The Common Application’s New Essay Prompts for 2017-2018 – Sam H.

The 2017-2018 Common Application features new and revised essay prompts that aim to help applicants of all backgrounds identify with their personal statements. Two of the previous prompts are unchanged. For three of the existing prompts, revisions were made for greater clarity and inclusion. For example, one former prompt asking students to reflect on a time when they “experienced failure” was changed; the new prompt asks students about a time they “faced a challenge, setback, or failure.” The two new prompts, seen below, expand the resources from which students can pull inspiration for their essays:

  1. 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?
  2. 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.

With the seven prompts available this year, applicants have a vast array of options for their personal statements– more options than previous years. So where should you start?

First, understand the impact of these changes. Despite the new and revised prompts, many aspects of the Common Application personal statement remain the same, including the limit of 650 words. The core goal of your personal statement, representing your character, values, and experiences, is also unchanged. The new prompts give you more paths to accomplishing that goal.

Now, you can use the changes to your advantage. Read over each prompt carefully, paying attention to the wording of the questions. Do any specific words stand out to you or resonate with you? Is the theme of any prompt aligned with the story you want to tell about yourself? Keep an open mind, and allow yourself to take full advantage of the more diverse opportunities to express yourself on the 2017-2018 Common Application.

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