Welcome to the last addition to the common app week with a brand new essay and here it is: “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.”
Feared by some, coveted by others, and legendary in its existence, regardless of where you stand on the issue, this is a newsworthy addition to the 2017-18 Common App prompt choices. For years, students have been treating Prompt #1 (which asks about your background, etc.) as Topic of Your Choice Light—it wasn’t exactly the delicious, full-freedom version students were looking for, but they were able to make it work in a pinch. Perhaps it was the Coalition Application’s inclusion of a topic of your choice in their first-ever round of essay topic options (which will remain the same this year) that pressured the Common App to bring back the any-flavor-you-wish option to their application. Regardless of the reason, applicants around the world likely let out a big exhale when they saw they could serve up a big scoop of Prompt #7 to admissions this year.
We recommend having a question of your own making at the ready if you choose to take advantage of Prompt #7. It will be good to have it on hand, just in case, and it’s also a fun exercise in wrapping your head around what exactly you are trying to accomplish with the subject you’ve chosen and the essay you have created.
Some questions to consider as you brainstorm, in addition to all of the ones we’ve posed thus far:
- What do you want admissions to know about you that they wouldn’t be able to glean from your transcript, test scores, or teacher recommendations?
- What are the stories that come up over and over again, at the dinner table or in the cafeteria with your friends, that might give admissions some insight into who you are and what is important to you?
- If you had ten minutes alone in a room with an admissions officer, what would you want to talk about or tell him or her about yourself?
- What would you bring to a college campus that no one else would or could?
And a few examples of potential subjects and their related (custom!) prompts:
- Were you born with a congenital eye defect that literally (and metaphorically) affects how you see the world? (Q: How is your perspective on the world unique?)
- Do you spend 40 minutes each Friday night tutoring a class of elementary school students in a government school ? How has that impacted the way you mete out your time and assess your commitments? (Q: What is the value of 40 minutes?)
- Did your parents let your older brother choose your name? What was his inspiration? What does your name represent for you? How has it impacted your interactions in the world? (Q: What’s in a name?)
While being able to write about whatever you wish sounds great in theory, some students find—especially at the beginning of the brainstorming process—that they are debilitated by the “topic of your choice” option because it offers too much choice. If that is the case, fear not! Use some of the other prompts as starting points for your brainstorming and freewriting journeys. Begin keeping a diary and jot down subjects, events, and memories as they float to the surface. Now that you have read our handy-dandy prompt guide and understand what admissions is looking for from these prompts, you could very well have a notebook filled with ideas that are ripe for expansion by the time you sit down to write.
So don’t worry about having too many ideas, or not having enough ideas, especially at the beginning of the topic selection process. Once you figure out what you’d like to say (and maybe even after you draft the crux of the essay itself), see if your concept fits one of the first six prompts. Trying to back into a more specific prompt option may inspire an interesting spin on the story you are trying to tell—one you may not have thought of otherwise. If, after careful consideration, your magic essay topic does not work within the confines of Prompts 1-6, you are in luck. The glorious, all-encompassing Prompt #7 will be here to catch you.
I hope you have all enjoyed our common app week! If you still have questions, come on over and meet with us!