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.

Add comment