If you’re finishing up your Junior year of high school, now is the time to start thinking about your college essays.  If you’re going to be a Junior and you’re reading this, it’s not too early.  The point is, start thinking of topics now!

Why now?  Because the best college essays go through many lives before you submit them.  You will write, re-write, and re-write again.  Weeks might go by after a first draft, during which inspiration can hit by surprise.

You want to have lots of time for your college admissions essays to percolate, to have those magic light bulb moments, or maybe even to wake up in the middle of the night from a dream and write a brilliantly creative essay (this really does happen!).

If you start thinking about your essays in November, you won’t have time for the process to work on you.  Instead of waking up with inspiration, you will wake up panicked or worried that you’re on the wrong track.  You don’t want that.


Here are the current Common Application Essay questions to start your wheels in motion!

2016-2017 Essay Prompts

  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.
  1. The lessons we take from failure can be fundamental to later success. Recount an incident or time when you experienced failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience?
  1. Reflect on a time when you challenged a belief or idea. What prompted you to act? Would you make the same decision again?
  1. 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.
  1. Discuss an accomplishment or event, formal or informal, that marked your transition from childhood to adulthood within your culture, community, or family.

Many schools have questions unique to them as well, so take some time to research what those might be. Regardless of the questions, as you think through what to write, it is important to think deeply about the meaning of things in your life. Determine what about your experience is unique to you. That’s what will make your story about your grandmother, trip to Israel or soccer practice different from the next essay in the pile.


Don’t just think about these questions – start writing!  Designate a journal for your college essay ideas.  You will be surprised how quickly it fills up with great content.  Keep filling it up, and when you go back to what you wrote several months before, you might be happily surprised by some of your thoughts.

If you’re struggling finding the right application essay topic, don’t despair.  There are professionals at The Essay Expert who will help you recognize what is special about your experiences and support you to present those experiences in words.  By working with an expert, you will end up with truly great college essays — and have the best chance of getting into the college of your dreams.


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