The college personal statement has become a rite of passage, one of the last hurdles before getting to college. I’d like to propose the unthinkable about this fraught-with-stress, overanalyzed, underappreciated and open-ended part of the application process.
Have fun with it.
You’re thinking, right, sure, my entire college career is riding on this. How else am I going to separate myself from everyone else?
The answer: Sometimes we need to loosen up to elicit the best from ourselves. Don’t worry about writing the perfect essay. Just write.
How often have you had an assignment that you can do anything you want to for it? Just about the only parameter is word count, maximum 650 words in response to one of the seven essay prompts for the Common Application 2018-2019.
Your voice, your reflections, your experience — your essay. “Every applicant has a unique story. The essay helps bring that story to life,” said Meredith Lombardi, Associate Director, Outreach and Education, for The Common Application.
The essay is an amazing tool for self-reflection, for distilling into 600 or so scant words the person you are. Here are the prompts:
2018-2019 Common Application Essay Prompts
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.
2. 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?
3. Reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea. What prompted your thinking? What was the outcome?
4. Describe a problem you’ve solved or a problem you’d like to solve. It can be an intellectual challenge, a research query, an ethical dilemma – anything that is of personal importance, no matter the scale. Explain its significance to you and what steps you took or could be taken to identify a solution.
5. Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others.
6. Describe a topic, idea, or concept you find so engaging that 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?
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.
If you don’t know which prompt to go with, just choose one and start writing. You may end up with another prompt, but it’s good to get started and see where it takes you.