The 2017 Common Application Essay Prompts

There were several changes to the Common Application essay prompts ( this year and I thought it would be helpful to offer a strategy for responding to them. I’ll start with the two new prompts (one is actually a revival of an older prompt), then circle back and offer some tips for answering the holdovers, and revised ones.

The first new prompt is number six. “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?”

This essay prompt is an attempt to learn about a student through his or her most fervent interest. For you, the student, it’s an excellent opportunity to reveal a number of positive aspects of yourself.

Six tips for answering Common Application essay prompt #6

  1. Only answer this prompt if you truly have an interest that makes you lose all track of time. A mild interest, or something you think is supposed to captivate you – the poetry of Byron and Keats! – will not work; it will be obvious you’re faking it.
  2. Don’t second guess your interest as not serious enough. If you find memorizing limericks ( that engaging, go for it. The topic itself is not the key to this essay. It’s your feeling about it, your resourcefulness in gathering information, how you apply your knowledge, the connections you make from it.
  3. Try to include a narrative of some sort, for example, how you first became interested in the topic, idea or concept. How it grew within you. Where you want to go with it. How you see it playing out in college and beyond.
  4. Use clear, specific examples of your obsession. It could be a time you gave up going to a concert with your friends so you could spend the evening pursuing your passion, or the time you woke up at 3 AM for a week straight to get a glimpse of a comet you’d been studying.