COMMON APPLICATION (650 words).  You will write to at one of these seven if you use the Common App:

    • Some students have a background 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.
    • The lessons we take from obstacles we encounter can be fundamental to later success.  Recount an incident or time when you faced a challenge, setback, or failure.  How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience?
    • Reflect on a time when you questioned a belief or idea.  What prompted your thinking?  What was the outcome?
    • 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.   
    • Discuss an accomplishment or event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others.
    • 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?
    • 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.

    UC PROMPTS You will have 8 questions to choose from.  You must respond to only 4 of the 8 questions.  Each response is limited to a maximum of 350 words.  These prompts are new beginning in Fall 2016.  Specific suggestions and advice from UC can be found on the UC Admissions website under the heading "How to Apply."

    • Describe an example of your leadership experience in which you have positively influenced others, helped resolve disputes, or contributed to group efforts over time.
    • Every person has a creative side, and it can be expressed in many ways: problem solving, original and innovative thinking, and artistically, to name a few.  Describe how you express your creative side.
    • What would you say is your greatest talent or skill?  How have you developed and demonstrated that talent over time?
    • Describe how you have taken advantage of a significant educational opportunity or worked to overcome an educational barrier you have faced.
    • Describe the most significant challenge you have faced and the steps you have taken to overcome this challenge.  How has this challenge affected your academic achievement?
    • Think about an academic subject that inspires you. Describe how you have furthered this interest inside and/or outside of the classroom. 
    • What have you done to make your school or  your community a better place?
    • Beyond what has already been shared in your application, what do you believe makes you stand out as a strong candidate for admissions to the University of California?

    MISCELLANEOUS PRIVATE COLLEGE PROMPTS OR SUPPLEMENTS (Supplemental essays are written in addition to the Common App prompt.  Some colleges require several supplements.)

    • Lewis & Clark College is a private college with a public conscience and a global reach. We celebrate our strengths in collaborative scholarship, international engagement, environmental understanding and entrepreneurial thinking. As we evaluate applications, we look for students who understand what we offer and are eager to contribute to our community. In one paragraph, please tell us why you are interested in attending Lewis & Clark and how you will impact our campus.
    • The Block Plan at Colorado College has a tradition of innovation and flexibility. Please design your own three-and-a-half week course and describe what you would do. (500 words)
    • Describe a goal. Any goal. But it has to be your goal, and you have to have set it for yourself. Provide an example that demonstrates your work ethic to achieve this goal, how long you have been working towards this goal, and whether your efforts thus far have been successful. (100 words)
    • Describe a community with which you identify. How long have you been a part of this group, and how have you contributed? How has it helped shape who you are today? How has it helped prepare you to be a successful member of the Puget Sound community? (100 words)
    • Red. (250 words)
    • Where’s Waldo? (250 words)
    • How are apples and oranges supposed to be compared? (500 words)
    • Share a few of your favorite books, poems, films, plays musicians, paintings, artists, blogs, magazines or newspapers.  (250 words)
    • Why Tulane?
    • With its longstanding commitment to access, diversity, and inclusion, Oberlin is the ideal laboratory in which to study and design the world we want.  What does your Oberlin look like? (500 words)
    • Describe an experience of cultural difference or insensitivity you have had or observed.  What did you learn from it?  (500 words)
    • Write and answer a question you wish Cornell had asked you?
    • Describe a character in fiction, a historical figure, or a creative work (as in art, music, science, etc.) that has had an influence on you, and explain that influence. (500 words)
    • Evaluate a significant experience, achievement, risk you have taken, or ethical dilemma you have faced and it impact on you.  (500 words)
    • Offer an editorial on a topic of your choice.  (no word limit)
    • What has been the best day of your life? (250 words)

    The best writing is rewriting.  The best writing demands thought, reflection, rewriting and editing. 


    For those who want to be well-prepared and not stressed, spend 30 minutes every week for ten weeks writing responses (one per week) to the top 10 prompts of your choice (making sure to include at least two from the Common App list and at least five from the UC list).  Then, when you look back over them, you will have generated some great ideas for the essay/s you will use for your application.  You can bring these in to me in April and we can review/revise them and you can refine them over the summer.  Many of you will NOT take this advice, and will regret it senior year.  Those select few who try this will be CALM and THANKFUL.


    Essay/Personal Statement
    College admission officers see the essay as one more way to gain insight into who the student is. With so many applicants who look similar in terms of grades, GPAs, and activities, the essay becomes a way for you to convey your own individuality. Look at the essay as an opportunity to be thoughtful about yourself and not something to be dreaded. An effective essay leaves readers feeling that they have gotten to know the student, and that they like what they see.
    A good essay can strengthen an application to a selective school, particularly if your qualifications are already strong. Not surprisingly, a boring, poorly written, arrogant, or silly essay can hurt your chances, especially if your qualifications are borderline. But even if your record is very strong, a weak essay can spoil your chances at a college that has many strong candidates to choose from.
    Johns Hopkins University posts Essays That Worked on their website so applicants can gain more information about what they consider a successful essay.  Click here to learn more.
    Drake graduates offer this advice regarding the college essay.




    Last updated by Sheila R Souder on 10/25/2020