The 2017 Common Application Essay Prompts – #7

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Along with number six, the other new Common Application essay prompt for 2017 ( is number seven, “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.”

This is actually a repeat of a prompt from several years ago, that the folks at the CA decided to take off the list. Colleges and high school counselors expressed a desire to bring it back, so here it is. Of course, none of that really matters to the rising seniors of 2017. To you, it’s all new.

How to NOT answer CA prompt #7

To start, here is what this prompt is not – a way to get out of writing an essay. True, the prompt clearly says that you can use an essay you’ve already written but if you do, you had better make sure it reveals who you are, your values, level of maturity, a unique perspective, key events in your life, and more. It also needs to be impeccably written, to the highest high school standards. For the reasons above, I would discourage you from using anything from freshman or sophomore years.

How TO answer CA prompt #7

In terms of answering a different prompt, as prompt #7 allows, this can work to your advantage in cases where you are applying to a school that does not use the Common Application, but does requires an essay; you can get that essay to do “double duty” for you. The University of California system ( comes to mind here, although their word limit is 350, which would leave your essay too short to submit as is. If you’ve written a particularly cogent essay for a scholarship application, that could also work, as would something from a high school assignment that you feel you absolutely nailed.

Answering a prompt “of your own design” Common App Essay #7 gives you even more flexibility but again, be sure it meets the requirements of an effective college application essay in that it presents a full picture of who are as a person and student, and leaves the reader with the impression, “We must have this student in our freshman class.” Also, check to see that the essay you write couldn’t just as easily be applied to one of the existing CA prompts. If you’re going to come up with your own prompt, you want it to be a true departure from prompts 1-6. Otherwise, you will leave experienced readers asking themselves, “What was the point?” and that negativity can carry over to your chances for acceptance.

Where to find guidelines for writing the college application essay

In actually writing the essay, all other guidelines apply. For information and suggestions, please access my inventory of blogs on my website (

The abridged version…

Blog college app essay

Answering Common Application essay prompt #7 can work well on your application, as long as you follow certain guidelines.


My next series of blogs will break down CA prompts 1-6, and offer an approach for answering each one.

For more personal help with the college application essay, please contact Craig Heller at 818-445-4697 or



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