common application essay

Stand Out in Your
Common Application Essay


So you are ready to start writing your Common Application Essay?

Congratulations! You have found the best source of specific tips and strategies on exactly how to brainstorm topics for each of the 5 prompts–and learn to craft a powerful college application essay using a narrative (story-telling) style.

Start by reading through the 5 prompts, which I shared below.

(The folks from the Common Application just officially announced their essay writing prompts for this coming college admissions season of 2016-17, and it’s anticlimactic news, but they will be the same as last year. The idea is you know the prompts well before they start accepting applications in August, so you can get a head start on your essays.)

You just need to write a personal statement essay that addresses one of these prompts. The prompts are mainly to inspire you to write a personal essay about yourself that helps you stand out from the crowd.


common application essay


The essays that are the most effective are what are called “slice-of-life” essays, because you share a real-life story that shows the reader what makes you unique and interesting. (As opposed to simply telling about yourself and all your accomplishments and activities. Trust me. Don’t do that!)

The secret of an effective essay is to make it personal.

This is why I think the first, second and fourth prompts are the best ones to write about since they ask for stories about your background, and even better, about problems you have faced or dealt with.

Students have written strong essays about the second and fifth prompts, but I think you will stay more on target if you stick with 1, 2, and 4. Your call!

Ready to Brainstorm Ideas for your Common Application Essay?


Click on each of the following prompts, and you can learn all my best ideas and strategies for brainstorming topic ideas and ways to structure your essays.

Remember, your essay should end up around 500 to 650 words. It must be at least 250 words and no more than 650.

When writing a rough draft for your common application essay, let yourself write over the word count, and then go back and trim it down. Your essay will only improve with editing.

So what are you waiting for? The sooner you get this essay moving forward, and finished before you know it, you will feel so much better.

You don’t want to send in your application just before the deadline, but have it ready so you can be FIRST IN LINE when the Common Application starts accepting them!

Here are the Common Application Essay prompts for 2016-17:


1. 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.


2. 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?


3. Reflect on a time when you challenged a belief or idea. What prompted you to act? Would you make the same decision again?


4. 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


RELATED: I love this prompt so much I made a video tutorial on How to Answer Common App Prompt 4. It’s free!


5. Discuss an accomplishment or event, formal or informal, that marked your transition from childhood to adulthood within your culture, community, or family.


Another way to get an edge with your common application essay, is learn What Makes a Great College Application Essay. Reading this one post on what makes a great college application essay could quite easily change your entire thinking about what you need to write.

Check out this post if you are ready to get writing: How to Write a College Application Essay in 3 Steps!

Last thing: I LOVE comments! Please, ask me anything or let me know your thoughts!!

Good luck!