Oprah and Prompt 2 of The Common Application

college application essay


Yesterday, I wrote about how you can answer Prompt #2 of The Common Application and write about recovering from a failure.

Coincidentally, our favorite motivator Oprah Winfrey stood up in front of the graduating class at Harvard University just last weekend and talked about the same topic.

As you see, failing has an upside.

If you decide to “recount an incident or time” when you experienced failure for your college application essay, I presented some ideas in my last post on how to find a compelling story.

I advised you to think in broad terms about failure, and how almost any problem you have faced could fall into that category.

But once you recount a story about a time you “failed” in some way in your essay, you will also need to address the second part of the prompt: How did it affect you, and what lessons did you learn?

Telling an engaging story at the beginning is important for a standout essay because it serves to grab your reader and hook their attention at the start.

But the second part of the essay, where you explain what that experience meant to you, is equally important. This is where you can show admissions officers how you think, what you care about and how you learn. (more…)

The Beauty of Failure: How to Answer Prompt 2 of The Common Application

College Application Essays: Tell a Story to Answer Prompt 2

When Messing Up is a Good Thing


I almost like Prompt #2 as much as Prompt #1 of the new essay questions for The Common Application: 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 lessons did you learn.

This essay prompt is music to my storytelling ears!

Why? Because first it literally asks you to tell a story (“recount an incident or time”) in your essay, which I think creates the most engaging and meaningful essays!

And secondly, it wants you to tell a story about a time you “failed.”

I know you might think the last thing you want to tell your college about is a time you screwed up, but it’s actually perfect.

I’ve talked many times in this blog how problems make the best stories.

Well, a failure is a type of problem, and a terrific one at that.

Problems (including failures) are naturally interesting to read about—who doesn’t love a juicy problem?

It’s much more fun to read about things that go wrong than when they go smoothly.

Think about the news, or your favorite movie or T.V. show! (more…)