Who should read this post: Anybody applying to a college in the Common Application portal next year. Here is a searchable list of members: Common App 2017-2018. I note with interest that the new members this year include some good international options, some regional big names and some universities that should be better known–like the alma mater of James Joyce, University College, Dublin. It seems the Common App is rebounding from their disastrous rollout of Common App 2.0, back in 2015-2016 as they add members and extend their reach. But they do have competition–more on that in a later post.
Quick Plug for My Services Before We Get to the Prompts:
If you need guidance on the application process, target schools, or other application questions, contact me to make an appointment, either locally in the Bay Area or via Skype. One meeting of two hours will allow us to cover the fundamentals and to look at the latest data, and to outline a target school list, with a preview of admissions requirements and essays. If you need assistance only with admissions essays, a single meeting of two hours introduces the major consortium essays (e.g. Common Application and University of California essays) and gives us time to look at multiple target school prompts, as well as to discuss ideas and to outline an initial draft. A sample edit with general review comments and specific line editing on a portion of the essay is included as a follow-up. Some students are ready to continue writing initial drafts independently after an initial meeting, with editing feedback via e-mail. others prefer to continue meeting as they develop major essays, supported by editing on each draft–you choose the level of service that works for you. Either way, having a set of essays in hand before school begins again will be a major stress reliever. Please contact me for further details and availability.
Yes, there is some news, but nothing too radical–the Common App is tinkering with a few of the questions used last year, and . . . fireworks and applause . . . reintroducing the open essay question that disappeared some years back. Apparently old application prompts don’t fade away, they just go on hiatus.
However, this is not true of Common Application accounts. You will want to wait until the Common App reboots for this year before you actually set up an account and start filling in your personal information, which usually occurs in the last day or so of July or beginning of August. At that time all accounts currently existing on the portal are deleted. So feel free to peruse the site, but don’t bother setting up an account just yet. What you can do, though, is start writing your Common Application essay, or better yet, start thinking about it–and getting some ideas written down.
And I have a very old-fashioned recommendation for how to go about that: Carry a small notebook, and in that keep a copy of the prompts. Read the prompts every once in a while and just start scribbling ideas down as they come. If you do this for a month or two, sitting down at least a few times a week, you will have a large deposit of ideas to mine. Too many students use a process that involves sitting down, picking a prompt and writing about the first thing that seems like a good idea. I have found that it is much better to start doing a little bit, every day, if possible, then sitting down after a month or two of idea-generation to start your essay.
Most of you will be writing at least three essays anyhow, and the more raw material and ideas you start with, the easier the process will be. I like the small version of the Picadilly notebook, btw–and no, they do not advertise on my site (nobody does–I do not accept ads as I want to avoid conflicts of interest), nor do I own stock in the company. I just like the notebooks, and they are cheaper than the better-known Moleskin books. I suppose you could also type material into your phone, but I always find my thinking is more open-ended when I am using pen and paper, and that is what you want as you start–open-ended and creative thinking.
So start the process early, even if you will write the essays later.
With that as a prelude, here are the Common Application essay prompts for 2017-2018.
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 a 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 a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea. What prompted your thinking? What was the outcome? [Revised]
4. 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. [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]***
***But also old . . . this open prompt was a feature of Common App 1.0. I am happy to see it back, but its very openendedness can be a challenge. More on that in a future post.