If you’re trying to work through your Common App Essay, you’re in the right place. Last week I talked about How To Write Your Essay For Common App Prompts #1 and #2. Today, I’m going to cover prompts #3, #4 and #5.
Prompt #3: Reflect on a time when you challenged a belief or idea. What prompted you to act? Would you make the same decision again?
This prompt is a tricky one because it only works for you if you actually challenged something AND it affected you in some way. With multiple keywords here, REFLECT ON A TIME, PROMPTED YOU TO ACT and WOULD YOU MAKE THE SAME DECISION AGAIN you have to make sure you hit on all three. Just wishing you had acted on something or not really knowing why you acted on something isn’t going to cut it.
This prompt gives you a chance to talk about your VIPS and can show that you have the ability to think critically about things that are bigger than you. Admission counselors like it when their students can demonstrate qualities like this.
Prompt #4: Describe a place or environment where you are perfectly content. What do you do or experience there, and why is it meaningful to you?
I really like this prompt because I think it allows for so much creative freedom if, and I stress if, the story is told well enough. The first set of keywords, PLACE OR ENVIRONMENT leaves a lot to interpretation. Is this a place you physically go to like your living room couch or somewhere less tangible than that? Your relationship to God, for instance? Either way, you have to tie into the remaining keywords which ask WHAT YOU EXPERIENCE in this place and why it’s MEANINGFUL TO YOU. And this is the key to this prompt – you need to talk about why this place is so important to you, what happens to you when you’re there and why it helps you in your life.
Prompt #5: Discuss an accomplishment or event, formal or informal, that marked your transition from childhood to adulthood within your culture, community, or family.
This prompt allows you a lot of flexibility because the keywords are so broad. We’ve all had at least one ACCOMPLISHMENT in our lives and, depending on what’s important to you, you get to define whether it was FORMAL OR INFORMAL. The last set of keywords, CULTURE, COMMUNITY OR FAMILY are also very broad and left open to interpretation. Having said that, it’s the middle set of keywords, MARKED YOUR TRANSITION FROM CHILDHOOD TO ADULTHOOD that are important here.
Because while we’ve all had accomplishments, not each of them has helped us to think and act more like an adult. And that’s the key here: you need to show that whatever it was that you achieved, completed, performed or produced was an important event in your process of becoming an adult.
Going to college is a major transition in your life and one that will rapidly draw you into adulthood as you face critical decisions about your immediate and long-term future. An admission counselor will be pleased to see that you’ve gone through other transitional phases in your life and that you are on your way to becoming the person you were meant to be.
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