common app essay topics

common app essay topics

Exploring Common App Essay Topics: A Comprehensive Guide

1. Introduction to the Common App Essay

Given the significance of the Common Application in the college application process, it is imperative that we break down the process of writing an excellent Common App essay. It is all too common for an essay with considerable backstory and depth to be forged into an all-too-rare five-paragraph essay; conversely, an essay that should be more structured and streamlined is often strewn with anecdotes throughout. Both approaches routinely lead to essays failing to answer prompt requirements or to explain fundamental life aspects colleges are interested in learning about. Therefore, with the ultimate goal of making the college application process easier for each and every student, we will burrow deeper into each of the Common Application’s personal statement prompts, serving as a one-stop shop for good essay ideas and tips. To begin, we should note the estimated essay word count – four hundred fifty at its lowest and up to six hundred fifty words – holds a great deal of weight in determining the amount of information needed to present a coherent storyline.

2. Choosing the Right Essay Topic

The specific questions and topics we have listed can be used instead to help students think more about themselves and their experience. Ultimately, you will need to choose one topic from the five possible options. The topic you pick does not have to be the one you write the essay about, but whatever you do, make sure your final essay actually employs the topic or topics you have decided to use. Remember that there is no “correct” response to the essay question. The admissions team looks for a sense of social well-being in a student’s character and background. Committees also look for thoughtful character analysis. We want to know more about you and how you have learned to grow from experience.

The next step is to decide what message you are trying to get across. It is not enough to just tell the story; you must argue that it conveys a unique, valuable aspect of yourself. These questions and prompts are meant to help you begin to brainstorm about topic ideas. They are not intended to limit you. Feel free to take a different approach to one of these topics. Moreover, there are literally hundreds of colleges out there. Think of these questions as a way to initiate your own brainstorming process for personal statement writing, regardless of the topic you choose.

3. Crafting a Compelling Narrative

Today’s college-bound students are both savvier and more introspective than ever. However, generally students have tended to focus on external events such as the death of great-grandparents, a car accident, modest study-abroad experiences, or the star of the winning touchdown. College essays represent an attempt to change an abstraction into a reality. Given the choice, most students will opt for a focused, direct, specific account of an activity, interest or selected characteristic. Such biographical excerpts are useful mood dressers, but if to be limited, students are better served by using fresher, often wittier, and more telling insights – about themselves and their passions – made more vivid by having been chosen independently of a resume or abstract measures such as GPA or SAT scores.

The more focused you can make your essay, the stronger it will be. You will spend months, if not years, working through your academic record and activities schedule, so you now have the luxury of setting the context for each of these entries – just as a good historic novel throws its characters into a time and place, woven into the fabric of a particular historical moment.

A vivid, engaging narrative shows admissions officers that a student can handle the rigors of college-level work. “Sharpen your needle,” according to Jesse Shaw, Director of Admission at Roanoke College. “Use original detail; try to use active voice. ‘I was astounded at my poor time management’ is less vivid than ‘As I staggered up the 11,000-foot peak, stepping over lichens of every color, the ensuing realization that I had missed the deadline was, to say the least, unwanted…'” This theme also brings considerable constraints. If you decide to write on a slice-of-life topic, it will be important to cut away extraneous detail.

4. Avoiding Common Pitfalls

During the application process, especially when constructing the Common Application, many students feel obligated to write about or explore everything they may be able to bring to a college campus. If a runner isn’t qualified for a scholarship and is not an anti-drug champion, what could possibly be an interesting topic to write about or a topic that would capture a reader’s interest and differentiate the student from other students? Why would one student be a better choice than another? What would you like to tell college students to help them have a better college experience? A student writing about being a camp counselor to younger children can write an interesting essay. However, an essay that addresses the reader and gives advice about how to be a good counselor adds a different dimension to the application. What do you want the readers of the application to know about you apart from courses, grades, and test scores? What is so odd about you that you would never share it with anyone else if you didn’t have to? What do you want people to know about you that can’t be gleaned from a resume or a transcript? What did you do last weekend? Were you pleased with your grades? Did your boss tell you that you did an excellent job?

How to Avoid Common Pitfalls in Your College Application Essays

5. Tips for Successful Essay Writing

If you are writing about the environment and want to emphasize its importance, as well as your belief in hard work, you might consider writing about the concept of recycling in a working environment. If you are writing about a hobby and want to show your enjoyment in problem-solving, as well as impress upon the reader that hands-on experience teaches us more than just reading about it, and hope to write in a businesslike style, you might consider writing about computer programming. What can the things we recycle tell us about daily life? What exactly does a computer program do? These are examples of topic sentences that can hook your reader and start your essay on a clear and focused note. Remember, this is not the time for a general topic. You start in the middle of things. Then you proceed to construct your essay around your opening dialogue. Allow this to be a natural process. Once again, let the subject guide you. What your computer program can achieve is determined by the problem you wish to solve. Discriminating between the computer and the female admits to many answers. We study both because we want to understand them. Both are related. They are not different in themselves, but in their relationship. Computer programming is like a sculptor who works in secret, and the result is brought to light. While a computer program and a sculpture both occupy space, a program accomplishes through time what a sculpture carries out in space. On one hand, we have been learning how to make the computer handle both spatial cuts and storied space. And what about women? What have we learned? The time has come to paraphrase the title of a famous book: to program is female, to compute is male!

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