top of page


Connect to your story - zoom in and focus.

Which prompt connects to your story?

The Common App offers seven writing prompts, listed below. Notice how each prompt is different in its own way. Choose one prompt for your essay. 



During the self-exploration steps, you reconnected with your core experiences. You reflected on the beliefs, values, feelings, ideas, traits and goals that form your identity. You considered the story of your application without your essay. Now it's time to narrow your focus.


Directions: Choose a prompt that inspires the story you want to tell in your essay. 

Story Structure. What makes a compelling story? Author Steven Pressfield simplifies story structure with three words: Hook. Build. Payoff.

1. Hook (What's it about?)

2. Build (What happens?)

3. Payoff (What's the significance?)

Personal statements have a unique structure and purpose. 

  • Hook the reader with a premise that you'll expand on in your narrative. Think about your set-up. How are you going to activate your writing?

  • Follow up on your premise in specific ways. 


  • Does your essay lead to an epiphany, breakthrough or insight? 

Reflect - open up and let the reader in.


Everyone is different. What happens when you offer clues as to how your mind works, and how you develop thoughts? Trust the specificity of your language, imagery and perspective so the reader can get to know you.

Common App Prompts

650 words - max.

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.  Reflect on something that someone has done for you that has made you happy or thankful in a surprising way. How has this gratitude affected or motivated you?

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.

Review. Essay prompts allow you to zoom in and focus on a particular aspect of your life. You’ve done the background work. Now it’s time to write a personal statement with a clear sense of purpose.

bottom of page