Here's what aspiring college students are being asked to write about on their applications

College, CC BY-SA‘Reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea. What prompted your thinking? What was the outcome?’

College admissions has changed over the past few decades, as more and more students apply to multiple schools.

In fall 2015, 36% of freshman had applied to seven or more colleges, according to the National Association for College Admission Counseling. In 2005 that figure was 17%, and in 1990 only 9%.

Many experts point to the Common Application as one of the factors of this increase. The Common App is a universal application that about 700 member colleges and universities use for their admissions process. With the click of a button, students can apply to multiple schools at one.

In 2017, the Common App said that 850,000 students used their application to submit more than 3.5 million applications.

The organisation released the 2017-18 essay prompts, from which applicants choose one.

Prompts that stayed the same from the previous year:

  • 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.
  • 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.

Revised prompts:

  • 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?
  • Reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea. What prompted your thinking? What was the outcome?
  • Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realisation that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others.

Brand new prompts:

  • 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.

Happy writing!

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