Writing the College Application Essay – The Common Application Prompts (4-6)

Continuing from my previous blog…

The fourth prompt for the Personal Essay on the Common Application Prompt reads:

Describe a character in fiction, a historical figure, or a creative work (as in art, music, science, etc.) that has had an influence on you and explain that influence.

In answering this prompt, rather than using references that are overly familiar, try to write about something that is a little bit out of the mainstream. That’s not to say, of course, that writing about Abraham Lincoln, Atticus Finch, or Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony is completely taboo. If you have an interesting twist on those subjects, then by all means use it. But be honest. What would you rather read? An essay about Lincoln’s moral fortitude during the Civil War, or one about how Homer Simpson has influenced your work ethic?

Prompt #5: A range of academic interests, personal perspective, and life experiences adds much to the education mix. Given your personal background, describe an experience that illustrates what you would bring to the diversity in a college community or an encounter that demonstrated the importance of diversity to you.

Diversity is very important to colleges and universities. No school wants a freshman class made up exclusively of brilliant bookworms; they also want people with fascinating backgrounds, talents, interests and experiences. So, if you happen to possess any of those, this could be the prompt for you. But beware of the trap. The prompt is specifically asking how you would add to the diversity of the college community, and they don’t mean just by showing up. For example, say you’re a person who grew up in India and has mastered the sitar. Fascinating as that is, the focus of your essay must still be on how you would actively use that life experience to add to the diversity on campus. Would you offer free sitar lessons to anyone who was interested? Get together with other string players and form an “East West String Quartet?” The point is, be proactive and creative. This prompt also gives you the option of describing an encounter that demonstrated the importance of diversity to you. Should you decide to take your essay in that direction, be sure to make the encounter highly personal, with an ultimately positive message.

Prompt #6. Topic of your choice.
By choosing this prompt, you are making a bit of a statement, i.e., my essay topic is so original that it can’t fit into the other five prompts. This may be true and if so, great. Just be careful that if you do choose Prompt #6, your topic is not one that might have just as easily been an answer to one of the other five.

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