Common Application Essay Prompts Released Early (2019-2020)

18 OCT 2019

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If you ask most students which part of the Common Application process they find the most challenging, the great majority will probably answer the Common App’s personal essay.

The good news is that this year, the Common App have released their essay prompts early. This means applicants in the 2019-2020 admissions round have more time to consider the different prompts offered and brainstorm ideas for their preferred options.

But first things first!

The decision-makers at the Common Application, after conducting a thorough review of last year’s questions, have decided to change…not much! This is good news for students, parents and other stakeholders including admissions officers who have a greater breadth of reference when considering each applicant’s personal voice.

As for the 2019-2020 prompts themselves, as in previous years there are seven to choose from:

  1. Some students have a background, identity, interest or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.
  2. The lessons we take from obstacles we encounter can be fundamental to later success. Recount a time when you faced a challenge, setback, or failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience?
  3. Reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea. What prompted your thinking? What was the outcome?
  4. Describe a problem you’ve solved or a problem you’d like to solve. It can be an intellectual challenge, a research query, an ethical dilemma — anything that is of personal importance, no matter the scale. Explain its significance to you and what steps you took or could be taken to identify a solution.
  5. Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others.
  6. Describe a topic, idea, or concept you find so engaging that it makes you lose all track of time. Why does it captivate you? What or who do you turn to when you want to learn more?
  7. Share an essay on any topic of your choice. It can be one you’ve already written, one that responds to a different prompt, or one of your own design.

Of course, there is no right choice when it comes to selecting the essay prompt best for you, as each student brings their own personal experiences and creativity to what many admissions officers describe as the most insightful element of the common application process.

The main thing to remember is, that the essays are titled ‘personal’ for a reason, -just as Crimson Education essay mentors will attest - the key to writing an essay that stands out above the rest is perfecting a piece that reflects who you are and where you see yourself in the future.

That being said, you may like to know exactly which prompts students from the 2018/2019 admissions round preferred?

Perhaps surprisingly, the most popular prompt was prompt #7, the ‘topic of your own choice’ essay. This prompt was chosen by almost a quarter of all applicants (24.1%), while prompt #5, the ‘discuss an accomplishment’ option, was the second most popular at 23.1% and prompt #2 the ‘obstacles and challenges’ came in a close third (21.1%). While these three essay options accounted for close to 70% of all applicant’s choices, this does not mean the other prompts should be disregarded.

In fact, every student should choose the option which best speaks to their own personal voice.

Time and time again admissions officer have spoken about the importance of the authenticity of your personal voice (see Yale admissions officer advice here), which is why Crimson’s essay mentors work endlessly with their students to help them find and perfect their individual expression.

As Crimson student and recent Duke University admit Allie Brice expresses:

“My essay mentor was so incredible. She was right in there helping me but she also maintained this slight distance from the whole process - as she wanted to make sure the statement was ‘me’. She helped me formulate ideas but she didn’t rewrite my essay. She respected my story, as she didn’t want me to be lost as the applicant, and for that I’ll be eternally grateful.”

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