Which Common Application prompt should you choose? In this seven-part series I help you answer that question.
This is the last prompt. Hooray! (My fingers are tired!)
For the complete list of 2017 Common Application essay questions click here.
Ready for #7? Let’s do it!
Common Application Essay Prompt #7
Share an essay on any topic of your choice. It can be one you’ve already written, one that responds to a different prompt, or one of your own design.
Is this Prompt for You? Answer Yes IF:
- The other prompts don’t speak to you
- You’re inspired by another school’s prompt
- You want to ask and answer your own question
- You’ve already written an essay that showcases you as an excellent college candidate
Pitfalls to Avoid
- Don’t Stress Over this Prompt. This prompt is meant to reduce your stress, not add to it, says
Topic of your choice doesn’t mean default choice.” If the prompt feels too unstructured use one of the other prompts.
- Don’t Submit Less Than Your Best. If you’re submitting an essay you’ve already written, make sure it’s well written and showcases you as an excellent potential college student.
- Don’t Forget the Fundamentals. Prompt #7 doesn’t provide as much guidance as some of the other prompts. So this a good time to recap what schools look for in a Common Application essay:
- Your writing skills
- Your ability to communicate your ideas.
- Your personality – what makes you laugh, think, hope, dream, care. In other words, what’s meaningful to you and why.
- Schools like to see how you think, so show them that process.
- Most of the best essays don’t have nice, easy stories. They’ve got an obstacle thrown in your path, a problem you have to solve, a decision you have to make, a realization you came to, or some other circumstance that’s helped shape you into who you are.
- Essays include reflection—you need to be able to take a step back from your experience to understand how it’s shaped you and/or your goals.
A word in support of some of my favorite prompts from the University of Chicago.
If you’re still looking for essay inspiration, check out UChicago’s essay prompts. UChicago prides itself on uncommon, fun essay questions. Even if the questions don’t speak to you, read the ones I’ve listed below to see how, with a little imagination, you can create your own question and let your imagination and personality fly.
A Sampling of UChicago prompts:
- Joan of Arkansas. Queen Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Babe Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Mash up a historical figure with a new time period, environment, location, or occupation, and tell us their story.
- History and art are full of heroes and their enemies. Tell us about the relationship between you and your arch-nemesis (either real or imagined).
- How did you get caught? (Or not caught, as the case may be.)
- Chicago author Nelson Algren said, “A writer does well if in his whole life he can tell the story of one street.”…Tell us the story of a street, path, road—real or imagined or metaphorical.
- “Don’t play what’s there, play what’s not there.”—Miles Davis (1926–91)
- Susan Sontag said, “The only interesting answers are those that destroy the questions.” We all have heard serious questions, absurd questions, and seriously absurd questions, some of which cannot be answered without obliterating the very question. Destroy a question with your answer.
- Click here to read more UChicago prompts.
#7 is a new prompt this year. I’m excited to see what students write for their college essays!
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 a Writers Guild Award-winner and two-time Emmy Award nominee, teaching students around the world how to master interview skills, write resumes, and transform their goals, dreams and experiences into memorable college application essays. She works with students everywhere: in-person, by phone, FaceTime, Skype and email. Visit my website for more info. Connect on Google+, Pinterest and Twitter.