New Common Application Prompts for 2017-18

New Common Application Prompts for 2017-18

Great news for you college-bound juniors who are just starting to think about your college application essays.

If you need to write your personal statement essay for The Common Application, they just made it a lot easier.

Rather than having to pick one topic from their list of suggested 5 prompts, you can now write about ANYTHING YOU WANT.

They used to have this option, but for some reason canned it three years ago. Everyone revolted, and thankfully, they responded this season by reinstating the ‘Topic of Choice’ option in their new 7th prompt.

To bring you up to speed on these new Common Application Prompts, last year they had 5 prompts to pick from to write your main essay for The Common Application. Now they changed some of the previous prompts (just minor tweaks), and added 2 news ones you can pick from as well.

The seventh of the seven new Common Application prompts is this:

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. [New]

It basically means you can write about any topic you would like. Woot! Woot!

How to Think About These New Common Application Prompts

Here’s my advice if you are just starting this process:

First, read though all seven of the new Common Application prompts ( find them below).

What you are looking for is one that sparks idea for a topic that you want to write about.

Remember, you are looking for a topic you can write about that may help you differentiate (sets you apart) yourself from the other applicants.

RELATED: how exactly to Answer New Common Application Essay Prompt 6: Topic, Idea, or Concept

Another approach would be to completely ignore the other prompts and simply pick a topic you can write about that will help showcase your personality and character for a personal statement essay about yourself. Then, if you would like, go back and read the prompts to see if any match up using what you wrote about; if not, go with Prompt 7.

Just is dependent on how you want to work.

Either way, you want a topic that may help you write an essay that is interesting to read (especially at the start to grab their attention!); that is highly personal so you relate solely to your readers (admissions officers) plus they care about what you have to say; that shows them how you think, learn and what you value; and above all, makes you come across as likable and someone they would want at their college.

Sound impossible?

Don’t worry.

It’s not that hard once you learn how to write a narrative (story-telling) style essay about yourself.

This blog is packed with advice and tips about exactly how to pull this off without losing your mind.

The trick would be to first find that awesome topic.thesis statement for racism


Read How to Land in the ‘Yes’ Pile to learn 5 tips for finding hot topics. Or take a look at these 5 Top Tips on Finding Topics.

I favor how the new Common Application prompts give you the space to brainstorm, explore and land the perfect topic and not be limited to only their ideas. At the same time, you can use their ideas as a springboard for finding your topic.

It’s all about WHATEVER WORKS for you.

Again, if the other new Common Application prompts inspire a great idea, then go for it. ( I like how they have tweaked the old prompts and made them even more thought-provoking and inspirational.)

Sometimes, facing a huge blank canvas can be intimidating.

If you wish to start from scratch to brainstorm your perfect topic, start with my post How to Write A college Application Essay in 3 Steps.

I also recommend my short and easy writing guide, Escape Essay Hell, that is a 10- step guide to finding that perfect topic and cranking away a highly effective personal statement essay perfect for The Common Application.

Here are some other posts that can help you receive started under my Jumpstart Your Essay tab.

So trust me on this: You got lucky with these new Common Application Prompts!

These changes, especially the addition of the Topic of Choice Prompt 7, are in your favor.

You have plenty of time to learn what makes a great essay, and how to write your own.

It’s all here.

Good luck!

Here are the new Common Application prompts for 2016-17 ( the words in italics are the changes/additions from last year):

2017-2018 Common Application Essay Prompts

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. [No change]

2. The lessons we take from obstacles we encounter can be fundamental to later success. Recount time when you faced a challenge, setback, or failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience? [Revised]

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

4. Describe 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. [No change]

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

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? [New]

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. [New]

I’ve written previous posts with explicit advice and guidance on how to think about and write essays for each of last year’s Common Application essay prompts.

I will be updating those and writing more advice on how to approach the all-new prompt #6 in coming weeks.

So stay tuned!

A friendly reporter from the popular daily tabloid newspaper, Metro, contacted me a couple weeks ago. She was writing a piece for the New York edition on college admissions, and wanted to feature some of my college application essay writing tips. (It’s actually a legit newspaper that boasts 18 million daily readers internationally!)I love getting out the word about my writing advice. So I shared what I thought were four of my most helpful ideas and tips with her.I don’t know if you have ever been interviewed and then had your opinions published, but it’s always somewhat of a shock when you read them in print.Did I really say that? I don’t remember using those words?That’s totally out of context and not what I meant at all!Those are the types of typical reactions.You would think as a former journalist, I wouldn’t find my very own words in print shocking.But maybe I’m even worse than most sources. Pickier, perhaps?I spent at least 15 years working as a reporter for major papers, both on staff and freelancing. Like most reporters, I did my best to capture as accurately and fairly as possible what my sources told me and what I chose to quote. And I have to admit, I had little patience when they came back and complained. Don’t they get that I had word limit and was on deadline? Nothing like being on the other side of the fence. Haha.Anyway, this Metro writer, Lakshmi Gandhi, did a fine job.Yes, I would change some of my points, if I could, and tweak a few others. But overall, this is what I told her over the phone.In my experience, it’s just another concept in the power of language. How each word matters. And why it’s critical to proofread like mad.Now, more than ever, truth matters. Same goes for your college application essays.If you are still working on essays for 2017 applications, I hope you find my tips helpful. I was tempted to share the article here and add my little two-cents and qualifying comments, to get it exactly how I wanted it.But I’m trying to resist my inner perfectionist and let it stand as is.The tips are solid. Lakshmi did an impressive job of packing in a lot of my best advice in a short piece. And I bet she was on a deadline. Here it is, uncensored by me:

4 tips for writing a college application essay that really shines


Essay Hell founder Janine Robinson knows how to make your application be noticeable.

There’s a reason Janine Robinson named her site devoted to guiding students through the college essay application process Essay Hell.

‘It’s the most dreaded piece of writing people do in their lifetimes,’ says Robinson, a former journalist and English teacher who now coaches students. ‘There’s so much riding on it, but no one has taught students how to write this kind of essay.’

We asked Robinson for her advice on creating an essay that shines.

  1. Get a little personal

It might surprise people, but Robinson says best students often write the worst college essays. ‘Students might not understand that these essays are supposed to be personal, and not the formal essays they are used to,’ Robinson explains. ‘You should ditch that five-paragraph formula and steer clear of using words like ‘nevertheless’ and ‘furthermore.”

Instead, students should think of how they want to introduce themselves to admissions officers. ‘The voice should always be familiar,’ Robinson says.

2. Tell a good story

Many students Robinson works with worry that their lives aren’t interesting enough to write about. ‘They think they need to impress the reader by having a topic that’s about something like how they climbed Mount Whitney,’ she says. ‘But best essays I’ve read have been about mundane topics. Students really do have a lot to talk about.’

For example, have you been babysitting since you were in middle school? Are you a huge music fan? Those are perfectly good topics to write about in your essay. ‘I tell students to just think about what they do on a Saturday,’ Robinson explains.

3. Show some personality

A common mistake students make is writing essays that are too general and devoid of any personality. ‘Being boring is like death to a effective college essay,’ says Robinson. ‘Pick one quality or descriptor that you want to highlight in your essay. Then your essay will have a sharp focus because you’re showcasing that quality.

4. Highlight a conflict

We don’t mean you have to write on a family tragedy or a catastrophic event in your lifetime. ‘ One trick is to find something that has happened to you and think about how it included a problem you had to solve,’ says Robinson. The problem could be as simple as you overcoming a personal phobia, like a fear of heights, or getting a driver’s license after lots of practice. ‘I had one student who typed exactly how he dealt with his excessive body hair,’ she recalls. ‘It was a killer essay.’

Read the entire story, 4 Tips for Writing A college Application Essay, on the Metro web page.

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