Common Application 2017-2018 Essay Prompts

Every year the Common Application adds or revises essay prompts.  Here are the announced changes to essay prompts that rising seniors can expect to answer:

2017-2018 Common Application Essay Prompts

1. No Change:  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. Revised:  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. Revised:  Reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea. What prompted your thinking? What was the outcome?

4. No Change:  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. Revised:  Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others. 

6. New:  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. New:  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. 

After reviewing the essay prompts with my core team and discussing it with several admissions officers at different Ivy league and highly selective colleges, we have developed a list of tips that you should consider when choosing and answering a question so that your essay stands out:

  • Choose a prompt that best describes you.
  • Answer the question!
  • When you write your essay, write about something that matters to you.
  • Use your own voice.
  • Be honest.
  • Pick a topic that will give the admissions committee an idea of who you are.
  • Write about your perspective – the lens through which you view your topic.
  • Consider the schools’ perspectives
  • Write succinctly.
  • Proofread, proofread and proofread!

When I give advice to my clients about their essays, I literally spend hours getting to know them, their motivations, their passions, their strengths and weaknesses. This exercise inspires them to free-think and brainstorm.  We then, together, consider different essay themes as they apply to their individual personality, in an in depth conversation.  My clients then individually re-brainstorm and commence writing their essays in their own voices.  Their peerless and unparalleled essays become memorable and powerful lyrics to great songs enjoyed by the admissions committees.

My belief is that a college essay is a personal branding and marketing tool to convince a group of culturally, emotionally, academically, intellectually and socio-economically diverse people in a room (at each college) in 2-5 minutes why they should accept YOU in their institution! This is easier said than done when students are taught to speak, tweet, text, email (and look) just like everyone else in their respective communities.