Looking Ahead: The College Essay

Hey there, thoughtful, curious, motivated students!

Show us your stuff. Tell us about yourself.

Give us an idea of who to expect when you arrive on campus.

Early summer is a great time to think about your college essay topic. Settling on a good idea is half the battle, so be prepared to focus and reflect on important, perhaps transformative experiences you’ve had during your high school years. Take a look at the prompts below and spend some time relating the questions to your own life. Spin a few stories with family or friends and challenge yourself to weave a strong personal narrative that will open doors to all sorts of exciting college opportunities.

Colleges are interested in all aspects of your life. Yes, they want to know about your academic life, including your coursework and grades. In addition, admission folks want to learn about your life beyond the classroom — about your interests and passions. How do you choose to spend your time? How do you engage with others? Where does your curiosity take you? What do you find meaningful?

We all have a unique story to tell, so think carefully about what is important to you and how you want to write about yourself. The Common App essay prompts are designed to help you brainstorm ideas and frame the focus of your statement.

If you need any help crafting your story, our essay specialists are here to help — to learn more, just email our Educational Planning team at [email protected].

Common App essay prompts for 2022-23

First-year essay prompts

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.

Last updated April 7, 2022