Essays that Worked · Connecticut College - MbaDjawebInfo

Essays that Worked · Connecticut College

Essays that Worked · Connecticut College

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Popular College Application Essay Topics (and How to Answer Them)

Get help writing your college application essays. Find this year’s Common App writing prompts and popular essay questions used by individual colleges.

The college essay is your opportunity to show admissions officers who you are apart from your grades and test scores (and to distinguish yourself from the rest of a very talented applicant pool).

brainstorming college application essay topics

2018-19 Common App Essays

Nearly 700 colleges accept the The Common Application , which makes it easy to apply to multiple schools with just one form. If you are using the Common App to apply for college admission in 2017, you will have 250–650 words to respond to ONE of the following 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.
  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?
  3. Reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea. What prompted your thinking? What was the outcome?
  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.
  5. Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others.
  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?
  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.

Read More: Get Expert Essay Advice From Former Admissions Officers!

Tackling the Common App Essay Prompts

Prompt #1: Share your story.

Answer this prompt by reflecting on a hobby, facet of your personality, or experience that is genuinely meaningful and unique to you. Admissions officers want to feel connected to you and an honest, personal statement about who you are draws them in. Your love of superheroes, baking chops, or family history are all fair game if you can tie it back to who you are or what you believe in. Avoid a rehash of the accomplishments on your high school resume and choose something that the admissions committee will not discover when reading the rest of your application.

Prompt #2: Learning from obstacles.

You’re trying to show colleges your best self, so it might seem counterintuitive to willingly acknowledge a time you struggled. But overcoming challenges demonstrates courage, grit, and perseverance! That’s why the last piece of this prompt is essential. The obstacle you write about can be large or small, but you must show the admissions committee how your perspective changed as a result.

Perfect your college essay video

Prompt #3: Challenging a belief.

Your answer to this question could focus on a time you stood up to others or an experience when your own preconceived view was challenged. Choose this prompt if you have a relevant—and specific!—experience to recount (and reflect on). A vague essay about a hot button issue doesn’t tell the admissions committee anything useful about YOU.

Prompt #4: Solving a problem.

This essay is designed to get at the heart of how you think and what makes you tick. Present a situation or quandary and show steps toward the solution. Admissions officers want insight into your thought process and the issues you grapple with, so explain how you became aware of the dilemma and how you tackled solving it. Don’t forget to explain why the problem is important to you!

Prompt #5: Personal growth.

Just like Prompt #2, the accomplishment or event you write about can be anything from a major milestone to a smaller “aha” moment. Describe the event or ccomplishment that shaped you but take care to also show what you learned or how you changed. Colleges are looking for a sense of maturity and introspection—pinpoint the transformation and demonstrate your personal growth. 

Prompt #6: What captivates you?

This prompt is an invitation to write about something you care about. (So avoid the pitfall of writing about what you think will impress the admission office versus what truly matters to you). Colleges are looking for curious students, who are thoughtful about the world around them. The “what or who do you turn to when you want to learn more” bit isn’t an afterthought—it’s a key piece of the prompt. Make sure you explain how you pursue your interest, as well.

Read More: QUIZ: Test Your College Knowledge!

Prompt #7: Topic of your choice.

This question might be for you if you have a dynamo personal essay from English class to share or were really inspired by a question from another college’s application. You can even write your own question! Whatever topic you land on, the essentials of a standout college essay still stand: 1.) Show the admissions committee who you are beyond grades and test scores and 2.) Dig into your topic by asking yourself how and why. There isn’t a prompt to guide you, so you must ask yourself the questions that will get at the heart of the story you want to tell.

More College Essay Topics

Individual schools sometimes require supplemental essays. Here are a few popular application essay topics and some tips for how to approach them:

Describe a person you admire.

Avoid the urge to pen an ode to a beloved figure like Gandhi or Abraham Lincoln. The admissions committee doesn’t need to be convinced they are influential people. Focus on yourself: Choose someone who has actually caused you to change your behavior or your worldview, and write about how this person influenced you .

Why do you want to attend this school?

Be honest and specific when you respond to this question. Avoid generalities like “to get a good liberal arts education” or “to develop career skills,” and use details that show your interests: “I’m an aspiring doctor and your science department has a terrific reputation.” Colleges are more likely to admit students who can articulate specific reasons why the school is a good fit for them beyond its reputation or ranking on any list. Use the college’s website and literature to do your research about programs, professors, and other opportunities that appeal to you.

Read More: 5 Ways College Application Essays and High School Essays Are Different

What is a book you love?

Your answer should not be a book report. Don’t just summarize the plot; detail why you enjoyed this particular text and what it meant to you. What does your favorite book reveal about you? How do you identify with it, and how has it become personal to you?

Again, be honest in answering this question—don’t choose a classic from your literature class or a piece of philosophy just because you think it will make you seem smarter. Writing fluently and passionately about a book close to you is always better than writing shakily or generally about a book that doesn’t inspire you.

What is an extracurricular activity that has been meaningful to you?

Avoid slipping into clichés or generalities. Take this opportunity to really examine an experience that taught you something you didn’t previously know about yourself, got you out of your comfort zone, or forced you to grow. Sometimes it’s better to write about something that was hard for you because you learned something than it is to write about something that was easy for you because you think it sounds admirable. As with all essay questions, the most important thing is to tell a great story: how you discovered this activity, what drew you to it, and what it’s shown you about yourself.


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Sample College Admissions Essay – Student Teacher

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Sample College Admissions Essay – Student Teacher

Max discusses a summer camp challenge in this essay for the Common Application.




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by
Allen Grove
Updated September 03, 2018

Many college applicants have had summer camp experiences. In this Common Application essay, Max discusses his challenging relationship with a difficult student who ends up having a lot to contribute. 

The Essay Prompt

Max’s essay was originally written for the pre-2013 Common Application essay prompt that states, “Indicate a person who has had a significant influence on you, and describe that influence.” The influential person option no longer exists, but there are many ways to write about an important person with the current seven essay options on the 2018-19 Common Application .

Max’s essay has recently been revised to fit the new 650-word length limit of the current Common Application, and it would work nicely with the 2018-19 prompt #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?”

The essay would also work well with Common Application essay option #5 , “Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others.”

Max’s Common Application Essay

Student Teacher

Anthony was neither a leader nor a role model. In fact, his teachers and his parents were constantly chastising him because he was disruptive, ate too much, and had a hard time staying focused. I met Anthony when I was a counselor at a local summer camp. The counselors had the usual duties of keeping kids from smoking, drowning, and killing each other. We made God’s eyes, friendship bracelets, collages, and other clichés. We rode horses, sailed boats, and hunted snipe.

Each counselor also had to teach a three-week course that was supposed to be a little more “academic” than the usual camp fare. I created a class called “Things that Fly.” I met with fifteen students for an hour a day as we designed, built, and flew kites, model rockets, and balsawood airplanes.

Anthony signed up for my class. He was not a strong student. He had been kept back a year at his school, and he was larger and louder than the other middle school kids. He talked out of turn and lost interest when others were talking. In my class, Anthony got some good laughs when he smashed his kite and threw the pieces into the wind. His rocket never made it to the launch pad because he crumpled it in a fit of frustration when a fin fell off.

In the final week, when we were making airplanes, Anthony surprised me when he drew a sketch of a sweep-wing jet and told me he wanted to make a “really cool plane.” Like many of Anthony’s teachers, and perhaps even his parents, I had largely given up on him. Now he suddenly showed a spark of interest. I didn’t think the interest would last, but I helped Anthony get started on a scale blueprint for his plane. I worked one-on-one with Anthony and had him use his project to demonstrate to his classmates how to cut, glue and mount the balsawood framework. When the frames were complete, we covered them with tissue paper. We mounted propellers and rubber bands. Anthony, with all his thumbs, created something that looked a bit like his original drawing despite some wrinkles and extra glue.

Our first test flight saw Anthony’s plane nose-dive straight into the ground. His plane had a lot of wing area in the back and too much weight in the front. I expected Anthony to grind his plane into the earth with his boot. He didn’t. He wanted to make his creation work. The class returned to the classroom to make adjustments, and Anthony added some big flaps to the wings. Our second test flight surprised the whole class. As many of the planes stalled, twisted, and nose-dived, Anthony’s flew straight out from the hillside and landed gently a good 50 yards away.

I’m not writing about Anthony to suggest that I was a good teacher. I wasn’t. In fact, I had quickly dismissed Anthony like many of his teachers before me. At best, I had viewed him as a distraction in my class, and I felt my job was to keep him from sabotaging the experience for the other students. Anthony’s ultimate success was a result of his own motivation, not my instruction.

Anthony’s success wasn’t just his plane. He had succeeded in making me aware of my own failures. Here was a student who was never taken seriously and had developed a bunch of behavioral issues as a result. I never stopped to look for his potential, discover his interests, or get to know the kid beneath the facade. I had grossly underestimated Anthony, and I am grateful that he was able to disillusion me.

I like to think that I’m an open-minded, liberal, and non-judgmental person. Anthony taught me that I’m not there yet.

Critique of Max’s Common Application Essay

In general, Max has written a strong essay for the Common Application , but it does take a few risks. Below you’ll find a discussion of the essay’s strengths and weaknesses.

The Topic

Essays on important or influential people can quickly become predictable and cliché when they focus on the typical heroes of high school students: a parent, a brother or sister, a coach, a teacher.

From the first sentence, we know that Max’s essay is going to be different: “Anthony was neither a leader nor a role model.” Max’s strategy is a good one, and the admissions folks who read the essay will most likely be pleased to read an essay that isn’t about how Dad is the greatest role model or Coach is the greatest mentor.

Also, essays on influential people often conclude with the writers explaining how they’ve become a better people or owe all of their success to the mentor. Max takes the idea in a different direction — Anthony has made Max realize that he isn’t as good of a person as he had thought, that he still has much to learn. The humility and self-critique is refreshing.

The Title

There’s no one rule for writing a winning essay title , but Max’s title is perhaps a little too clever. “Student Teacher” immediately suggests a student who is teaching (something that Max is doing in his narrative), but the true meaning is that Max’s student taught him an important lesson. Thus, both Anthony and Max are “student teachers.”

However, that double meaning is not apparent until after one has read the essay. The title by itself does not immediately grab our attention, nor does it clearly tell use what the essay will be about.

The Tone

For the most part, Max maintains a pretty serious tone throughout the essay. The first paragraph does have a nice touch in the way that it pokes fun at all the cliché activities that are typical of summer camp.

The real strength of the essay, however, is that Max manages the tone to avoid sounding like he is bragging about his accomplishments. The self-criticism of the essay’s conclusion may seem like a risk, but it arguably works to Max’s advantage. The admissions counselors know that no student is perfect, so Max’s awareness of his own short-comings will probably be interpreted as a sign of maturity, not as red flag highlighting a defect in character.

The Essay Length

At 631 words, Max’s essay is at the upper end of the Common Application length requirement  of 250 to 650 words. This is not a bad thing. If a college is requesting an essay, it is because the admissions folks want to get to know the applicant better. They can learn more from you with a 600-word essay than with a 300-word essay. You may encounter counselors who argue that admissions officers are extremely busy, so shorter is always better. This little evidence to support such a claim, and you’ll find very few applicants to top-tier colleges (such as the Ivy League schools) being admitted with essays that don’t take advantage of the space allowed.

The ideal essay length is certainly subjective and depends in part on the applicant and the story being narrated, but Max’s essay length is absolutely fine. This is particularly true because the prose is never wordy, flowery, or excessive. The sentences tend to be short and clear, so the overall reading experience isn’t labored.

The Writing

The opening sentence grabs our attention because it isn’t what we expect from an essay. The conclusion is also pleasingly surprising. Many students would be tempted to make themselves the hero of the essay and state what a profound impact they had on Anthony. Max turns it around, highlights his own failures, and gives the credit to Anthony.

The balance of the essay isn’t perfect. Max’s essay spends far more time describing Anthony than it does describing Anthony’s influence. Ideally, Max could cut a couple sentences from the middle of the essay and then develop a little further the two short concluding paragraphs.

Final Thoughts

Max’s essay, like  Felicity’s essay , takes some risks. It’s possible an admissions officer would judge Max negatively for exposing his biases. But this is unlikely. In the end, Max presents himself as someone who is a leader (he is designing and teaching a class, after all) and as someone who is aware that he still has much to learn. These are qualities that should be attractive to most college admissions folks. After all, colleges want to admit students who are eager to learn and who have the self-awareness to recognize that they have room for a lot more personal growth. 


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