Verbs jump, dance, fall, fail us. Nouns ground us, name me, define you. “We are the limits of our language.” Love your words, feed them, let them grow. Teach them well and they will teach you too. Let them play, sing, or sob outside of yourself. Give them as a gift to others. Try the imperative, think about your future tense, when you would have looked back to the imperfect that defines us and awaits us. Define, Describe, Dare. Have fun.
Just before 5 pm on Sunday, October 13, 2013, I was sitting in a bar, holding on to a feeling of optimism that was fading fast. But wait: it’s not what you think. I didn’t turn to drink; I turned to the TV screen. The score was 27-23, and the Patriots had missed too many opportunities. With just over a minute left to play, my dad—the man responsible for bringing me, a 15-year-old, to a bar—dejectedly asked me if we should leave. I reminded him a true sports fan never gives up on her team, no matter the situation. And after a miracle of a drive finished with an unforgettable pass into the corner of the endzone by my idol, Tom Brady, a swell of elated cheering and high-fiving from the fans in the bar ensued regardless of whether we had previously known one another. Loyalty brought us all together.
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I look at the ticking, white clock: it’s eleven at night, my primetime. I clear the carpet of the Sony camera charger, the faded Levi’s, and last week’s Statistics homework. Having prepared my work space, I pull out the big, blue box and select two 12 by 12 crème sheets of paper. The layouts of the pages are already imprinted in my mind, so I simply draw them on scratch paper. Now I can really begin.
Another way to answer this prompt is to discuss a time when you noticed a need for change. For example, if you wondered why medical records are often handwritten, or why a doctor’s visit can be long and awkward, maybe you challenged the norm in healthcare by brainstorming an electronic-recording smartphone app or a telemedicine system. In a similar way, if you led a fundraiser and recognized that advertising on social media would be more effective than the traditional use of printed flyers, you could write about a topic along those lines as well. Focus on what action or experience caused you to recognize the need for change and follow with your actions and resulting outcome.
After graduating, I will apply for work as a dispatcher in a state organization, such as the Office of Drug Control Policy or the Department of Criminal Investigation. While my ultimate goal is to work as a forensic analyst or crime scene investigator, those positions usually only go to people within the organization. Dispatch is the most direct option for career entry, giving me the best chance to pursue my dream career.
As you’re iterating, try Tip #7: Read your drafts aloud so that you can tell when things feel stiff or weak; this should sound like you. Reading aloud can help you catch things like Common Error #5: tonal errors—sounding too formal or too glib/casual. Ramya never suffered from either of these problems; she sounded like herself even in early drafts. But many students feel that they either have to sound formal to the point of stuffiness (“On a Sunday afternoon, my father would pick me up from my room and take me down to the kitchen, whereupon we would adjourn to Dee’s Sports bar…”) or “authentically young” to the point of disrespecting the reader (“On Sundays my dad’s like, let’s go to Dee’s Sports Bar, and I go okay so I come on down and we get going...”) When you’re staring at the blinking cursor until your eyes cross, it can be easy to fall into one of these traps, and to write in a voice that isn’t yours. When you read aloud, you can catch it. Tip #8: The right essay-voice is the most polished version of your speaking-voice. You shouldn’t sound like you swallowed a Thesaurus, but you should sound a little more formal than your text messages to your friends would.
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One of our consultants detailed how growing up as an American in Germany led to feelings of displacement. Moving to America in high school only exacerbated her feelings of rootlessness. Her transcultural experiences, however, allowed her to relate to other “New Americans,” particularly refugees. Helping a young refugee girl settle into the US eventually helped the writer find home in America as well:
This prompt lends itself to consideration of what facets of your personality allow you to overcome adversity. While it’s okay to choose a relatively mundane “failure” such as not winning an award at a Model UN conference, another (perhaps more powerful) tactic is to write about a foundational failure and assess its impact on your development thereafter.
Explain your interest in the major you selected and describe how you have recently explored or developed this interest inside and/or outside the classroom. You may also explain how this major relates to your future career goals. If you're applying to the Division of General Studies, explain your academic interests and strengths or your future career goals. You may include any majors or areas of study you're currently considering.
The affect Germinal had on me was not just limited to social awareness. I also became more aware of other literature, history, and art. I read other Zola novels which led me to discover Balzac and his wonderful books such as the sweet sad tale of Pere Goriot. I also became interested in the French Revolution in order to find out how the month of Germinal came to get its name. When I learned that the young Zola was a early champion and admirer of Monet and the Impressionists, I began to notice art for the first time.
4. Some connection between your past, your present, and your future. It’s common to see a student choose an important experience in their past, narrate the whole thing beautifully, but then forget to tie it to the present. Before you even start writing, think about whether your potential topic is influencing the way you think about the present, and, crucially, the future. Take Michael, again. He writes beautifully about his grandfather teaching him about the waves, but he’s not a pro surfer, and might even be going to college in the middle of the country. Does that matter? Not as long as he tells us how surfing influences him—as he did in extracting a wider lesson.
This is a heavily revised version of one of 2016’s prompts, which asked students to describe a transition from childhood to adulthood. The purview of the inquiry has been expanded to ask about personal growth in general, leaving the lessons and timing of an applicant’s transformation more open-ended. Students are also now free to reflect on a “realization” in addition to an “event” or “occurrence.” While a realization that changes your understanding of the world will likely be sparked by a concrete marker (i.e., an event or accomplishment), we are happy to receive the added flexibility from you, Common App. Thank you very much.
I was diagnosed with ADHD as a child because I had trouble focusing in school. My doctor prescribed medication to improve my symptoms, but all it did was make me numb to the world around me. I couldn’t think or process emotions, and most of the time, I had no emotions at all. I went through this for several years until my parents finally decided to get a second opinion.

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Once you have created a lengthy list of ideas , funnel through and map out how the essay would look with the best ones among them. One unique idea is to combine a couple of varied ideas on your list into one major discussion topic, either comparing or contrasting the two. Once you pick your best approach, the hardest part is over and it will be easy to write a creative, unique essay.
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Unrelated elements of your personal life. In most cases, you should not mention your significant other in the essay. You might mention a spouse if you need to reference your children or a turning point in your life, but these personal details do not fit most essays. Any information that seems frivolous or ill-placed should be removed from the essay.
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Do your research. Select your essay prompt(s) by first deciding which colleges you plan to apply to. If all the colleges you plan to apply to use the Common Application, this application may be the best choice for you. If all use the Coalition Application, that may be the better choice. Although Purdue uses both, some colleges only use one or the other.
While the idea of writing the essay on college applications is typically fraught with anxiety for the majority of high school seniors, it is important to realize that the essay is a wonderful chance to demonstrate who you really are to the admissions officers. Since colleges are not looking solely for students with straight A’s and the best SAT scores, the most vital component to writing a great essay is to reveal your true personality and demonstrate that you would be a great addition to their campus community. Also, be sure to use these top college application essay tips to help you win big with your essay and get admitted into the school of your dreams!
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Hello, students and parents of the future class of 2023! The time has come. The Common App essay prompts for 2018-19 have been released and—spoiler alert—they’re exactly the same as last year’s! In 2017 the Common App added two new prompts to the pile, one of which was a return to the much-beloved “topic of your choice.” (Cue the confetti!) So 2018-19 college applicants, like those who came before them in 2017-18, will have seven (that’s right, seven) essay prompts to choose from. This wide range of questions, meant to inspire candidates in their search for compelling personal stories, is ideal for exploring essay topics of all tones, styles, and subjects. Students’ personal stories and feats of insight will again be relegated to 650 words, which equates to a little more than a single-spaced page. We happen to believe this is the perfect amount of space in which to make a quick and powerful impression with admissions (or write a comprehensive fan letter to Beyoncé), so as far as we’re concerned, you’re golden.


“Whenever someone hears my name for the first time, they comment “Wow, Jensina is a cool name.” She must be pretty cool. She must be from somewhere exotic. She must be musical and artsy. When I was little, these sentiments felt more like commands than assumptions. I thought I had to be the most unique child of all time, which was a daunting task, but I tried. I was the only kid in the second grade to color the sun red. During snack time, we could choose between apple juice and grape juice. I liked apple juice more, but if everyone else was choosing apple, then I had to choose grape. This was how I lived my life, and it was exhausting.
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Recall the most cherished memory with your father figure. For some it may be when he taught you how to ride a bike, for others it may be memories of him taking you out for pizza when mom said the family has to eat healthy, for others it’s the ability to confide in somebody that won’t judge or stop loving you because of the mistakes you have made. When a child is born, he or she is given a birth certificate, which provides information such as name, date and place of birth, but most importantly it provides the names of the parents of the child. On my birth certificate I have the name the name of my beloved mother Lurvin, but right above her name is an empty space where my father’s name should be.
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So now, make a list of everything that seems like a fruitful topic. From the questions and prompts, you should find that you have 3-5 strong topic areas and stories—stuff that got you thinking and feeling, and which produced what Hemingway called the “honest sentences” that comprise good writing. Start with the one that moves you most—that’s your personal statement—but save all the others as fodder for your secondaries, or as backup material in case someone you trust tells you to consider switching topics for some reason. (Tip: the stuff that isn’t always linked to an anecdote or story but is important to you can often be useful for those secondaries.)
Whatever you’re into, embrace it. Show your feathers. Let your freak flag fly (within reason, obvs). This prompt is about the pursuit of knowledge and your desire to proactively challenge yourself. Whether you are devouring the classics on your Kindle or nerding out over the perfect cheese for calzone-making, your attachment to a subject may inspire admissions to want to learn more about it…and you.

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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