Common App Essay

Your love of playing cello…

Your fascination with mountain biking…

Your desire to speak out against prejudice…

Your journey to become student body president…

A strong Common App essay can be written on virtually any topic. Pizza, community service, grandmothers, barnacles…you name it, and admissions officers have probably read an essay about it. And given that thousands of students are admitted to colleges each year, I hope we can all agree there is no one “best” topic on which to write your Common App essay. What makes an essay strong isn’t necessary its theme, but the personal and reflective story that emerges from that theme. College admissions officers use your personal statement to get to know you as an individual beyond your transcript and test scores, and it can be a powerful factor in determining those students who are admitted and those who are not.

For many high school seniors, it can be maddeningly frustrating to choose the “right” essay topic because the options are so broad. Take a look at the seven available essay prompts for the 2017-18 Common App. As we noted in a previous blog post, three of the questions (numbers 2, 3, and 5) have been revamped since last year’s application, and two of the questions (numbers 6 and 7) are entirely new this year. Prompt number 7 actually grants students permission to write their own essay question and respond to it. How open-ended can you get?

Despite (or perhaps in light of) all this intellectual and creative freedom, you may find yourself stuck. When I help students brainstorm potential essay topics, I usually ask them a litany questions, hoping to unearth just a single response that will capture the interest of a college admissions officer. For some students, however, the essay prompts themselves can provide a great source of inspiration. If you’re looking for little nudge in the right direction, take our quiz below. Based on your responses to 14 simple questions, we can help you identify which of the seven Common App prompts may best allow you to share your story with colleges. Ready to find out which Common App prompt you are?

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Written by Elyse Krantz
Elyse Krantz is a member of College Coach’s team of college admissions experts. Elyse received her BA in linguistics from Dartmouth College and her MA from Teachers College, Columbia University. Prior to joining College Coach, Elyse worked as an admissions officer at Barnard College and Bennington College.