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Importance of Common App Essay
Common App Prompts for 23/24
How to Answer the Common App Prompts
Common App Essay Guidelines
Navigating the Common App essay prompts for 2023/24? This guide breaks down each prompt, offering insights, tips, and strategies to craft a compelling narrative. Plus, learn about the unchanged prompts from last year and how Crimson Education's mentors — graduates from top universities — can guide you in telling your unique story. Dive in to enhance your application and stand out in the admissions process.
The college application process can be a whirlwind of forms, deadlines, and decisions. At the heart of this journey for many students is the Common Application, a uniform application form accepted by numerous colleges and universities.
The Common App streamlines the application process, allowing students to apply to multiple institutions using a single platform. One of the most crucial components of the Common App is the personal essay.
The essay isn't just another box to tick off in the application process; it's a pivotal opportunity for submitting a more compelling and memorable application.
While grades, test scores, and extracurriculars provide a quantitative view of an applicant, the essay offers a qualitative glimpse into their character, aspirations, and experiences. It's the space where students can transcend numbers and voice their unique stories, challenges, and dreams.
The Common App essay can account for up to 30% of the importance of a college application, based on its weight amongst all other factors.
In a sea of applications, the essay is the student's chance to showcase their personality, values, and the experiences that have shaped them. It's a canvas where they can paint a vivid picture of who they are and what they bring to the table.
In essence, the Common App essay is more than just words on a page; it's a reflection of the individual behind the application. Your essay is a vital opportunity to stand out as an applicant — with the power to turn an application from ordinary to extraordinary.
You might notice that the 2023/24 essay prompts have remained unchanged from the previous year. This consistency offers an advantage, as students can draw from a wealth of advice and examples from past years.
5 Common App Essay Tips
The Common App essay prompts serve as a lens through which applicants can share their unique stories, experiences, and perspectives. For the 2023/24 application cycle, the prompts are as follows:
Additionally, the Common App will retain the optional COVID-19 question within the Additional Information section. In this section you can share any meaningful personal experiences related to the pandemic and relevant to your applicant profile or background, which might include:
For a detailed look at each prompt, visiting the official Common App website is always a good way to make sure you’re following the most accurate and up-to-date information and guidelines before you spend lots of time writing!
"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.
This prompt beckons you to explore your cultural roots, upbringing, and defining experiences. To spark ideas, consider:
Reflecting on your identity and its evolution can offer rich material for your essay. If you've experienced shifts in your identity or perspective, delve into the reasons behind these changes and their implications for your future aspirations. A significant event or realization that altered your worldview can be a compelling narrative focus.
If you're grappling with where to start, jot down phrases or values that resonate with your identity. Words like "compassion," "resilience," or "innovation" can serve as anchors for your essay, guiding your narrative around pivotal experiences that exemplify these traits.
Select a story or incident from your life that encapsulates the essence of the chosen descriptive word. For instance, if "cooperation" resonates with you, narrate an instance where teamwork within your family or community led to a significant achievement.
While the overarching theme of identity might be common, your unique experiences and reflections will set your essay apart. Remember, this essay is an opportunity to showcase aspects of your life and character not evident elsewhere in your application. Avoid redundancy and strive for fresh, engaging content.
Prompt 1 of the Common App essay challenges you to introspect and articulate how background circumstances or experiences have had a unique impact in shaping your identity, self-awareness, character, or goals.
While covering a broad spectrum is tempting, focusing on poignant moments and genuine reflections will make for a more compelling narrative. As you craft your essay, remember to be authentic and let your individual voice shine through.
The Essay That Got Me Into Brown University
"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?
Prompt 2 requires identifying meaningful obstacles in your life, articulating lessons learned from them, and sharing how the lessons pave the way for future success.
While it's tempting to narrate minor setbacks, such as narrowly avoiding tardiness, these stories often lack depth and don't offer insights into your character or values. Instead, focus on significant challenges that had a profound impact on your life:
It's natural to want to present your best self, but genuine growth often stems from acknowledging failures and setbacks. Demonstrating how you initially struggled, made mistakes, or even failed but then learned and grew from those experiences showcases maturity and resilience.
Detail how you navigated the challenge. What catalyzed your transformation? Instead of merely stating that you overcame an obstacle, delve into the lessons it taught you.
Challenges aren't always personal. They can encompass broader issues affecting your community, nation, or even globally. Discussing how you and those near to you collectively navigated such challenges, supported one another, and emerged stronger can offer a unique perspective.
Prompt 2 offers an opportunity to demonstrate personal growth, resilience, and the ability to derive lessons from challenges. While the obstacle itself is significant, the focus should be on your journey of navigating it, the lessons it taught you, and how those lessons have shaped your outlook and approach to future challenges.
"Reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea. What prompted your thinking? What was the outcome?
Prompt 3 is an opportunity to highlight a decisive realization that led you to question or challenge established beliefs while showcasing your ability to act with courage and in accordance with a deep conviction.
This essay explores your journey in standing up against established norms or beliefs. It could be a personal belief ingrained since childhood or a societal norm you felt needed challenging.
While the prompt encourages you to delve into potentially controversial topics, it's essential to approach them with sensitivity and respect. Whether it's politics, culture, or religion, ensure your narrative remains personal, focusing on your journey of introspection and growth.
This prompt is as much about the questions as it is about the answers. Reflect on:
Your response will give admissions officers insights into your ability to think critically, remain open-minded, and evolve in your beliefs – qualities highly valued in the academic world.
Prompt 3 offers a unique opportunity to discuss personal growth stemming from challenging established norms or beliefs. While the topic you choose is significant, the emphasis should be on your journey of introspection, the challenges you faced, and how it has shaped your current perspective.
Common App Essay Guide Part 1: Ideation
"Prompt 4: Reflect on something that someone has done for you that has made you happy or thankful in a surprising way. How has this gratitude affected or motivated you?
Prompt 4 allows you to turn positivity in your life circumstances — as opposed to adversity — into an opportunity to showcase your capacity for gratitude and how gratitude shapes your character and actions.
Begin by reflecting on moments when someone's unexpected act of kindness caught you off guard.
While the act itself is significant, the emphasis should be on its ripple effect on your life.
While narrating the act and your immediate feelings is essential, delve deeper into introspection. Reflect on:
Prompt 4 offers a unique opportunity to discuss the transformative power of unexpected acts of kindness. While the act itself is the starting point, your essay should focus on your journey of introspection, the lessons learned, and how your capacity to cultivate gratitude impacted your character, perspectives, and actions in meaningful ways.
What I wrote about for my Common App Essay
"Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others.
Prompt 5 specifically focuses on moments of realization and their profound impact on shaping one's understanding of self and others.
Begin by reflecting on pivotal moments in your life.
While the event or accomplishment is the starting point, delve deeper into its implications.
Life is complex, and personal growth often stems from navigating its intricacies.
Prompt 5 offers a unique opportunity to discuss the transformative power of experiences, accomplishments, or realizations. While the event itself is the catalyst, the focus should be on your journey of introspection, the lessons learned, and how it has influenced your perspective and actions.
"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?
Prompt 6 focuses on topics or ideas that captivate you to the point that you lose track of time — perhaps as evidence of what kind of topics and lines of inquiry and thought align with your passions, are most natural and compelling for you personally.
Begin by reflecting on what genuinely excites you.
Avoid the trap of selecting a topic merely because it sounds impressive. Admissions officers can discern genuine passion from pretense. The essay should be a reflection of your true interests, not a showcase of academic prowess.
Discuss how your chosen topic has influenced various facets of your life.
Prompt 6 offers a unique opportunity to discuss what genuinely captivates you. While the topic itself is the starting point, the emphasis should be on your personal connection to it, the experiences it has given you, and how it has influenced your perspective and aspirations.
5 Common App Personal Essay Red Flags
"Prompt 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.
Prompt 7 is the most open-ended of all, allowing you to venture into any topic of your choice, making it both an exciting and challenging option.
This prompt offers unparalleled freedom, but with that comes the responsibility of selecting a topic that is both engaging and meaningful.
While the temptation might be to cover a broad topic, focus on specific moments or ideas. Dive deep into introspection, exploring how these moments have shaped your worldview and aspirations.
Your unique voice is your most potent tool here.
Colleges value growth and potential. Reflect on:
Prompt 7 offers a unique opportunity to venture into any topic of your choice. While the freedom is exhilarating, ensure your essay remains focused, personal, and reflective of your growth and unique perspective.
The college application process is a unique opportunity to showcase who you are beyond grades and test scores. The Common App essay is a testament to your journey, passions, and the experiences that have molded you.
Everyone has a distinct story; this platform is your chance to narrate yours. Approach it with authenticity, introspection, and a genuine desire to convey your essence.
Not sure if your essay captures your essence? Want to ensure it stands out in a sea of applications? Get your essay reviewed by our team of experts to ensure it resonates with admissions officers.
And if you're at the beginning stages of your college application journey, consider booking a free consultation with our seasoned college counselors.
We're here to guide you in building a holistic application that amplifies your chances of acceptance at top-tier universities. Your dream college is within reach; let us help you get there.
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