Common App Adds New Essay Prompts

Students applying to schools using The Common Application will have some new choices next fall when it comes to crafting their college essay.

The nonprofit announced this week that it has added two new questions to its 2017-18 application.

“First, there’s a new prompt that invites you to discuss your curiosity, and the counselors and admission officers we’ve spoken to are excited to see where you take it,” Scott Anderson, Common App’s senior director for access and education wrote in a Huffington Post piece aimed at students. “Second, you’ll find the return of an explicit invitation to write an essay on a topic of your choice, a change that may have some of you celebrating the freedom to write anything you want.”

In addition, three Common App essay prompts regarding student beliefs and experiences have been reworded. The changes were based on feedback from more than 5,000 individuals, including students.

“The goal of these revisions is to help all applicants, regardless of background or access to counseling, see themselves and their stories within the prompts,” according to the Common App website. “They are designed to invite unencumbered discussions of character and community, identity, and aspiration.”

Yet even though the prompts are available, it’s probably too early for high school juniors to begin drafting their essays, Anderson said.

“The prompts weren’t released this early to get you writing,” he told students in his Huffington Post piece. “They were released to get you thinking–about yourself, about what is important to you, about the interests and experiences and talents and relationships that reveal who you are.”

No matter which topic students choose, creativity counts. Good essays are easier to craft when you write about a topic you’re passionate about, admission professionals say.

“One of the biggest mistakes students make is writing what they think others want to hear, rather than about an issue, event, or person they care about,” according to a NACAC tip sheet. “An essay like that is not just boring to write. It’s boring to read…Think of your essay as a creative way to help college officials get to know you as a person.”

Admitted writer/editor Mary Stegmeir welcomes additional comments and story ideas at

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