June 30, 2020

The Common Application Essay 7

Common App

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.

Admissionado’s Analysis of The Common App, Essay #7

This may seem like a golden opportunity. “What could go wrong, if it’s my own answer to my own question?!”

Answer? Lots.

But rather than go through all the ways in this could go sideways, let’s skin it the other way, and try to examine what approach would work WELL for this type of open-ended- come-what-may prompt. The first thing that springs to mind is something deeply, deeply personal. A story about dealing with a tough issue. An experience that haunts you. An experience that changed everything. A family member whom you’ve had to take care of, robbing you of your childhood. A family member whom you’ve had to take care of, opening you up to a world you would have otherwise never known. You get the idea. We talked about this earlier, but a good litmus test for this particular approach is how hard/easy it is to write about. If it’s easy, it may not be the greatest topic (it might be, there are always exceptions). But generally, the harder it is to bring yourself to write about it, the better the chances it has “electric” potential.

What else could it be though? Another angle could be something flat out humorous. A rant. A soapbox session. A “thank you letter to Howard Taft.” (Why would anyone… I’m already interested – see how that works?) This could be a chance for the witty ones among you to tee off here. And there are no rules for what you can or can’t do. As long as it’s genuinely funny/witty. If it isn’t, don’t be married to it; it’s okay to junk an idea that simply isn’t working well. Have the courage to try, but have the sense to kick it to the curb if another tack works better.

Here’s another approach (and bear with us): the… unclassifiable approach, because, by definition… no one could have predicted it, perhaps because it isn’t a thing. This is for the real visionaries among you to “paint” with this open canvas somehow. Now, this is a huge risk/reward play. If you produce something truly artful and inspiring and “difficult to comprehend in a way that great abstract art makes the viewer work” then… kudos. If, on the other hand, it’s just hacky, allow yourself to take a mulligan and try something else. Have someone you TRUST, who isn’t afraid to tell you that the thing you produced is “garbage” without hurting your feelings, look at it. And tell it to you straight. Every now and again, someone produces a “not quite an essay but rather an… I don’t know what this is” that’s SO GOOD, it hurts. If you have it in you? Go for it. You can always try another approach if it ain’t achieving lift off.

Honestly, there are too many possibilities yet to cover, for how you can approach this question with (deliberately) infinite possibilities. The key is that it has to fulfill all of the following: It has to:

  • Engage your reader (if it’s self-indulgent, Strike 1)
  • Demonstrate thoughtfulness (if it feels like something you could have slapped together in a few hours, not gonna fly)
  • Show evidence that you really cared about what you were doing, and that you seem like someone who has a deep potential for losing yourself in a passion (Why? Because that kid is gonna grab life by the horns and hook into the next passion, and the next, and the next…)
  • Show a kind of maturity (intellectual OR emotional) that’s unusual for kids your age
  • Be so winning somehow (whether through humor, or somehow else), that we just can’t help but wanna meet you

Any combination of those things, and this prompt could be a good bet. But don’t force this one. If a fantastic response occurs to you immediately when scanning the other prompts, at least do yourself a favor and take a stab at it. Get one down on paper. You can always take a swing at THIS one after that. If, on the other hand, nothing lights anything up when scanning the other prompts, but there’s this THING you wanna do in this space, there’s your green light to waste no time in taking a stab. Don’t worry at all about what it is, just transfer that energy to the page as quickly and completely as you can. Then, we can work that hunk of clay into something brilliant. But get it all out first.

Check Out Admissionado’s Analysis of ALL SEVEN of The Common App’s essay prompts:

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