The 2018-2019 Common Application Essay Prompts #1

Common Application Essay Prompt #1 can be the inspiration for an effective application essay.

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Although the 2018-2019 Common Application Essay prompts ( are the same as last year’s, I thought it might be helpful to review my assessment of how best to approach them. After all, you’re only a rising senior once!


Prompt #1

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 prompt allows students to reveal key elements of their lives they believe are essential to understanding who they are, beyond their GPA, ACT ( scores, and that state wrestling championship. In breaking down how to write an essay based this prompt, the key words to keep in mind are:


Many students grow up in non-traditional circumstances, from spending Sundays visiting their parents in jail to losing a limb at age seven. These narratives can make for a powerful essay, as long as you go beyond the events themselves, and describe how your background impacted the development of your values and abilities, and how they have played out during high school.


Several years ago I worked with a young man who read everything he could about World War II, visited battle sites in Europe (, and hung out with veterans in order to learn more. The way he pursued this “interest” was indicative of a person with a thirst for knowledge and was essential to understanding him.


If you have been selling your art work since you were six years old, or are already performing magic on cruise ships, you have a talent that’s worth discussing in an essay based on Prompt #1. Again, merely describing your experience isn’t enough; you need to honestly relate your feelings about your talent, and how your ability will impact the kind of student you’ll be in college.

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The examples I’ve given above are all fairly extreme and that’s by design. In my opinion, this essay works best for those students who have something out of the ordinary about them or the way they have grown up. In deciding whether this is the best prompt for you, therefore, be sure to carefully assess your life from this perspective. The prompt says your application would be incomplete without this subject matter, and you should take this directive seriously.


This word indicates that the background, interest identity, or talent you write about has played a vital part in shaping the kind of person you are. The more striking this “meaning,” the more memorable your essay.

A note about Common Application Essays:

I have written about this before but it is worth repeating here. In all college application essays, it is always better to focus on how you felt about events, rather than the events themselves. This will make the essay more personal and, ideally, evoke feelings in the reader as well. So, if you grew up in a one bedroom, three generation household (, don’t merely explain what went on at dinner, describe your feelings about it.

In short…Blog college app essay

An effective essay based on Prompt #1 will connect a non-traditional or extreme situation to positive qualities about you that will enhance your chances for admission.

For more personal help with the Common Application or any other application essay, please contact Craig Heller at 818-445-4697 or [email protected].


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