Common app essay option 4 examples

Our experts know how to design lessons based on how you're learning. We love our teachers, and so will you. Teach or Tutor for Us. College Readiness. All Rights Reserved. The Princeton Review is not affiliated with Princeton University. 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.

Recount a time when you faced a challenge, setback, or failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience? 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. 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. Enroll Now. Why The Princeton Review? Productive Preparation We know that great scores take work. Engaging Teachers We love our teachers, and so will you. Hours Phone: Register Book Go. I thought I had to be the most unique child of all time, which was a daunting task, but I tried. I was the only kid in the second grade to color the sun red. During snack time, we could choose between apple juice and grape juice. I liked apple juice more, but if everyone else was choosing apple, then I had to choose grape.

This was how I lived my life, and it was exhausting.

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After 8th grade, I moved to Georgia. I panicked. If there was no normal, how could I be unique? I realized that I had spent so much energy going against the grain that I had no idea what my true interests were. It was time to find out. I joined the basketball team, performed in the school musical, and enrolled in chorus, all of which were firsts for me. I did whatever I thought would make me happy. And it paid off. I was no longer socially awkward. In fact, because I was involved in so many unrelated activities, I was socially flexible.

I had finally become my own person. Our advice is to pick a problem that deeply concerns you and make it clear to your reader why that topic matters to you, either through an account of how your interest in the subject originated, or through an explanation of the potential consequences of the dilemma. Even though the prompt allows you to explore more academic and intellectual topics, it is important not to get carried away with esoteric details. Bottom line, the topic you choose for this prompt should, like every topic, highlight your personality, identity, and how you think about the world.


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Be sure to describe the event or experience that caused you to realize the gravity of the problem, the specific actions you took to plan or execute your solution i. For example, if you care deeply about drug education because of a past experience with a friend or family member, you could outline a plan to bring young-adult speakers to your school to positively influence your peers and stress the real dangers of drugs.

As an alternative, this prompt gives you the opportunity to address a more ambitious, hypothetical problem you would like to solve.

2018-19 Common App Essays

For example, you could address the logistical and legal problems of high-speed rail in the United States, the complex environmental and economic problems of using fossil fuels, or even the ethical dilemma of creating A. Be careful to frame your hypothetical problem clearly, explain why it is a problem, outline the important points, and explain your steps to create a solution.

This prompt is expansive in that you can choose any accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked personal growth or new understanding. One option is to discuss a formal accomplishment or event whether it is a religious ritual or social rite of passage that reflects personal growth. If you go this route, make sure to discuss why the ritual was meaningful and how specific aspects of said ritual contributed to your personal growth. An example of this could be the meaning of becoming an Eagle Scout to you, the accomplishment of being elected to Senior Leadership, or completing a Confirmation.

Alternatively, a more relaxed way to address this prompt is using an informal event or realization, which would allow you to show more personality and creativity. An example of this could be learning how to bake with your mother, thus sparking a newfound connection with her, allowing you to learn about her past. Having a long discussion about life or philosophy with your father could also suffice, thus sparking more thoughts about your identity.

You could write about a realization that caused you to join a new organization or quit an activity you did not think you would enjoy, as doing so would force you to grow out of your comfort zone to try new things. The key to answering this prompt is clearly defining what it is that sparked your growth, and then describing in detail the nature of this growth and how it related to your perception of yourself and others.

Your growth can also be left open-ended if you are still learning from your experiences today.

How to Write the Common Application Essays 2018-12222 (With Examples)

This essay describes the new tasks she undertook, as well as how the writer now more greatly cherishes her time with her mother. My mother had been a source of strength for me, and now I would be strong for her through her long recovery ahead. As I started high school, everyone thought the crisis was over, but it had really just started to impact my life. My mother was often fatigued, so I assumed more responsibility, juggling family duties, school, athletics, and work.

I made countless trips to the neighborhood pharmacy, cooked dinner, biked to the grocery store, supported my concerned sister, and provided the loving care my mother needed to recover. I now take ownership over small decisions such as scheduling daily appointments and managing my time but also over major decisions involving my future, including the college admissions process. My mother remains a guiding force in my life, but the feeling of empowerment I discovered within myself is the ultimate form of my independence.

This prompt allows you to expand and deepen a seemingly small or simple idea, topic, or concept. A tip for expanding on these topics and achieving specificity is to select particular details of the topic that you find intriguing and explain why. You can delve into why certain spices or garnishes are superior in different situations, how flavors blend well together and can be mixed creatively, or even the chemistry differences between steaming, searing, and grilling.

Regardless of your topic, this prompt provides a great opportunity to display writing prowess through elegant, specific descriptions that leverage sensory details. In the case of surfing, the salty water, weightlessness of bobbing over the waves, and fresh air could cater to senses. Alternatively, for less physical topics, you can use a train of thought and descriptions to show how deeply and vividly your mind dwells on the topic. Well-executed trains of thought or similar tactics are successful ways to convey passion for a certain topic.

When brainstorming this particular essay, a tip would be to use a web diagram, placing the topic in the middle and thinking about branching characteristics, themes, or concepts related to the topic that are directly engaging and captivating to you. Learn more about how our Applications Program can help your chances of admission. Always refer back to the Strategy section of this article and make sure the topic and essay of your choice addresses the Core Four questions necessary for a good Common App essay.

Read a Sample Common Application Essay on Solving a Problem

This prompt, more than the others, poses a high risk but also a high-potential reward. Writing your own question allows you to demonstrate individuality and confidence. Here, you can craft an innovative essay that tackles a difficult topic for example, whether to raise or lower taxes or presents information with a unique format such as a conversation with an historical figure. We encourage you to try something unconventional for this prompt, like comparing your personality to a Picasso painting, using an extended philosophical metaphor to describe your four years of high school, or writing in a poetic style to display your love of poetry.

If you are extremely passionate about a topic or an expert in a certain area, for example Renaissance technology or journalism during World War II, you can use this prompt to show your authority on a subject by discussing it at a high level. Be careful to frame the essay in a way that is accessible to the average reader while still incorporating quality evidence and content that would qualify you as an expert. Be sure to execute the essay clearly and justify your decision by seeking high-quality feedback from reliable sources.

As always, the essay should demonstrate something meaningful about you, whether it is your personality, thought process, or values.

All Common App essays must show your personality, identity, and aspirations, as well as spark discussions on interests, character, values, and community. The goal for any Common App essay is to impart a lasting, authentic image and sense of yourself on the reader. With these tips and strategies, you should be well on your way to writing a perfect Common App essay. Best of luck from the CollegeVine team! Overview of the Common App The Common App essay is the best way for admissions committees to get to you know you. Strategy for Writing the Common App Essays Because the Common App essay is words long and has few formal directions, organizing a response might seem daunting.

Brainstorm Before reading the prompts, brainstorming is a critical exercise to develop high-level ideas. Organize Common App essays are not traditional five-paragraph essays. Write Your Common App essay must display excellent writing in terms of grammar and sentence structure. A few tips to accomplish this are: Prompt 3. What values did you grow up holding dear?

Are they the same ones today? Tell the story of the first time you learned about these values—say, a morning at Sunday School or a conversation with a grandparent. Is there a prevalent belief in your family or community with which you disagree? How did you come to disagree? Tell the story of a time you are proud of how you handled conflict in relation to this disagreement. When were you wrong about something? Tell the story of how you figured out you were wrong.

Who helped you get there? Prompt 4. What class assignments have gotten you thinking hardest? Tell the story of one of them. What books or articles have you read that caused you to identify something wrong in the world? Who handed it to you?

Common Application Essay: Option #4 Solving a Problem

Who did you discuss it with afterward? How often have you reread that meaningful book or article? Is there a problem that comes up over the dinner table with your family regularly? How do you think about solving it as a family, or individually? Tell the story of one of those dinners.

What makes you angry or furious about the world?

The 2018-19 Common Application Essay Prompts

Tell the story of a time you saw something—visually—that provoked that anger or frustration. Describe images and your reactions. Prompt 5. They say a piece of short fiction is about a moment after which nothing will be the same again. Have you lived through one of those moments? What was it? Tell the story of the day that happened. Prompt 6. What do you get up to? Set the scene: Where do you go? What do you bring with you? What activities have you self-started—that is, what have you done without ever being told to?

Tell the story of the first day you started doing that thing. What do your friends come to you seeking help with? Tell the story of a time when you think you did a great job of helping another person.

Now, to make sure you stay humble, tell the story of when that person helped you. Freewriting is one of the fun parts, so the more you can do it, the better. There are a number of ways to approach freewriting, and all of them are meant to keep you limber, loose, and free. Buy a few composition notebooks: Work in these for the summer. No need to get precious—no fancy Moleskins here, and no laptops or tablets unless you are physically unable to write by hand.

Writing which is different from a tapping-on-a-keyboard-kind-of-story. For one thing, there is no delete button, making the experience more lifelike right away. What are you going to write about during those six minutes? Instead, what might come out as she writes by hand is… I remember the rush the first time I stood up at a mock trial tournament. But why did I love playing this role of attorney? Was it the theater? The chance to finally argue without getting in trouble at the dinner table? Write in big letters and double-space.

Let your hand roam free. Allowing your writing to breathe away from you can prevent you from committing one of the cardinal sins of personal statement-writing—but also all writing! To get more concrete: Respect your process and let these things sit. And if you spend your summer warming up and training for the main event, you can start rereading your body of freewriting by the end of July. Recommended reading: The Ideal College Application Timeline.

In an ideal world, you can start writing and planning for your college essays the summer before your senior year. But many students have prior commitments that make following a six-month June-December timeline difficult. Six months - June to December ideal if you are applying early action or early decision anywhere: Complete first draft of Common App personal statement. Week two of August: Complete second draft here is where the major revision work comes in. Beginning of September: Seek feedback, if you have not already, from a trusted admissions counselor, English teacher, or other advisor.

Now you have October to complete your secondary essays. First week of September: Week two of September: Beginning of October: Now you have the second two weeks of October to complete your secondary essays for anywhere you are applying early with a November due date, and the rest of November to complete any remaining secondary essays for schools with December and January due dates most regular decision deadlines. One month - October to November for regular decision schools: Third week of October: Last week of October: Mid-November, before Thanksgiving break: Now you have December to complete any remaining secondary essays for schools with December and January due dates most regular decision deadlines.

Mega crunch time - Starting in November in case you get started on your application really late and are down to less than one month, use the following timeline: Complete second draft. Complete fourth and final draft. Further reading: Thank you! Your guide is on its way. In the meantime, please let us know how we can help you crack the the college admissions code. You can also learn more about our 1-on-1 college admissions support here. What notes should your essay hit?

Here are some characteristics that a good essay topic contains: Anecdote and specificity. Your essay will always go beyond the anecdote, but an anecdote offers a reader an easy, smooth way into your personal statement. A good essay topic can relate, as much as possible, to a particular anecdote, story, or even scene. It was July, and our older brother had just gone to college, leaving the two of us alone at home together for the first time.

A good essay begins at a specific point in time and revolves around a specific event. So pull from your freewriting: Another way of thinking about this is: That gives you a character, a place, and a plot—all crucial elements of an essay. Tension, conflict, and opportunity to show growth.

Because your topic needs to display your ability to grow, to show change over a period of time. If Josh has always had a perfect relationship with his sister, well—first, no one will believe that! Then Josh would tell us about what changed as soon as the brother left, and in there he might find an opening anecdote. Michael has settled on his grandfather teaching him to surf: Some connection between your past, your present, and your future.

Before you even start writing, think about whether your potential topic is influencing the way you think about the present, and, crucially, the future. Take Michael, again. Does that matter? Not as long as he tells us how surfing influences him—as he did in extracting a wider lesson. Students often ask us: Should I not write about a dying grandparent? About coming out? About the meaning of my name? About politics? But wait. There is one big rule. Be humble. So now, make a list of everything that seems like a fruitful topic. Ramya could try to write something about medicine.


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Or she could write about soccer, dance, or speech. So we decide that Ramya is going to write about the Patriots. The obvious thing—and the thing most teachers and advisors told Anita to do—is write about mock trial. It would be a good opportunity to give the admissions committee some insight into her psychology behind the success. So instead Anita decides to write about a wilderness solo she took in North Carolina on a school trip, and about how it influenced her relationship with poetry.

Josh did some writing about his relationship with his sister and his brother, and that might find a home in the secondary essays. He found himself writing a lot about mistakes, public performance anxiety, and the pressure to get a piece just right. Remember that if you are applying early action or early decision to schools your deadline will come at the start of November, whereas regular decision applications will generally have December and January deadlines.

At words, each of these will be best understood as a five-paragraph essay, so a basic structure stays the same, but the way things begin and end will not. The Specific Experience Essay: This module is one of the most flexible and powerful types of essays. It begins with a scene, memory, or anecdote, and then tells us what that scene, memory, or anecdote continues to mean to the writer. Anita will use a slightly more subtle version of this, but both essays begin with a scene: Resolving the Specific Experience Essay requires a student to point to some kind of realization garnered as a result of the experience.

The trick Michael and Anita each pull off is spinning the experience forward so that it means something for the rest of their lives. Anita goes small with her reflection: This is especially good for Anita because it expands her away from just the hyper-intense mock trial competitor she might come across as.

This module is a little more advanced. So what if he started each paragraph with a different mini-moment of him playing piano and making a mistake? Paragraph 1: Paragraph 2: My second time messing up—I am thirteen, and… etc. The Circular Essay: In this essay, the writer begins with a scene or image or concept and then will circle back to that scene or image or concept before the end of the essay in order to make sense of the initial opening.

This essay deploys suspense. How did I get here? The Mini-Odyssey Essay: The last classic and powerful module is the good old problem-driven essay. In this type of essay, our hero you, the writer meets a challenge in the first paragraph and then the essay is devoted to showing us how it is solved. So Michael might distribute the narration chronologically, showing us first the bad news [the problem]—then zooming out to reflect; then showing us how he faced it [addressing the challenge], probably failing to adequately face it perfectly the first time, and then eventually facing it successfully [the solution].

Those are just a few more narrative possibilities for structuring your essay. Outlining works great for some people as a pre-writing tactic, and we always recommend it. For others, it can be harder than simply getting down to writing.