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College Application Essay

The college essay is a chance for students to go beyond GPA, grades and test scores. It allows the student to personalize their application.  

What's in the essay?

The college essay should not recap the student's life story!  It should be a compelling "part" of the student's life that  allows the admissions representative to gain insight into who the student is as a person.


Admissions representatives  read a lot of essays, and a well-written essay can make a refreshing change. As you write your essay, ask  yourself the following questions:

  • Does the essay provide a direct answer to the essay question?

  • Does it have a strong opening paragraph that captures the readers’ interest?

  • Does it put forth a comprehensive argument or narrative? Does the student make a point and stick to it?

  • Does it have a natural style that’s comfortable for the student and appropriate for the subject matter?

  • Did the student use effective word choice, syntax, and structure?

  • Does it contain correct grammar, punctuation, and spelling?

  • Is it succinct? Did the student pay attention to the recommended length?

Common App Essay Prompts 

*Please note that you can choose your own prompt as indicated with prompt number 7.*

  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.

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

  4. Reflect on something that someone has done for you that has made you happy or thankful in a surprising way. How has this gratitude affected or motivated you?

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

  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?

  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.

Brainstorming Exercise

Crafting a College Essay with QuestBridge

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