2018-2019 Common App Essay Prompts

By Becky Georgenes - Senior College Counselor

A few weeks ago, the Common App released their essay prompts for the upcoming application season - and they are exactly the same as the prior year. According to their data, just over 2/3 of students using the Common App chose prompt 1 (background), 2 (challenge) or 7 (topic of your choice).  And I would say that that is similar to the choices made by students I worked with. 

It is certainly too early for students who are juniors to start working on or worrying about their essays. That being said, parents often like reading the prompts and ponder potential topics that they think their kids could do a good job writing about. And, depending on your child's anxiety level and their interest level, you might want to go over the topics with them, just so they have them in the back of their minds.  

So take a look.  Enjoy thinking about it. But remember, nobody needs to start writing yet.  Juniors should be focusing on doing a good job at being Juniors. 

2018-2019 Common Application 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. 

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. 

 

The most popular essay prompt of the 2017-2018 application year (through January 5, 2018) is "Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth..." (23.6%), followed by the topic of your choice option (22.5%), and "Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful..." (21.4%). 

"Through the Common App essay prompts, we want to give all applicants - regardless of background or access to counseling - the opportunity to share their voice with colleges. Every applicant has a unique story. The essay helps bring that story to life," said Meredith Lombardi, Associate Director, Outreach and Education, for The Common Application.

Standardized Testing Q&A

Standardized testing. A simple phrase that has such a powerful impact on the psyche of high school students. Two little words that embody the power to predict the future for a vast number of students. While we can heartily agree that none of us would like to relive the high school years of standardized test taking, we can offer some words of wisdom that might help you to navigate the process of understanding the basics. This blog post will not cover every nuance of test taking— there are many topics that we will not get into here but will likely cover in future posts.


Upon completing this post, we want you to understand some timely information about standardized testing. We’re going to give you some relevant facts to ponder. If you are left wanting more information about standardized testing, please reach out to us. We’d be happy to offer additional advice. It’s what we do best!


When are the SAT and ACT offered?

Starting this year ACT will begin offering a July test date. This is to keep the ACT on par with the SAT which started offering an August test date. These summer dates will be best utilized by rising seniors. We are not recommending that rising juniors (students between 10th and 11th grades) sit for the summer test dates. 


There is one important detail you might miss in the fine print. The July ACT will not be offered in California. The July and February ACT dates are not offered in New York. This is due to state laws regarding testing and disclosure. If you seek to take the ACT in July you will not be able to do so in California or New York.


For the best information about test dates and registration go straight to the source. Click this link to get the upcoming SAT dates for US locations. Click this link for upcoming international SAT dates. Click this link for ACT dates.


SAT Date

Subject Tests Available?

Registration Deadline

Late Registration Deadline

Deadline for Changes

March 10, 2018*

No

Feb 9, 2018

February 20 or 28 depending on type of registration

February 28

May 5, 2018*

Yes

April 6, 2018

April 17 or 25 depending on type of registration

April 25, 2018

June 2, 2018

Yes

May 3, 2018

May 15 or 23 depending on type of registration

May 23, 2018

August 25, 2018 (anticipated date)

Yes

TBA

TBA

TBA

October 6, 2018* (anticipated date)

Yes

TBA

TBA

TBA

November 3, 2018 (anticipated date)

Yes

TBA

TBA

TBA

December 1, 2018* (anticipated date)

Yes

TBA

TBA

TBA

 *Confirmed international test dates


ACT Date

Registration Deadline

Late Registration Deadline

April 14, 2018*

March 9, 2018

March 10-23, 2018

June 9, 2018*

May 4, 2018

May 5-18, 2018

July 14, 2018

June 15, 2018

June 16-22, 2018

September 8, 2018

TBA

TBA

October 27, 2018

TBA

TBA

December 8, 2018

TBA

TBA

 No test centers are scheduled in New York for February and July test dates. No test centers are scheduled in California for the July test date.

*Confirmed international test dates


When should I take the SAT and/or ACT?

We recommend that all students take at least one full length practice SAT and ACT at the beginning of the junior year. Some students test better on one exam or the other. While colleges will accept either the SAT or ACT, and no preference is given to one exam, it benefits students to see which test best suits their skill set. Once the determination is made SAT, ACT, or for some students both, students should start with official testing in the winter/spring of the junior year. Additional testing can be done over the summer or in the fall of senior year. 


We’ve found that sitting for the test more than three times does not show a significant increase in test score. Keep in mind that some colleges want to review scores from EVERY testing while others only request the highest score attained by the student.


Should I take the SAT or ACT with writing?

We frequently get this question from students. It has been our experience that at least one testing should be taken with writing as students will probably not have their full college list completed at the time of testing. Some colleges continue to require the SAT or ACT with writing, and it would be a shame to learn this information late in the process. Colleges that don’t require the writing section will disregard the score if it is sent with a student’s application. So, my answer is yes – take the SAT/ACT with writing – to make sure you keep as many college options open to you as possible.


What is score choice?

Score choice allows students to submit the scores from the test dates they select. Had a bad day and a weaker test score as a result? No need to send those scores. It’s important for students to realize that all of the scores from a single test date must be submitted— for instance students can’t pick and choose math from one date and reading from another.


However as mentioned above some colleges require students to submit ALL test scores from all test dates. It’s important to research each college’s requirements individually.


What is superscoring?

Superscoring is just as cool as it sounds. For the colleges that super score, test sections are looked at individually and the highest test scores are used for admission purposes. For instance if a student has taken the SAT three times, the highest scores for math, reading and writing (if applicable) will be considered even if they were received on three different dates. Superscoring for the SAT is far more common than for the ACT. Check individual college websites for specific details.


What about test optional schools?

There are a growing number of colleges that allow for test optional admissions. That means that applicants are not required to submit standardized test scores in order to be considered for admission. Applications are reviewed without test scores. Transcript, recommendations, extracurricular activities and essays are used for determining admission. Some of these colleges will request additional information from applicants— additional essays, a graded writing sample, an interview. Click here to link to FairTest, a great site that outlines test optional and test flexible colleges.


As always if you have further questions reach out to our team of counselors. We’d love to speak with you and answer your questions.