Common App Essay Prompts for 2018-19
It is an occurrence almost as rare as a total solar eclipse, a silent day on the President’s twitter account, and a Philadelphia Eagles Super Bowl appearance all rolled into one—this year, the Common App essay prompts will not be undergoing a single change.
Common App historians (all three of them), will remember the massive overhaul of 2013 and the meaningful tweaks of 2017. Yet in 2018-19, applicants will officially experience the pleasure of continuity. This is in large part because this year’s seven prompts received overwhelmingly rave reviews from admissions professionals. Over 90% of surveyed admissions officers, guidance counselors, parents, and students continue to rate the selections positively.
We at College Transitions concur—the current list offers a bevy of quality options that affords students full opportunity to craft their best and most intimate 650 word essay. Let’s take a quick look at these options:
What are my choices?
#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.
#2. The lessons we take from obstacles we encounter can be fundamental to later success. Recount a time when you faced a challenge, setback, or failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience?
#3. Reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea. What prompted your thinking? What was the outcome?
#4. Describe a problem you’ve solved or a problem you’d like to solve. It can be an intellectual challenge, a research query, an ethical dilemma — anything that is of personal importance, no matter the scale. Explain its significance to you and what steps you took or could be taken to identify a solution.
#5. Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others.
#6. 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?
#7. 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.
Get started early
For juniors, there is no time like the present to start on your Common App essay. Your senior year will be an overwhelming barrage of academic and admissions tasks and, unfortunately, there are very few admissions-related steps you can complete ahead of time. Teens applying a large number of institutions are too often unaware of the fact that many schools also require the submission of supplementary school-specific essays. This “October Surprise” can result in essay overload and, trust us (we’ve seen it), dramatically hurt the product. Further, these supplementary essay prompts can change as late as August, when the Common App goes live—whereas the Common App general prompts are solidified well in advance.
While the summer before senior year typically presents as the ideal time to knock out a first draft, it never hurts to get started in the prior spring by at least dedicating some time toward narrowing down your potential topics and jotting down ideas.
More essay advice from College Transitions
Selecting the prompt that will help you best tell your most unique and compelling story is your first task in this important process. For guidance on making this selection, revisit our piece offering advice on how to pick the best prompt for you.
As you ponder potential topics, it’s critical that you avoid sensitive areas that will make even the best writers produce an essay that is less-than-optimally effective. As essay-editing professionals who have seen our share of uncomfortable/awkward/TMI over the years, we share our Five Essay Topics to Avoid.
Lastly, we encourage you to revisit our Simple Truths about the College Essay, a great starting point for anyone beginning the brainstorming and pre-writing process.
Happy writing, everyone!
Dave has over a decade of professional experience that includes work as a teacher, high school administrator, college professor, and independent educational consultant. He is a co-author of the books The Enlightened College Applicant (Rowman & Littlefield, 2016) and Colleges Worth Your Money (Rowman & Littlefield, 2020).