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Finding Gold in the Common App Essay Prompts 2019-20


The Common App essay prompts for 2019-20 have been announced! The good news: they are exactly the same as last year’s prompts. The bad news: that doesn’t make it any easier to pick the right one.

Let’s take a look at your options:

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 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?

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

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.

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

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?

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.

Many students look at these seven questions and panic. “Not only do I not know how to write a Common App essay… I don’t even know how to pick a prompt!” But there’s a simple and counterintuitive solution.

Instead of starting with the common app essay prompts, we recommend that you start with yourself. Spend time brainstorming and outlining first, focusing on the values, traits and experiences that you want to showcase, and then see what questions line up with your ideas. For example, if you find you want to highlight your quick thinking, your sense of justice, and your passion for the youth court program, you might use Prompt Three to talk about a time when new evidence helped you see a different side of a delinquency case, and advocate for a different verdict.

It’s hard to brainstorm and outline without guidance, so the editors at Prompt got together with Ethan(the College Essay Guy), and put together our Common Application Essay Module. It will take you through a series of exercises that will help you pick a Common App essay prompt that will showcase who you are in a meaningful way. It takes about an hour, and anyone can use it, whether or not they are asking for help or feedback from the Prompt editors.

Remember, the sooner you take that first step, the sooner you’ll be on your way to writing a Common App essay that works!

Get started with our free brainstorming tools!

Prompt’s Essay Specialists reviewed 13,000 admissions essays in 2018, helping thousands of students submit their applications with confidence.

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