Writing an admissions essay is the hardest part of the entire college application process, say almost 50% of college-bound high school students. Finding a topic to write about is already a Herculean task — it has to be something that you can discuss with enthusiasm and can convince admissions officers to send you an acceptance letter.
Some of the best Common App essay ideas are those that talk about your future goals and past experiences. Skills, inspirations, and accomplishments highlight uniqueness, which colleges and universities look for. Stating why you want to attend the institution is also a great Common App essay idea.
There are a total of seven Common App essay prompts, the last of which allows applicants to talk about the topic of their choice. It’s the most popular of the bunch, with nearly a quarter of students choosing it.
And because of this, you can have a say on the outcome of your application. This is especially true since, among some of the high-ranking colleges and universities in the US, around 25% of the admissions essay accounts for one’s overall application. So, in other words, it’s a must that you choose a topic wisely.
Experiencing a splitting headache trying to find the perfect admissions essay topic? Read on!
Below, we will check out various Common App essay ideas, each one allowing you to write something about yourself in 250 to 600 words that can make you a complete standout. After all, admissions officers want you to come up with an essay in order to learn many things about you other than your GPA and standardized test score.
A Life Goal
There’s something about discussing your goals that can make admissions officers decide without trouble whether or not you are exactly what they are looking for. And it’s none other than the fact that it enables them to get to know not only who you are right now but who you are hoping to become one day.
But it’s not enough that you let admissions officers have a peek of where you see yourself 10 years from now.
Just as important as having a goal is having a plan. Because of this, when writing your Common App essay on your dreams and ambitions, don’t forget to discuss how you intend to achieve whatever it is that you want to achieve.
So, before you start composing a stellar essay to increase your chances of getting a thumbs-up from admissions officers, there are a couple of things you need to establish to be able to write it in the most sincere and heartfelt manner. First, what you are planning on becoming. Second, how you are planning to make it happen.
Keep in mind what Antoine de Saint-Exupéry once said: “A goal without a plan is just a wish.” Make sure that you impress admissions officers not only with your goal but also your map to achieving it.
An Outdoor Adventure
More and more colleges and universities are on the hunt for students who can graduate as global degree holders. This is why traveling can make your list of extracurricular activities, which is a non-academic factor admissions officers at numerous institutions take into account when evaluating applicants, look phenomenal.
Besides your extracurricular list, your Common App essay could also get a boost from your outdoor adventures.
Refrain from assuming that just because you have had many adventures outside your home and/or hometown those admissions officers will scramble to send you an offer to attend the institution.
As always, quality over quantity — your travels will only mean something in college admissions if they have a meaning for you. So, in other words, it’s a good idea to talk about an adventure of yours in the Common App essay only if it has changed your life (or someone’s life or the course of history) for the better.
This is the same reason why those who are taking a gap year might want to consider traveling. It can help them discover who they really are and learn, too, what they really want in life. And by the way, like what everyone says, the destination is not as important as the journey. Bear this in mind when composing your admissions essay.
There are all sorts of academic and non-academic factors that come into play in the admissions process. One of the non-academic ones that many colleges and universities consider is work experience.
Responsibility, teamwork, hard work, time-management skills — these are just some of the things that one can learn from working, which admissions officers admire and value. It’s because of this why having work experience can help improve your college application. What’s more, it can also help boost your job application.
You can start to reap the perks of being a part of the workforce by talking about it in your Common App essay.
In the eyes of admissions officers, the paycheck you received or the post you held isn’t the most important thing. As a matter of fact, it doesn’t matter that much if your job has no connection to your academic or career goal.
What’s important to colleges and universities is that you have acquired a host of skills that the campus, the student body, and the community could benefit from. And this is why you should discuss in your admissions essay not only the nature of your work but also the valuable things you learned from it and how they made you a better person.
A Life Skill
Besides having a job, valuable skills that admissions officers cannot say no to can be learned in many other ways, too. No matter how you acquired and mastered something that you are proud of, there is no denying that it would make for a wonderful Common App essay topic and might help you win an acceptance letter.
Just about any skill that can increase your success in college and beyond graduation is worthy of being the heart of your admissions essay, whether it’s quite common or something pretty unique.
The goal is to let your audience, which is none other than the admissions officers at your top-choice school, realize that the skills you possess can make the campus more vibrant and interesting. More importantly, they can help you make a difference in the world after graduation, carrying with you the name of the school wherever you go.
Leadership, commitment, creativity, initiative, problem-solving, intellectual curiosity, open-mindedness, teamwork, social-consciousness — highlight any of these in your Common App essay to make you pop.
Of course, it’s a huge plus if you will be able to talk about your life skills in your essay in a skillful manner!
A Difficult Challenge
Problems and hard times are important because they stimulate growth.
And since institutions for higher education prefer college-ready applicants more than anybody else, nothing can make you appear ready to face the numerous challenges that come with attending college more than talking about the trials and tribulations you have encountered and either survived or succumbed to in the past.
Don’t feel too embarrassed to talk about failures. Instead, it’s a wonderful idea to use it to your advantage by discussing the things you learned from the experience and how you can employ them to reap success in life.
The majority of high school students bound for college will not have a hard time talking about triumphs in their Common App essays. On the other hand, many will find it difficult to make failures the content of their essays as it makes them vulnerable — no one wants to be exposed, especially those who are trying to woo admissions officers.
However, admittance is the first step to learning from failures. And if you can learn from just about anything that life throws your way, you can definitely learn to succeed in college.
It can only take 10 words or less to tell who on the face of the planet you admire the most.
However, the Common App essay should be anywhere from 250 to 650 words. This is a good thing because it gives you plenty of opportunities to expound on a very important aspect of this admissions essay idea: why you admire the person you admire.
Chances are that most high school students engaged with the entire college application will opt for safe and obvious choices such as Martin Luther King, Eleanor Roosevelt, Mahatma Gandhi, and Stephen Hawking.
For a standout admissions essay and thus an increased admissions chances, consider surprising the readers.
Talking about someone who is a complete unknown but whose beliefs and/or achievements have made a huge impact on you is perfectly fine.
And because you can make just about anyone the star of your Common App essay, the possibilities are endless, which could help increase the possibilities of you being accepted into your dream school.
In order to have a winning admissions essay talking about someone you admire, make sure that you make the person appear like a true winner for you, no matter how big or small the accomplishment.
A word of caution: Don’t be like an applicant who wrote about his grandmother and forgot to write about himself. Because the admission officer said after reading his essay: “Your Grandma is so good, I wish we could accept her!”
Besides a person, it’s also very much possible for you to discuss something else in your Common App essay that you regard deeply. It can be anything from a pawed pal, dessert, tourist attraction, gadget to an impactful movie.
What’s so nice about this is that you can get to let admissions officers know as much about you as possible. In addition, it enables you to get as creative as you want to be. Just how important is creativity in the admissions process?
Well, according to a study by Adobe, up to 95% of admissions officers value creative skills.
Keep in mind that creativity is subjective and based on your own perceptions.
Due to this, writing about something you love from the heart and in a way that not a lot of high schoolers would can let admissions officers have a much better understanding not only of what you are discussing but also you yourself. After all, what they will evaluate is not what is being talked about but the one who is talking about it.
Take your time when choosing a Common App essay topic that inspires, motivates or fascinates you. Because you are only limited by your creativity, you have the odds in your favor.
A Literary Work
Reading is fundamental. And, as a general rule of thumb, college students should read two hours per one hour of class. Doing the math, you will see that earning a degree entails lots and lots of reading.
A great way to prove to admissions officers that you won’t have trouble spending 24 to 30 hours per week reading outside the classroom (if you are a full-time student carrying 12 to 15 credits per semester) is choosing to discuss your absolute love for reading books in your Common App essay.
Needless to say, making a favorite book of yours the meat of your admissions essay is a fantastic idea.
It’s definitely going to make your composition a complete knockout if you talk about how a book has changed your life for the better.
And if you are a better person than you were before checking out a piece of literature from cover to cover, then the school will also benefit from it — admitting you makes you and the institution a winner!
But being inspired or transformed is not the only reason for loving a book. If it’s your favorite because it was a gift from someone special or bought from a used book store and was previously owned by a famous person, feel free to let the college or university you are applying to know about it.
A Sincere Commitment
Getting your hands on a college degree requires commitment.
Otherwise, it’s not unlikely for you to turn your back on your studies at the first distraction or challenge that comes your way. It’s because of this why high school students who know how to commit to something have higher chances of succeeding in college.
Being able to commit is what makes having work experience one of the non-academic admissions factors that many colleges and universities consider. It is also for the very same reason why admissions officers usually check out the extracurriculars of applicants before deciding their fate.
An impressive high school GPA, it goes without saying, speaks volumes about how committed an applicant is.
You can be committed to a person or an organization. Provided that you write it skillfully and passionately, your Common App essay talking about your promise to look after a loved one suffering from an incurable disease or pledge to lend a hand at a local animal shelter could easily earn you big points in the admissions process.
You can also be committed to yourself, such as vowing to lose 200 pounds after being diagnosed as morbidly obese or learning how to speak French fluently.
A Big Accomplishment
Commitment leads to accomplishment, which is why just about any achievement of yours that you are very proud of can be something that your Common App essay talks about.
Only 37.5% of people in the US 25 years old and above had graduated from college or any other institution for higher education.
So, in other words, you can consider completing your chosen program as a massive accomplishment. Meanwhile, others fail to do so due to all sorts of setbacks, from failure to get a passing grade to the inability to pay tuition.
If nothing stopped you from founding a club, leading an organization, maintaining a high GPA and being in the top 10% of your class in high school, then it’s likely that nothing can stop you from finishing college.
Admissions officers do not want to admit applicants who look like they’re not going to succeed on campus.
But before you start composing your Common App essay that will highlight your accomplishments, keep in mind that bragging and sharing something proudly are two different things. Since your written composition can spell the difference between getting accepted and being rejected, consider marketing yourself subtly and tastefully.
The admissions essay is one of the most important parts of the college application process — if the institution you are applying to requires it. Coincidentally, according to many high school students gearing up for higher education, it is also the most difficult requirement they have to come up with and submit before the applications deadline.
It’s true that there are tons of ideas to choose from. However, not all Common App essay ideas can make the heads of admissions officers turn toward your direction for all the right reasons.
Some ideas, provided that you can pull off talking about them with great passion and superb writing skills, can help boost your admissions chances better than the rest. Above, we talked about 10 of them, many of which are surprisingly easy to discuss in 250 to 650 words — many admissions officers recommend around 500 words.
It’s completely up to you to choose the Common App essay idea that can make your application outshine the rest. Just make sure that you will write it from the heart and with great skill, too. Happy writing!
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of the College Reality Check.