Here are the next three Common Application Questions for this application year:
3) Reflect on a time when you challenged a belief or idea. What prompted you to act? Would you make the same decision again?
Student writers often present weak essays that lack detail, and which content fails to delve more deeply than “high school usual” into the sometimes murky reaches of belief. For the purposes of college entrance, generalities won’t make your essay shine. Dig deep. Be personal. Tell an interesting story with plenty of sensory details.
The reader doesn’t expect a solution to world hunger. Rather, this essay should demonstrate just how insightful your self-reflection can be. And don’t think that your essay need bring the challenge you experienced to a complete and final resolution. Perhaps you acted or reacted in a certain way, and upon reflection, today you sense that nothing is ever black and white, that maturity has provided you with a new set of eyes. Be honest, be descriptive.
4) Describe a place or environment where you are perfectly content. What do you do or experience there, and why is it meaningful to you?
This prompt may be first cousin to a University of Chicago essay from about six or seven years ago in which that school asked students to describe their place of calm. I recall one student who wrote how she had grown up with a backyard rope swing whose wooden seat provided a shaded pond view, a place where, through the many perturbations of her high school life that she enumerated, she could always find the soothing rhythm of the swing (She was accepted). Light? Shadow? Soft or loud? Cobalt blue or neon yellow? No holds barred. Show your thoughtfulness. Let your reader see and feel what you do!
5) Discuss an accomplishment or event, formal or informal, that marked your transition from childhood to adulthood within your culture, community, or family.
On a piece of paper, write down the four or five monumental events from your own past. Then don’t write about them.
Instead, choose another moment to describe in careful detail. Against the backdrop that you’ve chosen, explain the revelation that translated into your “crossing the bridge” from childhood to the next phase of your life. Understand that even seemingly innocuous moments can, upon reflection, expand into a small but significant moment of revelation. A line of song lyric, the quack of a mottled duck, the bending of metal, an unusual encounter, a lie revealed, an unexpected gift given or received—this list goes on and on.
Don’t count words. Make every word count.