new common application prompts

New Common Application Prompts for 2017-18:



Great news for you college-bound juniors who are just starting to think about your college application essays.

If you need to write your personal statement essay for The Common Application, they just made it a lot easier.

Instead of having to pick one topic from their list of suggested 5 prompts, you can now write about ANYTHING YOU WANT.

They used to have this option, but for some reason canned it three years ago. Everyone revolted, and thankfully, they responded this year by reinstating the “Topic of Choice” option in their new 7th prompt.

To bring you up to speed on these new Common Application Prompts, last year they had 5 prompts to pick from to write your main essay for The Common Application. Now they changed some of the previous prompts (just minor tweaks), and added 2 news ones you can pick from as well.

The seventh of the seven new Common Application prompts is this:

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. [New]

It basically means you can write about any topic you want. Woot! Woot!

How to Think About These New Common Application Prompts

Here’s my advice if you are just starting this process:

First, read though all seven of the new Common Application prompts (find them below).

What you are looking for is one that sparks an idea for a topic that you want to write about.

Remember, you are looking for a topic you can write about that will help you differentiate (sets you apart) yourself from the other applicants.

RELATED: How to Answer New Common Application Essay Prompt 6: Topic, Idea, or Concept

Another approach is to completely ignore the other prompts and simply pick a topic you can write about that will help showcase your personality and character—for a personal statement essay about yourself. Then, if you want, go back and read the prompts to see if any match up with what you wrote about; if not, go with Prompt 7.

Just depends on how you like to work.

Either way, you want a topic that will help you write an essay that is interesting to read (especially at the start to grab their attention!); that is highly personal so you connect with your readers (admissions officers) and they care about what you have to say; that shows them how you think, learn and what you value; and above all, makes you come across as likable and someone they would want at their college.

Sound impossible?

Don’t worry.

It’s not that hard once you learn how to write a narrative (story-telling) style essay about yourself.

This blog is packed with advice and tips on exactly how to pull this off–without losing your mind.

The trick is to first find that awesome topic.


Read How to Land in the “Yes” Pile to learn 5 tips for finding hot topics. Or check out these 5 Top Tips on Finding Topics.

I love how the new Common Application prompts give you the space to brainstorm, explore and land the perfect topic–and not be limited to only their ideas. At the same time, you can use their ideas as a springboard for finding your topic.

It’s all about WHATEVER WORKS for you.

Again, if the other new Common Application prompts inspire a great idea, then go for it. (I like how they have tweaked the old prompts and made them even more thought-provoking and inspirational.)

Sometimes, facing a huge blank canvas can be intimidating.

If you want to start from scratch to brainstorm your perfect topic, start with my post How to Write a College Application Essay in 3 Steps.

I also recommend my short and easy writing guide, Escape Essay Hell, that is a 10- step guide to finding that perfect topic and cranking out an effective personal statement essay—perfect for The Common Application.

Here are some other posts that can help you get started under my Jumpstart Your Essay tab.

So trust me on this: You got lucky with these new Common Application Prompts!

These changes, especially the addition of the Topic of Choice Prompt 7, are in your favor.

You have plenty of time to learn what makes a great essay, and how to write your own.

It’s all here.

Good luck!

Here are the new Common Application prompts for 2016-17 (the words in italics are the changes/additions from last year):

2017-2018 Common Application Essay Prompts

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. [No change]

2. The lessons we take from obstacles we encounter can be fundamental to later success. Recount a time when you faced a challenge, setback, or failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience? [Revised]

3. Reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea. What prompted your thinking? What was the outcome? [Revised]

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. [No change]

5. Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others. [Revised]

6. Describe a topic, idea, or concept you find so engaging that it makes you lose all track of time. Why does it captivate you? What or who do you turn to when you want to learn more? [New]

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. [New]

I’ve written previous posts with explicit advice and guidance on how to think about and write essays for each of last year’s Common Application essay prompts.

I will be updating those and writing more advice on how to approach the all-new prompt #6 in coming weeks.

So stay tuned!