Common App Essay Prompts

UPDATED SEPT 2015: The sign-up sheet for college essays is outside my door. Come by!

Below are the 2015-16 Common App essay prompts, which can also be found online here.

As you can see, the essay prompts invite many possible responses. Consider all the things you’ve thought and written about over the course of the last year. Your notebook and blog, for example, are filled with reflections on many meaningful moments in your life. It is highly likely that the beginnings of your college essay (or more) has already been written. Take the time to review and reflect upon what you currently have.

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.

The lessons we take from failure can be fundamental to later success. Recount an incident or time when you experienced failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience?

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 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. Explain its significance to you and what steps you took or could be taken to identify a solution.

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

WRITING CONFERENCES: Use your time this summer to draft your college essays. I will be holding limited “office hours” in the fall to review college essays with students. On the first day of school, I will post a sign up sheet outside my classroom door. Appointments are first-come, first-serve until the schedule fills up. (Please note that Mrs. Zahn in the Achievement Center will also have appointments available to review college essays. Sign up early, as her time gets filled up quickly.)

COLLEGE RECS: Finally, if you have spoken with me about a college recommendation letter, please follow the directions in the “Request College Recommendation” form found under the “Student Tools” tab.


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