college essay prompts

No idea what a teenager could possibly have in common with a Pennsylvania university? Wondering what the heck a “Bazinga” moment is? Never fear—the latest in our ongoing series on colleges’ individual essay prompts is all about Lehigh University’s Common Application Supplement.

Lehigh asks students to write two short essays. The first question, required of all freshmen applicants, is fairly straightforward, even if it doesn’t look that way at first:

What do you and Lehigh have in common? Please reply with 250-350 words.

What your reader wants to understand here is why you are applying, and, more precisely, what makes Lehigh a good fit for you. Whether you opt to be creative in framing your response or go for a more direct approach, make sure that you include specific details about Lehigh. Those could include the major you plan to pursue, courses you look forward to taking, or clubs you intend to join. And, of course, a list of details is useless if you don’t elaborate on why you want to pursue that major at Lehigh, why those courses are particularly appealing to you, and why you’ve singled out these clubs as worthy of your attention. Bottom line: be specific, and don’t forget the why.

For your second essay, Lehigh actually gives you a choice:

Please select one of the following prompts and respond with 150 to 250 words.

As you look through the options, keep one important thing in mind: the goal of these supplemental essays, whether for Lehigh or any other school, is to share important information about you that will help the admissions committee better understand the student they might be getting. For that reason, you should always start by thinking first about what stories and personal insight you want to share, and then go to the essay prompts. Don’t scramble to come up with a story to fit the prompt; find the prompt that will fit your story.

Imagine that you just completed your visit to Lehigh University. What would you Tweet about us and why?

The first half of this question specifically asks “what would you Tweet,” so be sure to include the actual Tweet in your essay. In many ways, this is similar to the question asking what you and Lehigh have in common. If you decide to go with this prompt, make sure that you are not repeating what you already shared in that first essay. Was there one overarching element of Lehigh or moment during your visit that particularly stood out for you? Is there enough there to expand on that element or moment for at least 150 words? If the answer is yes, commence writing. But don’t forget that we need to learn something about you in this essay as well.

Describe your favorite “Bazinga” moment.

Many students struggle to even define what a “Bazinga” moment is, often thinking about it as an “A-ha!”  But, as popularized by The Big Bang Theory, this is actually a “gotcha” moment. Do you have one of these? And if so, did you get someone else or did they get you? Why is this moment important to you? What story might this moment allow you to share?

Keep in mind that your response doesn’t have to be about something serious or intellectual. It could be more fun and lighthearted. Either way, we need to learn something about you that is appropriate and positive. So if your Bazinga moment involves you putting someone else down in some way, I would skip that story and choose a different prompt.

If your name were an acronym, what would it stand for and how would it reflect your strengths and personality?

The dictionary definition of acronym is an abbreviation formed from the first letters of other words and pronounced as a word. The SAT used to be an acronym; at one time the letters stood for Scholastic Aptitude Test, which in theory defined what the test was supposed to showcase.

When you think about this prompt, the first thing you need to do is create your acronym. But don’t just choose random words that happen to start with the letters that make up your name. (Simple Algebra Test does not accurately define the SAT no matter what you think about whether or not the former acronym did either.) Be thoughtful about how the words you choose work together and relate to you, and don’t forget to elaborate on the connections in the rest of the essay.

In your opinion, what are the five characteristics of a successful person?

Make sure you identify the five characteristics and explain why and how they relate to success for you. But don’t just write a sentence about each quality and call it a day. A more interesting and engaging way to approach this question would be to start with a story that highlights a specific success of yours and incorporates the five personality traits you feel helped you achieve that success.

You’ve just reached your one millionth hit on your YouTube video. What is the video about?

I encourage students to imagine what passions or interests they might showcase on YouTube. A student who creates elaborate paper airplanes might put together a video of him designing, building, and flying one. Another student who is active in peer leaders might craft a video about how to stop bullying in your high school. Think about your passions and interests first and then about how you could translate that interest into a video. Then write about that in your essay.


Written by Elizabeth Heaton
Elizabeth Heaton is a member of College Coach’s team of college admissions experts. Before coming to College Coach, Beth worked as a senior admissions officer at University of Pennsylvania and an alumni admissions ambassador at Cornell University.