what lessons have you learned from working with others in the past, that might shape your experience in the future?
So many students think that they “know” what colleges want from an applicant, and this can have a big influence over their essays. Students will abuse the thesaurus and write about strange topics in an effort to impress and stand out. Instead of writing what you think the admissions office wants to read, write about what you want them to know. Again, the essay is a great space to reveal something new about you, so stand out by being yourself and showing another side of you as a person or student.
The Khyentse Foundation has developed the KF Translation Studies Scholarship to support students in advanced degree programs in translation studies and Buddhist philosophy with the expressed purpose of training the translators of the future. Students must be currently enrolled in a program of translation studies or Buddhist philosophy and are on track to become translators or are currently [...] More
Keep in mind that the personal statement alone won’t be enough to get you in—your grades and test scores are still the most important factors in your application. That being said, a stellar essay can help bring a borderline applicant over the top or give an excellent but not extraordinary student the opportunity to stand out in a competitive applicant pool.
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The scholarship is open nationally to high school seniors who are considered legally blind and have low vision or are visually impaired, requiring the use of visual aid(s), other than the use of eyeglasses, in their daily life. The purpose of this scholarship is to help students with visual challenges reach their full potential. This will further allow the students to build confidence and [...] More
All Common App essays must show your personality, identity, and aspirations, as well as spark discussions on interests, character, values, and community. The goal for any Common App essay is to impart a lasting, authentic image and sense of yourself on the reader. When you’re writing and hit a mental block, don’t hesitate to refer back to the Core Four questions a good Common App essay must answer, and always check whether or not the ideas in your essay reflect the characteristics you want to convey about yourself.

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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.
Scholarship Search Insider features advice and information on how prospective college students can find scholarships and pay for college. Student Loan Hero, an organization that helps student loan borrowers manage their debt and provides financial advice, including on scholarships, is the current contributor. Previous contributors included GoodCall.com, Scholarships.com, College Greenlight and Cappex.com. Got a question? Email scholarshipsearchinsider@usnews.com.
It’s the details that really make this small experience come alive. Notice how whenever he can, Stephen uses a more specific, descriptive word in place of a more generic one. The volunteers aren’t going to get food or dinner; they’re going for “Texas BBQ.” The coat hanger comes from “a dumpster.” Stephen doesn’t just move the coat hanger—he “jiggles” it.
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.
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Every year, the path to college is paved with more roadblocks. Increasing applications from the U.S. and abroad mean that universities across the country are rewarded with an even more elite pool of candidates. Impeccable grades and test scores alone are no longer enough to set students apart from the crowd. As social media and technology begin to change the landscape of higher education, admissions officers are looking for new ways to get to know potential students. There is still no better way to introduce yourself than through an admission essay.
The Raytheon Patriot Scholarship supports U.S Army student veterans who are entering their sophomore, junior or senior year of undergraduate study or are enrolled in a graduate program. Students must demonstrate leadership and engagement in their community and a commitment to and passion for their chosen field of study. For more information or to apply, please visit the scholarship provider's [...] More
While being able to write about whatever you wish sounds great in theory, some students find—especially at the beginning of the brainstorming process—that they are debilitated by the “topic of your choice” option because it offers too much choice. If that is the case, fear not! Use some of the other prompts as starting points for your brainstorming and free writing journeys. Begin keeping a diary (now!) and jot down subjects, events, and memories as they float to the surface. Now that you have read our handy-dandy prompt guide and understand what admissions is looking for from these prompts, you could very well have a notebook filled with ideas that are ripe for expansion by the time you sit down to write.

Your organization stands for what I believe in. Like your organization, I hope to help animals for the rest of my life. To reach my goals, I need as much help as possible. I already have the moral support of my family and friends, but that is not quite enough to make my dream come true. I hope that your organization can help me reach this dream by awarding me your scholarship.


“If you can’t live off of it, it is useless.” My parents were talking about ice skating: my passion. I started skating as a ten-year-old in Spain, admiring how difficulty and grace intertwine to create beautiful programs, but no one imagined I would still be on the ice seven years and one country later. Even more unimaginable was the thought that ice skating might become one of the most useful parts of my life.
South Coast Water District awards scholarships to college-bound high school seniors who live in the District's service area in coastal south Orange County, California. College-bound high-school seniors who live in the South Coast Water District service area which includes the communities of Dana Point, Capistrano Beach, Monarch Beach, South Laguna (south of Nyes Place), areas of north San [...] More
The goal of The Silver Pen is to get young adults interested in the process of aging so that we can foster a culture of mutual understanding and respect for the aged in our society. The competition is open to all high school seniors who have a minimum 3.0 GPA and live with 25-miles of one of the participating locations or attend one of the participating schools: Brightwater, Cascades Verdae, [...] More
Even a personal statement can have a thesis. It’s important to remember that, though your ending can be somewhat ambiguous—something we’ll discuss more later—your set-up should give the reader a clear sense of where we’re headed. It doesn’t have to be obvious, and you can delay the thesis for a paragraph or two (as this writer does), but at some point in the first 100 words or so, we need to know we’re in good hands. We need to trust that this is going to be worth our time.
The Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Drum Major for Justice Advocacy Competition is a contest designed to motivate high school students to excel in education. The Competition encourages students to express their views on a preselected topic and focuses on the ability of the students to communicate orally and in writing. The contest is also designed to give young people experience in public speaking [...] More
Answer this prompt by reflecting on a hobby, facet of your personality, or experience that is genuinely meaningful and unique to you. Admissions officers want to feel connected to you and an honest, personal statement about who you are draws them in. Your love of superheroes, baking chops, or family history are all fair game if you can tie it back to who you are or what you believe in. Avoid a rehash of the accomplishments on your high school resume and choose something that the admissions committee will not discover when reading the rest of your application.
One of the most common questions at parent meetings is “what’s better college or university”? This question did not make sense to me, I then realized that parents want to know the difference between community college and a four year. Concepts like financial aid, grants, loans, are all foreign concepts as most of our parents never went to college. As a student ambassador, I help bridge that gap. We often hold meetings where we explained resources available and different options for each student. I have learned, that as a student, I can provide assistance to my own community through my knowledge. I am the communication necessary for further successes, using my personal knowledge and experience to help uplift and educate others in similar situations. My pursuit is to not only go to college but thrive and come back ready and able to help students like myself that have to fight for their seat in the lecture hall.
I was born in Mexico to two Spanish speakers; thus, Spanish was my first language. We then moved to Spain when I was six, before finally arriving in California around my thirteenth birthday. Each change introduced countless challenges, but the hardest part of moving to America, for me, was learning English. Laminated index cards, color-coded and full of vocabulary, became part of my daily life. As someone who loves to engage in a conversation, it was very hard to feel as if my tongue was cut off. Only at the ice rink could I be myself; the feeling of the cold rink breeze embracing me, the ripping sound of blades touching the ice, even the occasional ice burning my skin as I fell—these were my few constants. I did not need to worry about mispronouncing “axel” as “aksal.” Rather, I just needed to glide and deliver the jump.
As an undergraduate, I was privileged to gain extensive research experience working in a research lab with Dr. Carol. During the three years I worked in her lab, I aided in designing a study, writing an Institutional Review Board (IRB) application, running participants through both pilot and regular studies, coding data, and analyzing said data, with these experiences culminating in my honors thesis. This thesis, entitled Self-Esteem and Need-to-Belong as predictors of implicit stereotypic explanatory bias, focuses on the relationship between levels (high and low) of self-esteem and an individual’s need to belong in a group, and how they predict whether an individual will tend to explain stereotype-inconsistent behavior. Participating in such a large study from start to finish has validated my interest in academic research as a profession.
Since I will be studying for an entire year in Prague, I will have the opportunity to attend the annual Mezipatra, an international film festival in November that screens around a hundred top-ranking films on lesbian, bisexual, transsexual and queer themes. I feel really connected to going to this event because I crave being in an environment of like-minded people who strive to do that same thing I want to: balance the images of people typically portrayed through cliché and stereotype.
Reflect on a service activity or other efforts you've undertaken to contribute to your community or communities. Your actions might involve individual service, a group project, or substantial activities to support your family, such as employment or caring for a sick relative. What did you learn about yourself and your community? What did you learn about how society functions more generally?
Colleges will sometimes also have a place to offer additional information or context about hardships you might have faced during high school. This is another place you could consider explaining or adding context for bad grades or the like. Even here, it’s important to not simply state, “I had bad grades but improved them.” A better explanation provides context and explains what specifically helped you turn things around, for example: “During my freshman year, as my parents went through a difficult divorce, I became distracted and stressed, and my grades suffered as a result. I was able to work with my teachers over the summer after my freshman year, however, and attended summer school to make up for weak performance. My family also repaired itself after a few years and time in family therapy. Though I regret my poor grades from ninth grade, I am proud that I was able to improve quickly as a sophomore, and that I developed both stronger study habits and tactics for dealing with emotional stress as a result.” The second answer is specific and also demonstrates maturity gained thanks to a difficult period.
In French, there is no difference between “conscience” and “consciousness.” In Japanese, there is a word that specifically refers to the splittable wooden chopsticks you get at restaurants. The German word “fremdschämen” encapsulates the feeling you get when you’re embarrassed on behalf of someone else. All of these require explanation in order to properly communicate their meaning, and are, to varying degrees, untranslatable. Choose a word, tell us what it means, and then explain why it cannot (or should not) be translated from its original language.
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?!”
A few years earlier, my family of nine had been evicted from the home we had been living in for the past ten years. With nowhere else to go, we moved into our church’s back room for three months, where I shamefully tried to hide our toothbrushes and extra shoes from other church members. Right then I made a commitment to my family to contribute financially in whatever way I could. My sacrifice translated to a closer bond with my siblings and deeper conversations with my parents, helping me understand the true meaning of a unified family and the valuable part I play in that.
Since I was five, my parents pushed me to value education because they were born in Vietnam and had limited education. Because of this disadvantage, I learned to take everything I do seriously and to put in all of my effort to complete tasks such as becoming the founder of my school’s Badminton Club in my sophomore year and Red Cross Club this year. Before creating these clubs, I created a vision for these clubs so I can organize my responsibilities better as a leader. The more involved I became, the more I learned as a leader and as a person. As a leader, I carried the same behavior I portrayed towards my younger cousins and sibling. My family members stressed the importance of being a good influence; as I adapted this behavior, I utilized this in my leadership positions. I learned to become a good role model by teaching my younger family members proper manners and guiding them in their academics so that they can do well. In school, I guide my peers in organizing team uniform designs and in networking with a nonprofit organization for service events.
One of our consultants 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.
The Richard Weinreis Memorial Scholarship provides funding to Marathon County (Wisconsin) students who have had formal court contact through the Marathon County Department of Social Services juvenile intake system within the past seven years and are able to demonstrate evidence of a plan for education or training that would provide for personal career advancements.

While a postsecondary degree or credential has become indispensable for entry into professional careers and the middle class, the cost of college continues to increase. Student Veterans of America is proud to partner with Rockwell Collins to award three $2,500 scholarships to student veterans that are interested in pursuing a STEM degree path. This scholarship will not only build a diverse talent [...] More


The Jesse Jackson Fellows-Toyota Scholarship is a renewable scholarship that awards up to $25,000 dollars annually to deserving African-American college sophomores. Students who are interested in applying for the scholarship must have a minimum cumulative 3.0 GPA, be a business or STEM (Science, technology, engineering and/or math) major that can be applied to the automotive industry, [...] More
Tips to consider: This is an opportunity to describe your academic and future professional interests. You may not yet be 100% certain about what you want to do, but is there a particular field that you think you want to work in, or a certain path you want to pursue after college? How have your interests and experiences influenced your choice of majors or your plans to explore in college?
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
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Our project aims to educate parents and teens about the dangers of living in a connected world. Explore our site and then join us in the fight to stop online harassment. In an effort to get students committed to the cause of deleting cyberbullying, we are offering the Delete Cyberbullying Scholarship Award for high school, college and graduate student - a $1,000 scholarship to help cover [...] More
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.
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There’s no reason to rush your essay. You won’t score extra point with the admissions department for finishing your essay in an hour. Unless you’ve helped write the State of the Union, your admissions essay will likely be the most influential essay you’ve written so far, at least as it relates to your own life. Give yourself at least a week to compose your essay.
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