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Writing Your Essay For Common Application Prompt #1

Writing Your Essay For Common Application Prompt #1Last week I introduced you to the new Common App essay prompts. If you missed the post, here it is:

Introducing the 2015-2016 Common Application Essay Prompts

At the end of the post, I said I would share some tips on how to approach each of the prompts. Without further ado, let’s talk about the first one:

Prompt #1. 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 is what I call a “big-picture” prompt because it’s about you and your identity.  Because of that, it’s also a prompt which you can completely whiff on if you don’t pay attention to the keywords. First, whatever story you are going to share, you have to make certain it is truly CENTRAL to your identity. This means the story needs to be something big, something that has shaped you as a person, something that sits at the very core of who you are.

The second part of this prompt asks you to demonstrate how your application would be incomplete without the reader knowing this story. This means that, without telling this story, colleges aren’t going to understand the full picture of who you are and why they should admit you.

So, write down the prompt and then start making notes on everything that makes you who you are. What are your VIPS and how did they come to be that way? Has anything happened in your life – again, big-picture ideas here – that admission counselors should take into consideration? Remember, you’re trying to let them in on something about you that will help them say “Yes!” to your application.

A former student of mine wrote a fantastic essay for this prompt. During the winter of his freshman year in high school, he had suffered a rather severe concussion which resulted in intense headaches, short term memory loss, an inability to focus and a complete loss of direction. At times, to get away from it all, he would go on nature walks with his camera trying to capture unique shots of the trees, railroad tracks – anything that caught his eye. For the first time in over a year, he had found something in his life that was both calming and inspirational. He started manipulating the images, turning them into pieces of art and a budding interest in graphic design had been born.

So while majoring in graphic design is no more unique than majoring in English, nursing or accounting, how my student arrived at this place in his life is unique. It’s personal, it’s meaningful and it is absolutely central to his identity. Without knowing his story, you have no idea just how much his design work means to him. As he often told me, finding design changed his life.

Now, not everyone is going to be able to come up with such a story, and that’s okay. There’s five essay prompts so if you’re doubting whether or not you have something that is so revealing, then consider going in another direction with your essay.

In my next post, I’m going to talk about the second Common Application essay prompt which asks you to write about a failure. Stay tuned…

If you would like some assistance with your college essay or any other aspects of your college search, contact me today for a free 60-minute consultation.

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