How to Write Common App Essay Prompt #2: Failure
You’ve come to the right place.
In this series of posts you’ll find out which question on the 2013 Common Application essay is the right one for you.
- In my last post we covered Common Application Essay prompt #1.
- In coming weeks I’ll cover #3-5
- For the entire list of 2013 Common App essay prompts click here.
Are you ready?
Common Application Essay
Recount an incident or time when you experienced failure.
How did it affect you, and what lessons did you learn?
Is This Prompt for You? Look at the Keywords:
Do the Keywords Apply to You?
Answer yes IF
- You tried something and failed, took a risk that didn’t pay off, or made a decision that turned out to be faulty
- AND you learned from your experience
- AND you can examine your failure objectively
Pitfalls to Avoid:
- Don’t wallow in your failure. This answer isn’t really about failure, it’s about how the failure affected you and what you learned from it. Mention the failure and move on.
- Don’t overlook keywords. This question has three parts: Your experience, how it affected you and what lessons you learned.
Here’s an Example of a Successful Essay Topic:
A student started a snowplow business using his ATV. But the ATV couldn’t plow deep snow and one night, after eight inches of snow fell, the plow got stuck and couldn’t get out of the student’s driveway. What followed was an all-night race to shovel out the ATV, an eventual equipment upgrade and a penchant for a business career.
Why is this example successful?
All the keywords are addressed.
- The student experienced failure: He waited too long to plow out his customers.
- The student discussed how his failure affected him: He was determined to reach his customers.
- He was able to discuss what he learned: He realized he needed to better serve his customers by upgrading his equipment. He also realized that he wanted to pursue a business career.
Tip: Not comfortable about discussing a failure in your life? Don’t be. Schools can get a good sense of your character when they see how you handle adversity. Just remember – by the end of the essay you should be saying positive things about yourself!
Next time: How to Write Common App prompt #3.
For the entire list of 2013 Common App essay prompts click here.
Sharon Epstein is owner of First Impressions College Consulting in Redding, Connecticut. A Writers Guild Award-winner and two-time Emmy nominee, Sharon teaches students how to master interview skills and transform their goals, dreams and experiences into memorable college application essays. She works with students everywhere: in-person, by phone, Skype and email. Visit her website for more info. Connect on Google+, Pinterest and Twitter.