APR 19, 2020 • 6 min read
The prompt reads: Describe a topic, idea, or concept you find so engaging 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?
This prompt seeks to discover what inspires you, what excites you, what makes you tick! As a result, you should of course choose something you are legitimately passionate about. It could be an area of ideology, such as Ancient Greek philosophy, or the teachings of Confucius. It could be an academic topic, such as quantum physics, literature or economics. It could be a fascination with a particular person, institution or religion. It could even be things like particular artists, writers, directors, books, movies, TV-shows, and other creative topics. If you pulled it off, an essay about J.R.R Tolkein’s novels and their reflection on humanity might go down really well with the admissions officers.
But beware; don’t use this as an opportunity to look smart and choose some academic topic that you don’t actually care about that much, or are simply trying to talk about your genius in that area of study. If you think that the admissions officers will want to accept you into a quantum physics degree just because you are interested in quantum physics, you are very much mistaken. The common app essay is about learning about who you are as a person, not about what academic topics interest you the most.
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If you do decide to write about an academic topic, make sure that you have genuine knowledge and passion for the subject. If you have spent three years studying quantum physics, give us a sense of what you did in different spaces in your life—at home, at school, in your dreams—in order to further your understanding of this subject, and how your work in the subject furthered other goals and lead to personal growth. In many ways, use your passion for an academic topic as just the vehicle for other discussion, rather than the focus.
Again, the trick here is to make your discussion personal. If your essay could be about anybody with the same interest in a topic, it will not appeal to the admissions officers. Make sure you are writing as much as you can about your unique experiences of learning in detailed scenes, and the impact it has had on you and your particular future goals.
Read Part 8 of the Common App series.
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