2018-2019 Common Application Essay Prompts


The Common App is available for students to apply to more than 800 schools (private, public, large and small). An essential part of the Common Application is the Writing component which includes the Personal Essay section. Most, but not all of the 800 colleges that use the Common App, require the Personal Essay to be included in your application for submission. So, with all most all colleges you apply to, you can be sure a personal essay, or more commonly called the personal statement, will be a part of it.

For the Common App Personal Essay,  650 words is your limit. You can write to this limit, but don’t feel the need to. The application won't accept a response shorter than 250 words.

Here are the 2018-2019 Common Application Essay Prompts:

  • 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 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?

  • Reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea. What prompted your thinking? What was the outcome?

  • 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, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others.

  • 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?

  • 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.

CommonApp cites that “the most popular essay prompt of the 2017-2018 application year (through January 5, 2018) is "Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth..." (23.6%), followed by the topic of your choice option (22.5%), and "Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful..." (21.4%)”.

The Writing section also includes a part to input Disciplinary History and Additional Information:

  • In the Disciplinary History section, you’ll be asked two questions regarding any disciplinary actions. The first is in relation to any schools you’ve attended since the 9th grade. The second involves any misdemeanor or felony convictions. On August 19, 2018, Common App announced that “on August 1, 2019, the collection of criminal history information will be removed from the “common” portion of the Common App as well as the School Report”. Common App member institutions will continue to be able to collect criminal history information on their individual member screens if they choose to do so.

  • In the Additional Information section, you can list any information that is not captured elsewhere in the application. Examples include events in your past that have impacted your grades or ability to participate in extracurriculars or an explanation of an unusual award or honor.

Before you get started, CommonApp provides these tips and best practices for the Writing component of the application:

•You may submit the Personal Essay to any college, even if it is not required by that college.

•Carefully review each prompt before selecting one.

•Proofread your essay before submitting your application.

•If you are unsure how to answer the Disciplinary History questions, talk to your parents or counselor.

•Use the Additional Information section to share information about yourself that is not captured elsewhere in your application.

With that being said, I say it’s ok to get started on mastering a response to these prompts early. If you’re a high school junior, there’s no reason you can’t get started on your Common App Personal Essay now by brainstorming how you might answer the essay questions. Applicants can also roll over their Common App account over each year so you can start your application junior year without worrying about losing your work. Besides, practice makes perfect. The more you think through and work on crafting the perfect personal essay, the more likely you are to succeed in the process. Good luck...and may the odds be ever in your favor!