Common App Week: Prompt 1 breakdown and brainstorming tips

Welcome to EdBrand’s common app week! Everyday we will discuss one essay prompt and help you get started with brainstorming! The first prompt in the common app is: “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.” 

This Common App prompt is an Old Faithful of essay questions that has survived most revisions. It’s been around for years and offers all the flexibility an applicant could ask for from a prompt, with just enough direction to get those creative fountains flowing. Focus on the key words “background,” “identity,” “interest,” and “talent” and use them as launch points for your brainstorming. What about your history, personality, hobbies, or accomplishments might be worth highlighting for an admissions officer? It can be something as small as seeing an episode of a television show or as large as the struggle of moving to a foreign country. The most important thing to consider for this prompt is that your subject and/or perspective is dynamic and specific to you and who you are and no one else.

Some questions as you brainstorm:

  • What about my history or background sets me apart from my peers?
  • How do I define myself? How do the people who are closest to me define me?
  • What have I achieved that has been integral in molding my character and ambitions?
  • What, in my seventeen years on this earth, has helped shape the person I am today?
  • What do I do differently than my peers and why is that special to me?

Some examples to consider:

  • Has your family’s love of food and your resultant adventurous tastes and culinary curiosity allowed you to connect with cultures from around the world?
  •  Does your religion define you?
  • Did going to a Subodh Gupta exhibit inspire you to start an art collection that has since expanded beyond the borders of your bedroom?
  • What are the challenges and rewards of being raised by your siblings? Or of being part of a family made up of stepsisters and stepbrothers?

Overall, this prompt is what we call a “choose-your-own-adventure” prompt. It has historically served as a fabulous catch-all for subjects that don’t fit within the confines of the other prompt options. A recent addition to the Common App’s prompt selection now offers even more freedom to applicants (more on that later), but students should still think of Prompt #1 as a topic of immense choice, reeled in by a few helpful guidelines. We hope this helped. For any questions comment or come meet us for a coffee!