”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.”
To students applying this year, this is a most familiar sight.
For those of you now preparing for the U.S. application process, some context: this is one of five prompts for the main essay on the Common Application. Years ago, applicants mailed in their documents, usually handwritten: a specific application for each school. Now, more and more top schools in the USA (and in 14 other countries) are accepting one main online application with some parts customized for each university: the Common Application. One of the parts that gets sent to all the schools you are applying to via the CommonApp is your under 650 words main essay (except for the not so common schools who don’t require one). And on Jan. 28 the Common Application released information on the main essay topics for the 2016-17 application cycle.
There’re the same as last year’s. The decision to stick to these five topics was informed by feedback from both students and their families and teachers and from admissions officers.
Scott Anderson, former school counselor and current Senior Director for Programs and Partnerships for The Common Application, said: “We want to make sure that every applicant can find a home within the essay prompts, and that they can use the prompts as a starting point to write an essay that is authentic and distinguishing”.
What’s fun is that the CommonApp has also shared insights into what the 800,000+ unique applicants who’ve submitted a Common App so far this year chose as their essay topic:
- 47% 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.
- 17% The lessons we take from failure can be fundamental to later success. Recount an incident or time when you experienced failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience?
- 4% Reflect on a time when you challenged a belief or idea. What prompted you to act? Would you make the same decision again?
- 10% 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.
- 22% Discuss an accomplishment or event, formal or informal, that marked your transition from childhood to adulthood within your culture, community, or family.
Bonus for those applying in 2016-17 or later: starting this year, CommonApp accounts and parts of their content will roll over to the next year, so even if your application is months or years away, you can start your CommonApp right away. More on this in a future post.