Continuing with my analysis of this year’s Common Application Essay Prompts, here’s a breakdown of #3.
Reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea. What prompted your thinking? What was the outcome?
There are several ways to interpret this prompt. First, you can reflect on questioning a belief or idea held by an individual or group. It doesn’t have to be a political or religious belief; it could be the prevailing mindset of a person, group or team. For example, several years ago a student of mine wrote about challenging the belief of the staff at a facility for children with severe mental challenges (https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/treatment-of-children-with-mental-illness-fact-sheet/index.shtml). The employees didn’t think the kids were capable of learning to play Bingo. My student, who was volunteering at the facility, questioned that belief and went on to teach the game to a student. It was a powerful essay that shone a bright and positive light on the student.
Another interpretation of this prompt is to explore how you challenged a belief of your own. The belief itself could be positive or negative – “My dad always gives good advice” or “I freeze up in front of an audience.” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RX8zQkwi0oU) The key is to spin out a compelling narrative of how you challenged that belief – going against your dad’s advice or trying out for the school talent show – and what you learned from the experience.
I don’t believe it!
A twist on this approach is when you challenged something you didn’t believe in. Perhaps you didn’t believe you could overcome your fear of spiders. You faced it head on and wound up succeeding.
Predict the future!
Please note that the prompt asks two more questions and these, too, must be answered in full. You might also consider answering an additional question in your essay – “How do you think the outcome will influence your thinking in the future?” It will give you a chance to discuss the type of citizen you’ll be on campus.
Prompt #3 is an opportunity to demonstrate your ability to go against prevailing thinking – your own, another individual’s, or a group’s – and describe what you gained from the experience.
For more personal help with the Common Application or any other application essay, please contact Craig Heller at 818-445-4697 or firstname.lastname@example.org.