Common Application Essay Prompts

June 22, 2016
Common Application Essay Prompts

Get your thinking caps ready - it’s college admission season! Everyone is looking for the opportunity to study in a great school. Beyond a stellar performance on the SAT, however, is your performance for the entrance interview and application essay.

What Are The Application Essay Prompts?

Don’t be so annoyed at having to write an essay for a prompt - you might find the actual topic boring, but you have to look at the ways it will be beneficial for you. One thing is for sure - an application essay prompt allows you to narrow down your search for a topic, and can potentially enable you to focus on your strengths and weaknesses. How can you take advantage of an application essay prompt and make it work for you?

  1. It narrows down your search for a topic.
    Not having a blank slate for a prompt is very good for saving your time and your headaches. There is so much to write about and so much opportunity to show the admissions office that you will be a wonderful and value-adding member to the campus. Thankfully, you don’t have to search high and low for an essay topic that will make you stand out from the crowd. Though it doesn’t make the essay writing any easier, it helps you get a clear focus on what the college will find interesting in your application.

  2. It sets a level playing field for the applicants.
    Since all of you are vying for a coveted spot in the roster of freshmen students, no one should have the upper hand at it should all be a fair play between all. Not all essay application topics are equal, and the simple mistake of choosing a bad topic should not discredit a student’s hard work on an admission essay. The prompt fixes this and sets a standard for the kinds of submissions that will pour in.

  3. It helps you engage in prior brainstorming and research.
    Now that the topic is not vague, the way you go about answering it will be very straightforward and transparent. This is because you now also have the time to think about what you are writing, you have looked through all your resources and have gathered them to write the best essay your have written to date!

Differences in University Application Essays

It is a good idea to familiarize yourself with the differences in admission essay styles. You will be aware of what you should input into each college you apply to. Here are some examples:

University of California

Just one essay will be your fighting chance for all University of California campuses in the state. That’s why you don’t want to mess it up. Thankfully, their website is helpful when it comes to your college application essay. It’s very specific in mentioning what should not be in your essay (like jokes, quotes from famous people, etc.). They also give you a clear picture of what they use your submission for - they use it to gain some perspective on you, the applicant, to help them understand and assess your potential on campus. The site calls it “Personal Insight Questions,” where you chose 4 from 8 questions and limited to only 350 words each. It’s pointing you to the direction of simply being yourself.

Texas A&M

Texas A&M University’s admissions process involves 3 essays, 2 of which are required and one optional. They are different between the two types of applications: the ApplyTexas and the Coalition processes. Their prompts encourage you to describe experiences you have had and the history and culture you have grown up in. Your individual self is as important as the contributions you have undertaken in your time in high school. Their optional essay is more on the fun side, really asking a quirky question that will give insight to the way your think and what your priorities are. This is less draining than the serious prompts, so take advantage of the chance to show your unique personality!

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)

This impressive school has an interesting set of short questions which you will have to answer briefly. While they specifically note that you are not being tested on your writing skills, you will still have to be serious about your response and show them that you are an earnest student who deserves a spot in MIT.

Common Application Essay Prompts for 2016-2017

What are some of the trends you can see in the application essay prompts for the next academic year?

Describe a leadership experience/major responsibility you have had. This is a very important prompt as it will show your initiative and leadership potential to the admissions officer. Impressive roles or titles with good backgrounds can come to life with intelligent storytelling, but beware of sounding too pretentious.

Describe your home life, your family, and your heritage. Diversity is very important for schools, as it also encourages learning to interact with different people beyond the classroom. It’s important for you to accurately talk about your personal life, to see your unique perspective and attitude to life in general, not just as a student.

Describe the most significant lesson that you have learned. This one is quite tricky as it could be referring to lessons that have bestowed wisdom, both inside and outside the classroom. It is hard to know if one is more impressive that the other, but if you manage to pull off describing the context and applying problems that have been solved by your interesting lesson, then you will get this essay down pat.


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