It’s been a big year for changes in the college admissions scene.

I wrote this guest column about many of them in my local newspaper, The Laguna Beach Independent, this week.

About the same time this was published, yet another college application system entered the admissions picture. It’s call the Cappex Application, and you can learn about it in this article. It’s supposed to “launch” in September.

The appeal of Cappex, apparently, is that is seeks to streamline and simplify the application process, and only includes one required essay, and no supplemental essays. That can’t be a bad thing, right?

At this point, I would mainly stick with the Common Application to apply to your target colleges that use it (more than 600 colleges!). If you opt to apply through the Cappex, I have some tips on how to write the required and optional Cappex essays.


cappex essays

The prompts for 2016-17 Cappex essays will be:

  • Required Essay: Tell us a story about yourself that is key to understanding who you are. This could be a moment when you changed, grew, or made a difference or an everyday moment that reveals something people count on you for (500 words or less)
  • Optional Essay: The goal of this application is to reflect your unique interests, experiences, capabilities, and pursuits. To this end, is there anything else that you’d like to express?


I LOVE these Cappex essays (prompts), especially the required one. It is asking for a classic personal statement, which is an essay that is meant to showcase something fundamental about what makes you, you.

NOTE: The prompt for this Cappex required essay is very similar to Prompt 1 for the Common Application essays. Chances are you could use the same topic, or even exact essay, for both applications, given a few tweaks to make sure they line up with the prompts.

Also, in my opinion, whenever you are asked for an optional essay, I believe you would be foolish not to write one.

It’s really just another opportunity to show your targeted schools what you are all about. Why wouldn’t you leap at that? (I know, more work. But hey, remember what you want here—to get into your dream school!)

To start brainstorming ideas for the required essay, let’s begin by breaking down the prompt so we understand exactly what they want to know about you in this essay:

They state right out that they want a story, right? Love that!

They offer two choices on what to write about:

  1. a moment when you “changed, grew or made a difference”
  2. an everyday moment that “reveals something people count on you for.”

So start thinking about “times” or experiences in your past (think high school years in general; don’t go back to toddlerhood) to look for these types of moments.

For Number 1, if you think about times you faced some type of problem(s), chances are that will help you identify an experience where you faced a challenge of some type and “changed, grew or made a difference” in the process of dealing with it.

For Number 2, I would spend a few minutes thinking of some of your core qualities that “people count on you for.” These could be anything from being punctual, reliable and honest to fair, assertive and funny.

Then try to think of “times” from your past where you used that quality to help others deal with any type of problem, whether it was a challenge, a mistake, misunderstanding, setback, change, failure, etc.

Once you come up with a “moment” that illustrates a time you changed, grew, made a difference or helped others in some way, you are ready to write your essay.

What I would suggest would be to start your essay by describing that “moment” or what happened in a succinct paragraph or two that recreates it. These are often called “anecdotes,” and it’s worth reading up on how to craft them.

Then you provide some background or context to that moment to help the reader understand what led up to it and why it’s important.

The rest of your essay will share how you dealt with what happened, how you handled or managed the problem from that “moment.” Then go deeper and start to analyze, reflect on, explain why that moment mattered to you, and what you learned from it and dealing with it.

Before you know it, you will have a rough draft.

I would strongly suggest that you read my post called How to Write a College Application Essay in 3 Steps to learn more on how to use this approach to write your personal statement for your Cappex essay.

As far as the Optional Cappex Essay, I would suggest you read Common App: Prompt 1, which is almost the same as this Optional Essay prompt, and can get you started brainstorming and provide ideas on how to write about a topic you want to share about yourself.

Please let me know if you have any questions about these Cappex essays in the Comments section. I LOVE to answer comments!

Good luck!