There will be a new Common App. essay prompt for students applying for admission to colleges this year. The question reads as follows: “Describe a 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.” So they’ve added an essay prompt related to problem-solving to go along with their four other prompts. If you’re not familiar with the four other prompts, they focus on (1) sharing a background, interest, identity of talent that is so meaningful that a student’s application would be incomplete without it, (2) writing about the lesson taken from a failure, (3) reflecting on a time when a student challenged a belief or idea, and (4) discussing an accomplishment or event that marked a student’s transition to adulthood.
We always mention to students and their parents that there remains a prompt on the Common Application that is essentially write whatever you want. There are some who suggest that the Common Application did away with this prompt some time ago. We beg to differ. Refer back to that prompt about sharing a background, interest, identity, or talent that is so meaningful. In fact, let’s cite the exact phrasing of the prompt: “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.” And here’s our translation: write whatever you want.
So for those students who wish to be as creative as possible, who don’t wish to be limited by discussing a life event or a problem solved, choose the first prompt. Choose to write whatever it is you want. The best college admissions essays are often responses to this very prompt. Does that surprise you? Let us know your thoughts on the Common App. essay prompts by posting a Comment below. We look forward to hearing from you.