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The New Common App Essay Prompts

Dobler College ConsultingIn case you haven’t heard already, the Common App has revamped their essay prompts. Gone are the six prompts that have been around forever and, in their place, are five new ones. Moving forward, the prompts will be rotated and changed so that each year, there will be new options.

First, let me introduce you to the new prompts. Then I’ll tell you why I don’t think they’re anything you should be stressing over:

Topic #1: Some students have a background or story that is so central to their identity that they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.

Topic #2: Recount an incident or time when you experienced failure. How did it affect you, and what lessons did you learn?

Topic #3: Reflect on a time when you challenged a belief or idea. What prompted you to act? Would you make the same decision again?

Topic #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?

Topic #5: Discuss an accomplishment or event, formal or informal, that marked your transition from childhood to adulthood within your culture, community, or family.

As you read through these prompts, you can see that each one asks for a specific moment, situation, place, event or story that reveals something important about the applicant. Please note the emphasis on the word, “important.”

I didn’t say incredible. I didn’t say amazing. And I definitely didn’t say Earth-shattering.

Because let’s be honest – at 16 and 17 years old, very few people have had incredible, amazing and Earth-shattering experiences in their lives. So take the pressure off yourself to write something that has never been written before. Instead, focus on a story you can tell that helps an admission counselor learn something new about you.

And while you may not be able to come up with something for each essay prompt, I’m sure you can come up with a story that relates to at least one of them.

So, take a deep breath, relax and think about the things you’ve done in your life. The places you’ve visited. The experiences you’ve had – both good and bad. Start writing down some notes on how each of them might apply to the prompts above. Don’t worry about whether the ideas are stinkers or the seeds of a truly great essay right now. Just brainstorm and get some ideas on paper. Talk to your parents, friends and relatives. Let them help you brainstorm – chances are, they may think of something really interesting about you that you, yourself, didn’t think of immediately.

Writing is a process that involves steps and time. If you take the time to go through the steps, the finished product will be so much better for it!

Next week, I’m going to share some tips on how to approach each prompt. Stay tuned…

Want some help navigating the college admissions journey? Give me a call now at 203.525.4096 or email me at to schedule a FREE 60-minute consultation to discuss your college counseling needs.

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