Common App Essay Topics 2013

The 2012-2013 Common Application won’t formally launch until August 1, but  the Common Application essay prompts are already out.

Don’t forget, if prompts 1-5 don’t interest you, you can always write on #6: topic of your choice.

Here are the 2012 Common Application prompts:

Please write an essay of 250 – 500 words on a topic of your choice or on one of the options listed below:

  1.   Evaluate a significant experience, achievement, risk you have taken, or ethical dilemma you have
  2.   Discuss some issue of personal, local, national, or international concern and its importance to you.
  3.   Indicate a person who has had a significant influence on you, and describe that influence.
  4.   Describe a character in fiction, a historical figure, or a creative work (as in art, music, science, etc.) that has had an influence on you, and explain that influence.
  5.   A range of academic interests, personal perspectives, and life experiences adds much to the educational mix. Given your personal background, describe an experience that .illustrates what you would bring to the diversity in a college community or an encounter that demonstrated the importance of diversity to you.
  6.   Topic of your choice.

Tip:
Having trouble knowing where to start?
Write down anything that immediately comes to mind. Ask yourself what experiences in your life have been important to you, and what you’ve learned from them. Mull your ideas over, then write a little bit on the one or two topics that interest you. You’ll be well on your way to writing your college application essay (and beat the friends who’ve waiting until fall).

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How to Succeed with the Common Application 500 word limit, part 1
How to Succeed with the Common Application 500 word limit, part 2
How to Succeed with the Common Application 500 word limit, part 3
How to Succeed with the Common Application 500 word limit, part 4

..Sharon Epstein is owner of First Impressions College Consulting
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Categories: Common Application Essay Prompts | Tags: Common Application 2012 Prompts, common application essay, Common Application personal statement, writing the college application essay | Permalink.

Author: Sharon Epstein

College consultant, teaching students how to write memorable college application essays, grad school and prep school essays, and succeed at job and college interviews.

The Common App personal essay is the Holy Grail of your college application, but for many, the perfect topic is an elusive target. For those of you who didn’t spend your summer vacation staring at the Common App website, here are a few tips for where to start.

The Common App that the Class of 2018 will become all too familiar with is not the one of years past. One of the biggest changes affects the essay’s word limit. For the first time, the Common App will strictly enforce the limit of 250 to 650 words. Additionally, the 150-word activities and extracurriculars paragraph is now gone, so you can focus your time and energy on thebigger essay.

Take a look at the new essay prompts:

• Some students have a background or story that is so central to their identity that they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.

• Recount an incident or time when you experienced failure. How did it affect you, and what lessons did you learn?

• Reflect on a time when you challenged a belief or idea. What prompted you to act? Would you make the same decision again?

• Describe a place or environment where you are perfectly content. What do you do or experience there, and why is it meaningful to you?

• Discuss an accomplishment or event, formal or informal, that marked your transition from childhood to adulthood within your culture, community, or family.

Despite the significant changes to the essay prompts, Jim Montague, Program Director of Guidance and Support Service at Boston Latin School, said that he hasn’t changed the essay writing advice that he gives to his students. He still advocates early preparation during both a student’s junior year of high school and the summer before senior year.

You’ll notice that the open-ended question is now conspicuously absent from the prompt list. However, if you’re creative enough, almost any essay topic can fit under one of these prompts.

“The question that allows students to choose any topic will be missed. It allowed our students to choose something they really care about and write,” wrote Montague in an email. “There are still many ways to respond to these choices, though. Raising the limit on the number of words allowed is also perceived by students to be helpful and allows them to express themselves more easily and completely.”

And for those who still have no idea where to begin?

“Sit down with someone who knows you well and brainstorm experiences and interests that might form the core of an essay or a direction worth pursuing,” wrote Montague. Get a group of close friends together, bounce ideas off of family members, and don’t be afraid to get creative and express your personality. This is the only part of your essay that isn’t presented as a generic list of achievements, so make it count.

A few personal tips:

Make the essay about you—sure, your grandmother was an incredibly inspiring person in your life, but college admissions officers want to hear your story and not hers. If your essay includes family members or friends, make sure the focus stays on you.

Pick a topic that will allow your voice to show through the essay. Use humor, lyricism, or whatever awesome writing skills you’ve been honing for the past two decades. Insider tip: if you’re going for funny, have people read your essay and make sure your brilliance and wit translates on the page. There’s nothing worse than an essay that tries and fails to be funny.

Keep a notebook or file to write down every idea you have, even if you don’t think you’ll choose it. Scattered thoughts can come together in surprising ways, and you may even stumble across a topic for another essay.

Picking an event in your life can be dangerous territory if you waste a lot of space on describing what happened instead of how it affected you—just be aware of this pitfall. Show, don’t tell!

If you’re stuck, take a closer look at the prompts and write down every possibility you can think of for each topic. If you’re still frantically searching for a topic, don’t despair; sometimes, it takes multiple rewrites and several dead-end topics to craft the perfect essay.

Good luck!

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