The Common Application folks announced a couple weeks ago that they will be keeping the same essay prompts for this college application season. If you use the Common App to apply to colleges this fall, you will have five prompts (or questions) to respond to with your college admissions essay. Before last year, students also had the option to simply pick any topic they wanted–but that was dropped last year. And it caused a big controversy in college app circles.
I was among those who thought the option to write about any topic should have been kept. But many people in the college admissions industry (mainly counselors from high schools and private admissions consultants) ultimately weighed in on the debate as a non-issue, since the five prompts are broad enough to allow almost any topic anyway.
And no one is making a stink this year, either, apparently for the same reason. I don’t want to make a stink, but I still see a huge value to having Topic of Choice added back into the prompts in the future. Yes, the five prompts are general, but there are many students who do not have anyone (like on-the-ball parents, friends, English teachers, or admissions counselors, etc.) advising them that they can actually write about whatever they want. The prompts are quite broad and therefore open to a lot of interpretation–and almost any topic would ultimately fly. But many students would simple read the instructions and follow them in a literal fashion–even if they have a better topic to write about. So for those students, why not put Topic of Choice back in?
If you are just starting the college admissions process, and thinking about or writing your essays already, at least now you know the inside scoop: Write about whatever you want, whatever makes an effective personal-statement essay. (And just keep reading this blog to learn exactly how to do that.) Chances are, your topic will line up with at least one of the five prompts, even if it’s a bit of a stretch. Of course, if any of those prompts inspire you, go for it! Just don’t let them keep you from writing about a great topic that helps you reveal who you are, how you think and what you care about.
Bottom line: Just imagine there’s a sixth prompt and it says “Topic of Choice.” And get cranking! (Check out my posts on Choosing a Topic in the post index in the column to the right.)