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How to choose the best Common Application topic for you

Most students working on their college applications may have decided which topic they will use for their main Common Application essay. If you haven’t already submitted an application, I challenge you to consider what would be the best topic for you to write about . . . that is, not just the prompt you like best.

Here are the 5 prompts for the new Common Application:

  • Some students have a background or story that is so central to their identity that they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.
  • Recount an incident or time when you experienced failure. How did it affect you, and what lessons did you learn?
  • Reflect on a time when you challenged a belief or idea. What prompted you to act? Would you make the same decision again?
  • Describe a place or environment where you are perfectly content. What do you do or experience there, and why is it meaningful to you?
  • Discuss an accomplishment or event, formal or informal, that marked your transition from childhood to adulthood within your culture, community, or family

To get started with choosing the topic which would be most authentic and compelling for you, follow these steps:

  1. Spend a few minutes thinking about how you would respond to a prompt
  2. Writing a response to the prompt (about 5 min)
  3. Go to the next prompt and follow steps 1 and 2 for each of the five prompts
  4. After you write a response for all of the prompts, look over each response and answer these questions:
    • Which response would you feel most proud to submit?
    • Which response could you write about on and on?
    • Which response do you think an admissions committee would want to read?

Whichever response you feel that the admissions committee would want to read, get rid of that response immediately. the biggest mistake that students make in writing their college essays is writing what they think the admissions committee wants to read. There will likely be more than one admissions reader of your college application and trying to please one will get you in trouble with the other! Besides, your best writing will be in your own voice and NOT someone else’s.

Now, look again at the response that you would feel most proud to submit and the one that you could write on and on about. It’s easier to choose if one response fits both questions. If not, then you still have a great start to choosing the best topic for you.

Your best essay will be the one that you have the most passion to write. When my students come to me with a dull, boring essay, I recognize immediately that they chose a topic that they didn’t care about it. When you are passionate about your essay response, your writing will pop off the page. If you read it aloud and it doesn’t pop, then it’s time to rethink your topic before you submit!

If you’re applying through the Common Application, which prompt did you choose?

About This Blog

This blog is valued by busy parents of college-bound teens. The topics covered in these posts are mined from years of listening to parents talk about their dreams for their children’s education.

This blog is written from the heart… as it’s my passion and life calling!

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