The Common Application essay prompts are out.
How do you choose which essay to write?
In this 7-part series I help you figure out which question on the 2017 Common Application is right for you.
For the complete list of 2017 Common App essay questions click here.
Ready for #5? Let’s do it!
Common Application Essay Prompt #5
Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others.
Is this Prompt for You? Look at the Keywords
“Accomplishment, Event, or Realization”…”Personal Growth”…”New Understanding of Yourself or Others”
Do The Keywords Apply To You?
- “Accomplishment, event or realization” is a broad phrase. That’s good! It means you can choose almost anything, large or small, that you experienced, accomplished or realized.
- “A Period of Personal Growth” is when you’re changing—what’s happening as you become more responsible or mature. This can take place over a long period of time or a very short period of time.
- “A new understanding of yourself or others” is your learning experience. It’s what you learned and how your perspective changed—How did your experience shape your attitude, outlook or actions? How did it help you become the person you are today?
What Can Colleges Learn About You From This Question?
- How you’ve matured
- Your ability to develop important relationships within your family or community
- Your ability to reflect on how an important experience has shaped you
Pitfalls to Avoid
- This Question has 3 Parts—Don’t Leave One Out. Include 1. Your accomplishment, event or realization; 2. Your period of personal growth; 3. Your new understanding of yourself and others.
Still Not Sure This is Your Topic?
Here are a few questions you can ask yourself: Did you set a goal for yourself that you achieved? Did you have an experience that helped you become more compassionate or understanding? Did you teach younger students what you were taught and saw yourself grow in the process? Did you have a life event that forced you to take on more responsibility? Did you start your own business or volunteer program? These are just a few ideas—make sure to keep thinking!
Successful Essay Topic Example
“On the Flip Side”
Paige was a successful competitive gymnast when injuries ended her career. She felt lost until she began volunteering as coach of the Special Olympics gymnastics team. Paige made practices fun. She demonstrated exercises and developed routines. Most of all, she taught her athletes that it didn’t matter if they won or lost, as long as they competed as a team. And that’s exactly what they did at state competition.
During her experience, Paige found herself growing as a coach and mentor. She discovered that as a teacher she was capable of making sports a positive experience for others. She wrote in her essay that working with her athletes changed her; as she instilled confidence in her athletes, they did the same for her. Paige also realized something fundamental about herself: It was very important to her that everyone gets the chance to win, lose and compete, no matter his or her differences. While she isn’t sure of her career plans, Paige plans to use it to help people.
Why is this Example Successful?
All the keywords are addressed.
- Paige became a Special Olympics coach and trained her team for state competition—an event or accomplishment.
- It sparked a period of personal growth—she developed as a coach, teacher and role model for her team.
- She ended with a new and more mature understanding of herself—she realized that she didn’t have to be a gymnast to feel accomplished, and that it was even more fulfilling to use her skills to help others, which is what she plans to do.
- She ended with a new understanding of others—working with her Special Olympians helped her realize how important it is that everybody be given the opportunity to win, lose and compete, no matter their differences. This understanding helped shape her future.
Hot Tip: No matter which essay prompt you choose, make sure it’s a story only you can tell. Tell the schools what you care about, what you think about, what bothers you and why. Show them the world through your eyes. Help them get to know what makes you you. That’s how you’ll write a great college application essay.
Read the entire series:
How to Write Common App Prompt #1: Background, Talent, Identity, or Interest
How to Write Common App Prompt #2: The Lessons We Take From Obstacles
How to Write Common App Prompt #3: Challenged a Belief or Idea
How to Write Common App Prompt #4: A Problem You’ve Solved or Would Like to Solve
How to Write Common App Prompt #5: An Accomplishment, Event, or Realization
How to Write Common App Prompt #6: Topic, Idea or Concept that Makes You Lose Track of Time
How to Write Common App Prompt #7: Topic of Your Choice
Sharon Epstein is owner of First Impressions College Consulting in Redding, Connecticut. She is a Writers Guild Award-winner and two-time Emmy Award nominee, teaching students how to master interview skills, write killer resumes, and transform their goals, dreams and experiences into memorable college application essays. Our tutors are award-winning writers and published authors who work with students everywhere: in-person, by phone, video and email. Visit our website for more info. Connect on Google+, Pinterest and Twitter.