Essay Promps

Why the 2018-2019 Common Application Essay Prompts Make Your Job Easier


Some years, students go into the essays blind. The prompts are new and untested. Sometimes the format or length even changes. This can be a daunting prospect.


In years when the prompts remain the same, though, you have some examples to work from. Your guidance counselor and college admissions counselors are familiar with them and have worked with students on the same prompts before. You might even be able to read examples from past students to get your creative juices flowing.


In addition, if you have the time and feel the itch to get started, you can take advantage of the Common Application account rollover feature to start an application now, and roll it over to complete in the fall when your application period officially begins.


While we generally advise students to begin working on their applications during the summer before senior year, there’s nothing wrong with starting earlier if you have a good handle on the other things you need to tackle during junior year, like standardized testing, APs, and your regular school and extracurricular commitments. If you’re one of those students who writes best during an inspired moment of creativity, by all means capture the moment no matter when it arrives.


Other Ways to Prepare for the Common Application Before Senior Year


Many high school juniors wonder what they can be doing now to get started working towards their Common Applications. While our advice to wait until the summer before senior year remains the same, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t certain skills you can develop or details to tackle now.


First, work hard to improve your writing as much as possible. Your personal essay prompts are your chance to really shine as an individual and set yourself apart from a pool of similarly qualified candidates. This means you’ll need to develop a sense of voice in your written work that is both polished and personal. You can do this by writing frequently, paying attention to the feedback you get on written work from teachers across all subject areas, and by joining writing groups or tutoring sessions. Improving your writing skills is one of the most important things you can do to prepare for college applications.


To learn more about improving your writing skills, see these posts:


How to Sharpen Your Writing Skills

Parents: 10 Easy Ways to Help Your Teen Become a Better Writer


Another way to prepare for the Common Application is to begin initial brainstorming about the essay prompts. For some students, the choice of which prompt to tackle is obvious immediately. For others, it takes much longer to make a decision. It’s a good idea to begin a list of possible essay topics. They might fit with a specific prompt, or they may just make good essay fodder to be sculpted into a prompt later. Also, remember that the last prompt allows you to submit an existing essay or even create your own prompt. Keep your eyes and ears open to compile a diverse and eclectic mix of topics to choose from when the time comes.


If you’re a high school junior getting ready to consider the 2018-2019 college application season, don’t miss these important CollegeVine posts:


A User’s Guide to the Common Application

FAQ About the Race/Ethnicity Section of the Common Application

A Guide to the ‘Demographics’ Page of the Common Application

A Guide to the Education Section of the Common App

How to Master the ‘Honors’ Section of the Common App


For more personalized advice, consider the benefits of CollegeVine’s Applications Guidance service. Here, you’ll be paired with a personal admissions specialist who can provide step-by-step guidance through the entire application process, including how to perfect your approach to the personal essay.


For more about writing application essays, check out these CollegeVine posts:


What If I Don’t Have Anything Interesting To Write About In My College Essay?

How to Write a Last Minute Essay

How to Write the Common Application Essays 2017-2018

Whom Should I Ask for Help with My College Essay?

In 300 words or fewer, write on one of the two essay topics below. In addition to writing on your chosen topic, upload an audio file, video, image, or document you have created that is meaningful to you and relates to your essay. Above your essay, include a one-sentence description of what you have submitted.

  • What do you most enjoy learning?
  • Reflect on your engagement with a community to which you belong. How do you feel you have contributed to this community?

Please limit your upload to the following file types: mp3, mov, jpeg, word, pdf. Note that advanced editing of audio/video/image/documents is not necessary. While we are not providing limits to the length of the material you upload, the Admissions Office may not have time to review the entirety of your submission. Sometimes, less is more.

Uploads provided via the Coalition Application will be reviewed by the Admissions Office only. If you wish to submit material that may be evaluated by Yale faculty, please see our Supplementary Material instructions.

Optional Engineering and Computer Science Essay

If you selected one of the computer science or engineering majors, please tell us more about what has led you to an interest in this field of study, what experiences (if any) you have had in computer science or engineering, and what it is about Yale’s program in this area that appeals to you. (Please answer in 500 words or fewer.)


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