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How To Choose the Right Essay Topic for the University of Denver Application

When you begin working on your University of Denver application, you’ll have to make several choices:

  • Which application is better for me - the Common Application or the Pioneer Application?
  • What is the best topic for my admissions essay?


First, let’s break down a few of the biggest differences between the applications.

The University of Denver accepts The Common Application or The Pioneer Application for first-year applicants.

  • The Common Application can be used for many schools. This may help you save time if you’re applying to several schools that accept the Common App.
  • The Pioneer Application is only accepted by the University of Denver. It’s designed to make the University of Denver application process more efficient. This can be helpful for students who are only working on the University of Denver application, like Early Decision applicants.

Either way, you’ll have to write a personal essay.

  • The Common Application essay has a 650 word limit, and you’ll be asked to choose one out of seven prompts.
  • The Pioneer Application essay has a 250 word count minimum (more on this below). There is just one prompt.

If you need help developing a knockout Common App essay, here’s our guide.Click here for our guide to writing the Common App Essay


If you choose the Pioneer Application, the tips below will help you select and develop a topic that shows off one of your unique strengths.

Let's start by looking at the prompt!

This personal essay will help us become acquainted with you beyond your grades, test scores, courses, and other objective data. In at least 250 words, please write about a topic of your choice.

The Pioneer essay prompt sounds very open-ended. Where to start?

  • The key is in the prompt: “beyond your grades, test scores, courses, and other objective data.” The prompt is looking for a new angle on why you’re awesome - something that isn’t already in your University of Denver application.


Here are some tips to help you develop a topic:

Start With a Positive Trait

  • When you start brainstorming, think about what makes you stand out, and make a list of 3-4 of your positive traits. (Note: This is a short essay, so you should eventually narrow this down to one trait.)


Identify a Specific Example

  • Choose one trait from your list. Identify a specific experience where you demonstrated this trait, focusing on experiences outside of the classroom.


Develop a Core Message

  • Once you you’ve chosen your positive trait and specific example, craft a 1-2 sentence Core Message that summarizes them. This will introduce your topic and provide direction to your essay.
    • For example:
      • “I am passionate about being involved in my community, and this year, I organized a fundraiser for my local homeless shelter.”
      • “Being the Captain of my school’s robotics team helped me develop strong communication skills.”
  • From there, your path will be clear: add more specific details about how you demonstrated this positive trait.


Word Count

  • Note: The Pioneer prompt doesn’t give a word count limit, but that doesn’t mean they want a novel! In this situation, a good approach is to use the Common App essay’s word limit as a guide. Stick to a 250-650 word range.





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

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