Common App Personal Statement

Common App Essay, Essay on Common Application, Common App Essay Prompt

There is one essay question on the Common App. that gives college applicants more freedom than others.

Trying to decide which Common App Personal Statement to answer? Many students — and their parents — ask us which Common App Personal Statement prompt they should address. If you’re not familiar with this admissions cycle’s essay prompts, they are the exact same ones as last year. Here they are for our loyal readers:

  • 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, which marked your transition from childhood to adulthood within your culture, community, or family.

Our answer? Read that first Common App Personal Statement prompt one more time. “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.” Yes, it says to share a story that is central to your identity. It says to write about something that you believe — without it — ¬†would leave your application to colleges incomplete. In essence, the prompt means you can write whatever it is you wish to write. If you want to write about sports, you can (although you shouldn’t — this is one of Ivy Coach’s cardinal rules). If you want to write about interior decorating, do it. If you want to write about traffic patterns, do it. If you want to write about Legos, do it. You get the idea?

Don’t try to tailor your response to the Common App Personal Statement to fit the question. We can’t tell you how many essays we’ve read that start something like this: “I am perfectly content…” or “An accomplishment that marked my transition from childhood to adulthood…” Oy vey. These kinds of beginnings are just as bad as including quotes (yes, quotes are terrible — college admissions officers want to hear what you have to say — not what Yogi Berra had to say). And they’re just as bad as starting an essay like this: “Webster’s Dictionary defines…” Oy vey. Don’t ever do that. It’s the mark of a terrible writer!

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