The Common Application confirmed that prompts for the Common App Personal Statement would remain the same for the 2022-23 cycle. This application will open in August 2022 for students applying as freshmen for Fall 2023. Releasing the prompts earlier allows these story starter questions to rattle around in student’s heads for a few months. Because it can take some time to settle on what stories you want to tell to help an admissions reader understand who you are.
College applications that require essays want to know more about the student than just the basic data of course grades, activities, and scores that appear in other parts of the application. The transcript might show a student dropped German in favor of American Sign Language. An essay could reveal the friendship with a young neighbor and a desire to better communicate with her. The activities list might seem like a patchwork of unconnected clubs. An essay might discuss multiple cross-country moves as a military kid and how that experience taught them to make friends quickly.
When considering essay ideas, remember the topic of each essay is the student. The essay should provide a broader and deeper picture of the student. It might even draw direct connections to what they hope to do in college. The Common App personal statement can respond to any of the Common App essay prompts. Some college applications will have their own essay prompts, like the University of California Personal Interest Questions, or additional essay prompts like Why Us? supplemental essays.
When you are ready to get started, read through some of the prompts. What is the story that comes to mind? Jot down not only what happened but sensory details (how it smelled, sounded, felt, maybe even tasted). Then add some lines about why what happened mattered. How did you change as a result? How did you affect those around you? In other words, you want to get past what happened to describe what it means to you as a person.
It’s ok to feel uncomfortable during the essay writing process. You are trying to remember events in detail, convey them to someone who wasn’t there, and write in a way that is both grammatically correct and emotionally evocative. That’s a tall order and not something you will achieve at the first attempt. One of my writing profs used the phrase “zero draft” to describe the phase of pouring initial thoughts and words onto paper. This early phase wasn’t even at “first draft” stage, because we were still figuring out what to write about and where the connection points were. Give yourself time and space to work through these steps.
The essay demonstrates your ability to write clearly and concisely on a selected topic and helps you distinguish yourself in your own voice. What do you want the readers of your application to know about you apart from courses, grades, and test scores? Choose the option that best helps you answer that question and write an essay of no more than 650 words, using the prompt to inspire and structure your response. Remember: 650 words is your limit, not your goal. Use the full range if you need it, but don’t feel obligated to do so. (The application won’t accept a response shorter than 250 words.)
Don’t obsess over these prompts. The Common App essay prompts are simply questions designed to encourage deeper thinking and writing in a way. Your goal is to giveadmissions readers a better understanding of who you are as a person than they would get from just looking at grades and test scores. Your essays are your opportunity to control both content and delivery. It is one of the few parts of the application you exert this much control over.
If the first six Common App essay prompts don’t generate ideas, remember that Prompt Seven gives you the freedom to choose your own adventure. This is one reason I start my clients with pre-writing exercises that help them identify what they are trying to communicate – what their story is and what examples help convey it.
Essay coaching is included in each of my comprehensive packages. Essay coaching is also an optional add on for students who go through Service Academy and ROTC Coaching. If this is something you are interested in, let’s connect.