Common Application Prompts: Question 1
Question 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. Identity- what makes you, you? This is typically the most popular Common Application prompt because we all have a story to tell about what makes us the way we are. But just because it’s a common prompt doesn’t mean you can’t write a unique essay from it. Colleges are trying to get to know YOU by reading your application, but this can be difficult using only test scores and a GPA. Crafting an essay based on this prompt can fill in the gap by directly telling colleges about pieces of your identity that don’t show up on paper. Where exactly do you come from? What is your family life like? What is something you’re passionate about that may be non-academic?
Here are 3 Tips about conquering this prompt:
Choose a part of your identity that you are passionate about.
Just because you grew up in a household with divorced parents doesn’t mean you are obligated to write about this. Maybe you don’t feel like that part of your life has dramatically shaped you. That’s okay. There are dozens of unique aspects of your background, so only write an essay about one you are eager to share.
Avoid summarizing too much
Rather than using this prompt to pack as much about your identity as possible into one essay, select one aspect of yourself. Colleges want to find the nitty-gritty of what gets you excited, what parts of your environment have impacted you, and what makes you different than the other ten-thousand applications they are reading. An essay that is simply a summary of events will accomplish none of these things. In order to discuss your thinking and emotions behind your identity, you must not spend unnecessary time describing the order of events. Instead of describing how deaths have shaped you as a person, write only about the passing of one person to represent your entire experience with death.
Show how you have grown.
It is not enough to simply describe events from growing up in a low-income family. You must describe why these events make you the person you are today. Colleges look for students who are able to grow and learn from experiences (because college is essentially an experience that we are expected to learn from, right?). So, show colleges that your interests and background has molded you to where you stand today.
Still unsure about how to approach prompt #1? Check out these sample essays: