Common App Essay Questions — Application Prompts Examples (2023)

The application period is the most stressful time for many students. They have to decide what college they want to go to, read a lot of books to recall their knowledge, and go through a lot of tests and various paperwork. But the main difficulty lies in selecting the common app essay questions. That is the most significant part of all the documents that you provide to the admissions officer. Through an essay, the admissions committee tries to understand what kind of person you are and what academic value you have as a student. Thousands of applicants have the same GPAs or scores for exams, while the college application essay shows the way you stand out from the crowd. Also, common app assignments help to assess your competence in many perspectives:

  • The way you analyze information
  • Your perception of the life and world around
  • Moral values and priorities in life
  • Analytical thinking skills
  • Self-presentation skills

When admission board representatives read your common app writing, they not only learn some basic information about you through the grammar structures and language units used but also pay attention to the ideas you presented in your essay.

So, what are the common app essay questions and how to answer them the best way? How to get ready for the application challenge and rise to the occasion? Stop worrying and join our college application boot camp, where we will provide you with writing guidelines, a few good topic ideas, and some simple tips.

Common App Essay Questions and Answers

Common app essay questions 2020 mostly remain unchanged as compared to the previous year. Also, you have a chance to pick a topic you like the most — a good option that doesn't limit your choice. You can focus on absolutely any subject area or event that happened in your life. The main aim is to maintain the coherence and make sure the essay is related to the chosen prompt.

(Video) Breaking down all 7 Common App essay prompts | Common App

The Topic

Statistically, a lot of good essays written in the previous year are focused on the self-analysis app prompt. Experts recommend avoiding topics based on the description of various events or places. Those issues won't help to appropriately introduce oneself to the admissions office. Hence, we highly encourage using common app college essay questions based on introspection because those will demonstrate the power of your critical thinking skills the best way. Pay attention to the following phrases:

  • My own understanding of...
  • Those thoughts/issues/events make me to...
  • I am considering it...
  • I was confused by the idea...

This way, you may present your attitude to different things that, in turn, shows what kind of person you are. People aren't interested in your picturesque descriptions — it's all about your individuality and academic objectives.

Basic Requirements

The length limit of the college essay application is 650 words. Also, your writing should be longer than 250 words. Keep in mind that an application assignment is a crucial requirement for any school. "I wanted to go to a college without having to write an essay" — let that thought remain a dream. You should be hypercritical while choosing common college application essay questions to write about. Except for your assignment, the admission board will also consider some other factors like your grades. But, your essay is a sterling opportunity to demonstrate important information about yourself, which is not mentioned in other papers.

A thing that bothers applicants most while writing the essay is different prompt options and challenges of picking the winning one. Some students experience writer's block because of their incompetence in the matter. Others cannot understand what particular questions can help them show their skills and knowledge as well as demonstrate their personalities. Hence, we would like to offer you some guidance on prompts for the best essays and a few questions to consider.

Common Application Essay Questions for Students

Neglecting a topic can lead to a poorly assessed essay. Is that how you want to make a statement and end your application process? Just think — there are so many things in your life to write common app essays about. Hence, in this section, we'll go through several relevant prompts. We'll also provide you with some topic options for you to have an opportunity to prepare a good app essay example (or examples) and see what writing strategy is winning for you.

(Video) Common Application Prompts: The Ultimate Breakdown

The Talent You Have or Your Background Identity Interest

A great topic that can help introduce yourself. Here, you should keep in mind that your background is the best environmental factor that contributed to your personal development. Did your background help to form your life priorities? Or maybe you saw a bad experience of your parents and don't want to repeat their mistakes. You can cover the following topics in your essay demonstrating the importance of the identity:

  • The mistakes of my parents that I won't repeat.
  • The particularities of my upbringing that made me who I am.
  • The way the place I was born in influenced my perception of the world.

Do you have something interesting and related to these topics to write about? Maybe that will be your best common application essay?

Write about Your Challenges or Failures

Any challenge and defeat help us become stronger and gain new experiences. If your goal is to impress the representatives of the admissions office, this prompt will help you do just that. You need to write about failures you've been through and demonstrate your ability to learn from any mistakes. Not every person has this skill, and you can share your experience by answering this app essay question.

  • How a faced challenge brings me a new understanding of some life issues.
  • The most important accomplishment event in my academic years.
  • The challenge I failed to deal with.

After all, an unpleasant experience is also an experience you can benefit from. This sentence might sound weird, but you can try this prompt out and see what you may get.

Your Personal Ethical Dilemma

The goal is to write about the significance of a dilemma and describe the main steps you took to find a solution. One can focus on absolutely any situation. The main thing is to show your approach to problem-solving. It's also important to remember that mentioning different academic dilemmas are more beneficial — they show what features and skills you have as a student.

(Video) Common App Essay Prompts 2022-2023

  • One time when I had to lie for a better outcome.
  • What aspects I always consider while deciding what's good or bad.
  • How I deal with prejudice in relationships.

Different prompt ideas let you emphasize various aspects of your life. Here, the focus is on difficult decisions you make and how well you can do it.

What Is the Sparked Period of Your Personal Growth?

Not all applicants will choose this topic. Still, if you have an interesting life experience that influenced your personal growth, you must write about it in your essay.

  • An experience that made me older.
  • An accomplishment event that I'm proud of.
  • How I worked hard on developing my talents.

This prompt is good for demonstrating your self-analysis skills. Such a common app essay question will let the admissions officers see what you think of yourself, what issues are important for you, and what kind of experience you value the most.

What Is Enthralling to You?

While choosing this app essay question, you have to describe the activity which inspires or stimulates you. Also, you need to explain why it is so interesting for you, why you like it, and in what way it's interconnected with your objectives.

  • A life goal that makes me keep moving on.
  • My attitude toward the "slow and steady" strategy.
  • How my hobbies help me avoid any stumbling blocks of everyday life.

This question is quite interesting because while writing such an app essay, you may know yourself better. And, as it was said, introspection is a winning issue for any admission assignment.

(Video) Common App Prompts (2022-2023): How to Write the Essays! (Part 1 of 3) - The Incredible Guide

What Problem Would You Like to Solve in the Future?

There's nothing more motivating than one's certainty and commitment. And, to present yourself as a diligent person, it will be good to let the admissions board see that you have serious objectives — academic and personal. What steps would you take to approach your dreams or solve your problems?

  • The challenges to deal with on my way to the post I want to hold.
  • My contribution to resolving the world's burning questions.
  • My own understanding of New Year's resolutions

Those are only examples of what common app essay questions and issues you can highlight in your writing. If you have different thoughts on your mind, don't be afraid to be original.

Choose the Topic Yourself

This option appeared not so long ago, but more than 22% of applicants choose it. In such a scenario, you can choose absolutely any subject matter which would be interesting for you and appropriate for the admissions office. Keep in mind that a good common app essay is the one that doesn't leave the audience indifferent. They should notice your writing in the pile of similar ones.

How to Cope with an App Essay Easily

Don't try to be someone you aren't just to impress the reader. Admission officers frequently get app essays filled with words that are rarely found in everyday communication. That's because of the student's desire to create the impression that they have a wide vocabulary. There is no need to use high-flown words when all the board wants is to see what kind of person you are. Nobody wants to dig into the dictionaries in search of complicated words and terms used.

Have doubts about a chosen common app essay question? Need professional help? Use our messenger, and one of our consultants will answer any issues of yours and help to find the best solution to your application problem. Contact 24/7 and get the academic support you deserve.

(Video) 2022-2023 Common App Essay Prompts Ranked: Best & Worst Revealed


Is 500 words enough for Common App essay? ›

The Common App essay word count range is 250-650 words. But just how long should your statement be? Admissions Blog advises aiming for around 500 words.

How do you answer the Common App essay prompts? ›

An effective response to this prompt should briefly discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization. The majority of the essay should focus on how you learned and grew as a result. The event described in this essay can be big or small, and sometimes the smaller events result in essays that are unique and surprising.

How many Common App essay prompts do you answer? ›

The time has come. The Common App essay prompts for 2022-23 have been released and—spoiler alert—they're exactly the same as last year's! 2022-23 college applicants, like those who came before them, will have seven (that's right, seven) essay prompts to choose from.

What is the most common Common App essay prompt? ›

Tackling the Common App Essay Prompts
  • Prompt #1: Share your story.
  • Prompt #2: Learning from obstacles.
  • Prompt #3: Challenging a belief.
  • Prompt #4: Solving a problem.
  • Prompt #5: Personal growth.
  • Prompt #6: What captivates you?
  • Prompt #7: Topic of your choice.
  • Describe a person you admire.

Is it okay if my college essay is short? ›

If you can truly get your point across well beneath the word limit, it's probably fine. Brevity is not necessarily a bad thing in writing just so long as you are clear, cogent, and communicate what you want to. However, most college essays have pretty tight word limits anyways.

Is it OK to go over the word count for an essay? ›

Most college application portals specify a word count range for your essay, and you should stay within 10% of the upper limit. If no word count is specified, we advise keeping your essay between 400 and 600 words. You should aim to stay under the specified limit to show you can follow directions and write concisely.

What are 3 good topics for an essay? ›

Some great ideas for your essay topic are:
  • Your favorite childhood memory.
  • Most recent travel experience.
  • The death of a friend or relative that influenced you.
  • The loss of a pet that changed your life.
  • Your best friend and how you met.
  • Your first time on a plane.
  • The first book you read.
  • The worst memory you have.
6 Jun 2022

Do Common App essay questions change every year? ›

The common app essay prompts mostly stay the same year-to-year, with one or two new options every couple of years. However, these prompts have already been released for the 21-22 admissions cycle ( ), so you can go ahead and start drafting that essay!

What is a good essay for college application? ›

The traditional college application essay usually requires an open-ended personal statement in response to broad or general prompts that might have you share a story, reflect on an event, or discuss a topic.

What should you not do in a college essay? ›

What not to do in your college application essay: 10 things you should always avoid
  • Never rehash your academic and extracurricular accomplishments.
  • Never write about a "topic"
  • Never start with a preamble.
  • Never end with a “happily ever after” conclusion.
  • Never pontificate.
  • Never retreat into your thoughts.
  • Never hold back.
22 Jul 2021

How many Common App essays do students need to respond to? ›

Write only one essay (plus any supplements).

You'll submit one essay through the Common Application for all your schools. Some colleges may ask you to also answer a few supplemental questions.

What should I not write about in my college essay? ›

College Essay Topics to Avoid
  • Controversial Topics. Controversial topics, such as current political hot buttons, should be avoided at all costs. ...
  • Highly Personal Topics. ...
  • Personal Achievements and Accomplishments. ...
  • Most Important Place or a Role Model. ...
  • Creative Writing. ...
  • Athletic Topics. ...
  • Humorous Topics or Jokes. ...
  • Tragic Events.
3 Sept 2020

What to write your college essay about if you're boring? ›

Even a topic that seems clichéd — for instance, a book you read, a friendship you made, or a memorable moment with your family — can make for an excellent essay topic that shows off your communication skills as well as the personal qualities that colleges like to see.

What is a prompt in an essay example? ›

What is a prompt? A prompt consists of 1-3 sentences raising an issue, or asking a question that you will have to respond to in an essay. Most prompts are given out by your teacher as part of timed exams or as essay prompts for an assignment.

How many paragraphs is a 650 word essay? ›

How Many Paragraphs Is 650 Words? 650 words is about 3.25-6.5 paragraphs for essays or 6-13 for easier reading (to allow skimming). A paragraph length typically has 100-200 words and 5-6 sentences.

Is 400 words enough for a college essay? ›

Writing too much will likely result in your essay being cut off, and writing too little may cause readers to think that you aren't truly interested in their school. If no range is given, remember to stick to 400-600 words. This will give you enough space to demonstrate your interest and help readers learn about you!

What happens if you go over the word limit on college essay? ›

Being over the word limit on your college essay is a great problem to have. All writing requires revision, and almost all revision entails condensing.

What happens if you go under the word limit on university essay? ›

You've got the people who always go over the word count, and the people who can't get anywhere near it. Many universities apply a kind of 'penalty' if either of these happens. A pretty common one is your mark will be reduced by 10% if you're 10% over or under the word limit.

Do universities actually check word counts? ›

I doubt that with essays which aren't submitted electronically, tutors actually check the word count on every essay, but if they've got a reasonable amount of experience marking coursework, they'll have a fairly accurate sense of how many pages a 4,000-word essay should have.

Do professors care about word count? ›

Professors do count words for the essay. But, they don't do it manually. Instead, they use a free word counter that does all the work for them. Besides, most of the professors usually allow exceeding the number of words by 10%.

How long should it take to write a college essay? ›

While timelines will differ depending on the student, plan on spending at least 1–3 weeks brainstorming and writing the first draft of your college admissions essay, and at least 2–4 weeks revising across multiple drafts. Don't forget to save enough time for breaks between each writing and editing stage.

What is the most common essay topic? ›

  • overpopulation.
  • poverty.
  • homeless people.
  • crime on the streets.
  • modern life styles.
  • budget spending.
  • public services.

What are some examples of topics? ›

Topic Examples
  • Education: Sex education, homeschooling, school bullying, non-smoking campus, learning disabilities, Common Core, affirmative action.
  • Equality/Human Rights: ...
  • Community/Social Issues: ...
  • Romantic Relationships: ...
  • Family/Friends: ...
  • Recreation/Hobbies: ...
  • Work: ...
  • Identity/Appearance:

Is it better to do Common App or directly? ›

Don't be afraid that colleges will pay less attention to The Common App than their own application—they won't. So if you have two or more Common App colleges on your list, use it! [Get help with finding the right school.] A: The Common App facilitates the college application process.

Should my Common App essay be related to my major? ›

Not necessarily. The majority of the essays are asking for how you responded to a personal experience. One's major may or may not be tied to that experience. In addition, you might be undecided about your future, or, you realize that you, like so many, have many interests.

How do you write a strong college essay? ›

Tips for a Stellar College Application Essay
  1. Write about something that's important to you. ...
  2. Don't just recount—reflect! ...
  3. Being funny is tough. ...
  4. Start early and write several drafts. ...
  5. No repeats. ...
  6. Answer the question being asked. ...
  7. Have at least one other person edit your essay. ...
  8. Test Your College Knowledge.

How do I make my college application stand out? ›

If you want to make your college application stand out memorably, take a look at these 16 tips.
  1. Choose Your High School Classes With Intention. ...
  2. Strive for Good Grades. ...
  3. Tell the Story of Who You Are. ...
  4. Participate in Extracurricular Activities. ...
  5. Volunteer. ...
  6. Keep Accurate Records. ...
  7. Manage Your Social Media Presence.

What makes you a strong candidate for college essay? ›

A reader should be able to learn about at least some of the following: your passions, feelings, perspectives, values, your defeats and/or accomplishments. College essays should also demonstrate your ability to think and organize your thoughts. Above all… make sure you choose a topic you care about.

Is it OK to talk about depression in a college essay? ›

It is okay to write about mental illness and Depression in your college essay as long as it proves that you're a suitable student. Thus, you should be asking yourself, “how does my experience with mental illness or Depression make me a strong candidate?”

What makes a college essay stand out? ›

A standout college essay has several key ingredients: A unique, personally meaningful topic. A memorable introduction with vivid imagery or an intriguing hook. Specific stories and language that show instead of telling.

Do colleges check where parents went to college? ›

For example, if you are using The Common Application, the "Family" section of the application will ask you about the education level of your parents and siblings. If you indicate that your parents or siblings attended college, you'll be asked to identify the schools.

What is the disadvantage of the Common Application? ›

Con: It's Easy to Overdo It. While over 700 institutions accept the Common App, it doesn't mean you should apply to all of them. It's easy to forget this though and get caught up in the ease of applying to several schools at once.

How do I ace the Common App? ›

The first step to acing the Common App is to fill out the personal information section as soon as possible. It sounds simple, but all college applications require the same details such as name, address, high school, parental information (employment and education), and extracurricular activities.

What are the most common mistakes when writing the college essay? ›

Poor Presentation & Proofreading

One of the most common mistakes students make when writing their college essays is failing to reread their writing. Looking out for basic spelling and grammatical errors and having someone else read it is one of the best ways to notice mistakes.

Do colleges actually read essays? ›

Yes, every college essay is read if the college has asked for it (and often even if they did not ask for it). The number of readers depends on the college's review process.

What are 2 ways you can begin a college essay? ›

Seven Ways to Make your College Essay Stand Out
  • Try starting with a question.
  • Begin with a bold statement.
  • Use an interesting quote.
  • Put the reader in medias res, that is, in the middle of things. ...
  • Challenge the reader by speaking directly to him/her.
  • Tell the reader what you do NOT want to do in your writing.

How do you write a personal statement when you have nothing interesting to say? ›

Write down everything that you can think of about yourself: your hobbies, your interests, things you've done, lessons you've particularly enjoyed, books you've read...all that stuff. Don't filter anything at this stage – just write it all down whether it seems immediately relevant or not.

What is an example of a prompt question? ›

Open-ended prompts can serve as a guide to probe students' thinking and direct their Attention to specific elements in a text. Questions like "Who is the ideal audience?", "Where does this text come from?", and "Who gets to speak and who doesn't?" focus on the purpose, author, and voices in the texts.

Which words should not be used in this essay? ›

20+ Words to Avoid Writing in Your Essay
  • 1) Contractions. ...
  • 2) Idioms. ...
  • 3-5) “So on,” “etc,” “and so forth“ ...
  • 6) Clichés. ...
  • 7-11) “Thing,” “stuff,” “good,” “bad,” “big“ ...
  • 12) Slang, jargon, teen speak. ...
  • 13) Rhetorical questions. ...
  • 14-17) “In terms of,” “needless to say,” “in conclusion,” “it goes without saying“
13 Mar 2018

How do you write a essay with no prompt? ›

Connect your primary text to a secondary text.

Instead of trying to grapple with the myriad topic possibilities within your primary text, add a second text to the mix. Now all you have to do is read through a few journals and find a topic that seems interesting to you.

What is a good topic for a college essay? ›

Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others. Describe a topic, idea, or concept you find so engaging that it makes you lose all track of time.

What do you do if your essay is too short? ›

5 Helpful Tips for Serious Students
  1. expanding the opposing view.
  2. adding an additional alternate view (from a neutral or surprising angle)
  3. adding another case study or example that pushes your own claim TOO far (and then explaining why your argument is not as weak as that extreme case)

Does a 500 word essay have to be exactly 500 words? ›

500-word essays do not have to be exactly 500 words, but they should be as close as possible. The essay prompt may say “in under 500 words” or “in at least 500 words,” which would state whether 500 is the minimum or maximum word count.

How long should the Common App essay be? ›

Let's define our terms: Personal statement (PS): When people refer to the personal statement, they're talking about the 650-word Common Application Essay, which all schools using the Common App will see.

Can my Common App essay be 700 words? ›

The online application won't accept essays that are below 250 words or over 650 words. Your essay must stay within the word count limit. So what should you aim for? The ideal word count for your Common App essay is between 500 and 650 words.

How long is a 500 word essay? ›

Answer: 500 words is 1 page single spaced or 2 pages double spaced.

Can you go over 650 words on Common App? ›

The Common App specifies the word limit required for each essay. Even though this has changed over the years–from 650 to 500 words in the past–the current Common App essay word count is somewhere between 250 to 650 words.

What should you not say in a college essay? ›

What not to do in your college application essay: 10 things you should always avoid
  • Never rehash your academic and extracurricular accomplishments.
  • Never write about a "topic"
  • Never start with a preamble.
  • Never end with a “happily ever after” conclusion.
  • Never pontificate.
  • Never retreat into your thoughts.
  • Never hold back.
22 Jul 2021

What do colleges look for in Common App essay? ›

As part of the college application process, colleges ask prospective students for a personal essay in order to learn more about them. They want to see context on each student's background, positive traits that the student could bring to campus, and examples of the student demonstrating those qualities.

Should I title my Common App essay? ›

You don't need a title for your college admissions essay, but you can include one if you think it adds something important.

How much is too much for a college essay? ›

Therefore, it may be stressful if you are applying to such a college since this leaves you with so many options. Having said that, a good thumb of rule is to restrict your essay to a 500-700 word limit.

How long should it take to write a college essay? ›

While timelines will differ depending on the student, plan on spending at least 1–3 weeks brainstorming and writing the first draft of your college admissions essay, and at least 2–4 weeks revising across multiple drafts. Don't forget to save enough time for breaks between each writing and editing stage.

What happens if you go under the word limit on university essay? ›

You've got the people who always go over the word count, and the people who can't get anywhere near it. Many universities apply a kind of 'penalty' if either of these happens. A pretty common one is your mark will be reduced by 10% if you're 10% over or under the word limit.

Can I write a 1000 word essay in a day? ›

You should be able to write a one thousand word essay in 1 hour to 2 hours instead of 3 hours to 4 hours. To give some perspective on how long it should take a beginner to write an essay, here are some metrics you can use to keep track of how you're improving.

Can you write 500 words in 4 hours? ›

Quick Answer: For an average typer working on an easy project, it takes about 30 minutes to write 500 words. For them to complete a difficult project, it can take up to 5 hours to write 500 words.

How many pages is 700 000 words? ›

It will take approximately 233 minutes to read 70,000 words. A 70,000 word count will create about 140 pages with single spacing or 280 pages double-spaced when using normal 1-inch margins, 12 pt. Arial font, and a standard A4 (letter size) page size.

Is it bad if my Common App essay is short? ›

Your essay must not be longer than 650 words, but it can be shorter. Anything over 500 words is fine, as long as your essay is thoughtful and complete. If your essay is running short, add relevant details and descriptions that help the reader get a better glimpse of the situation and your personality.

How do I make my college essay stand out? ›

Tips for a Stellar College Application Essay
  1. Write about something that's important to you. ...
  2. Don't just recount—reflect! ...
  3. Being funny is tough. ...
  4. Start early and write several drafts. ...
  5. No repeats. ...
  6. Answer the question being asked. ...
  7. Have at least one other person edit your essay. ...
  8. Test Your College Knowledge.

How can I reduce my college essay word count? ›

10 Tricks to Reduce Your Word Count in Academic Writing
  1. Delete "The" You can often omit the word “the” from your text without losing any meaning. ...
  2. Erase “That” ...
  3. Remove Adverbs and Adjectives. ...
  4. Use Shorter Words. ...
  5. Trim Wordy Phrases. ...
  6. Choose Active Voice. ...
  7. Revise Needless Transitions. ...
  8. Eliminate Conjunctions.
12 Dec 2018


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