Don’t show anyone anything you have written yet. And don’t reread it immediately. Let all that you’ve written sit, latent, so you’re not tempted to edit it right off the bat. Why? Allowing your writing to breathe away from you can prevent you from committing one of the cardinal sins of personal statement-writing—but also all writing!—trying to force the story into what you think it should be instead of what it is. To get more concrete: let’s say Michael wrote about his grandfather teaching him to surf in answer to several of those prompts—about a crucial summer, and an important person to him. But now he’s so excited about that that he immediately wants to turn it into his draft. As he’s writing, he gets self-conscious, thinking: why am I writing about surfing when I’m not a competitive surfer, and when it’s only something I do occasionally? Or say Michael shows it to an English teacher, who gets distracted by the quality of Michaels prose—which was meant to be free and unedited—and tells him to choose another topic, since this one isn’t “singing” yet. Respect your process and let these things sit.
This prompt is 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 doesn’t mean that losses don’t sting. I was devastated when my hockey team lost the championship game by only one goal when I was the last one to control the puck. But I was still incredibly proud of my team’s cohesiveness, the fluid effort we put into the season, and my own contribution. More importantly, the camaraderie and support of my teammates is ongoing and something I will always cherish more than a win. I didn’t dwell over what could have been. Instead, I focused on what I was going to take with me into the next season.
I come from a small town where drugs, gang violence, and crime are on every corner. My family lived in a tiny two-bedroom house right next to the town meth lab. We never reported the activities from next door because, quite frankly, we were scared to. Then one day, there was an accident in the garage that caught the house on fire. It was early in the morning, and the only people to help were the volunteer firefighters nearby. They couldn’t control the flames in time, and our house was burned as well.
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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