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Common App Essay Prompts 2015: Crafting a Compelling Narrative

A well-crafted college essay can be the difference between an acceptance letter and a rejection notice. Therefore, it’s essential to choose your words carefully when tackling the essay prompts. The Common Application is a widely used college admission application that provides opportunities for students to showcase their personality, background, and academic abilities. In this guide, we will explore the essay prompts offered by the Common App in 2015, examine their purpose and significance, and provide tips to help you craft compelling essays that will stand out to admissions officers.

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Prompt One: 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.

This prompt is an invitation to showcase your uniqueness. To nail this prompt, highlight aspects of your background, identity, interest, or talent that are not immediately obvious, then illustrate their significance in your life. Provide examples of how these attributes impacted your life or changed your perspective.

Takeaway: Use your unique experiences to tell a story that showcases your personality and demonstrates your suitability for the institution you’re applying to.

Prompt Two: The lessons we take from failure can be fundamental to success. Recount an incident, or time when you experienced failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience?

The ability to rebound from failure is an essential life skill. Similarly, the willingness to share how you handled failure shows good judgment and an ability to learn from experience. Be honest about your mistakes and avoid playing the blame game. Instead, emphasize what you learned from the experience and how it helped you grow.

Takeaway: Admissions officers look for applicants who have good judgment and can learn from their mistakes. Use this prompt to demonstrate these qualities.

Prompt Three: Reflect on a time when you challenged a belief or idea. What prompted you to act? Would you make the same decision again?

This prompt is an opportunity to showcase your critical thinking skills and demonstrate your willingness to challenge the status quo. Choose something that genuinely matters to you and provide context to help readers understand why it’s important.

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Takeaway: Use this prompt to showcase your ability to think outside of the box and act on your convictions.

Prompt Four: Describe a problem you’ve solved or a problem you’d like to solve. It can be any 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.

The fourth prompt is an opportunity to showcase your analytical thinking and problem-solving skills. Choose something that is genuinely of interest to you and provide clear and concise steps taken to solve it. Make sure to explain the significance of the problem and its potential impact on society.

Takeaway: This prompt is an opportunity to demonstrate your analytical thinking and problem-solving skills.

Prompt Five: Discuss an accomplishment or event, formal or informal, that marked your transition from childhood to adulthood within your culture, community, or family.

Recognizing personal growth and maturation is the focus of this prompt. Reflect on the specific qualities that enabled you to navigate this transition with emotional intelligence and success. Emphasize how your development led to your personal growth and how it allowed you to contribute to the community in a meaningful way.

Takeaway: Use this prompt to showcase self-awareness as you evaluate transitions in life and how it impacted you.

Prompt Six: Describe a topic, idea, or concept you find so engaging 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?

This prompt is about passion and the level of dedication you have to a particular subject. Highlight how your passion drives your academic, extracurricular, or personal pursuits. Illustrate how this interest shapes you as a person and the impact it eventually made on your life.

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Takeaway: Use this prompt to demonstrate the level of dedication and passion you have for a particular subject.


Q: How should I structure my essay?

A: Your essay should have an introduction, body, and conclusion. Start with an attention-grabbing anecdote or quote, subsequently present your thesis, and then elaborate with supporting evidence. Conclude your essay by summarizing your main points and reiterating your thesis.

Q: Can I write about personal experiences that aren’t necessarily unique?

A: Although personal experiences as a topic can be overdone, your perspective is unique. So, make sure to highlight what makes your experience unique to you and how it impacts you as a person.

Q: Is there a word limit for the Common App Essay?

A: The word limit for the essay is 650 words. However, the goal is not to reach the word limit, but rather to craft a well-written and compelling essay.

In summary, the key to an excellent Common App essay is to be authentic, demonstrate self-awareness, and exhibit your unique attributes. Highlight your unique qualities to make your essay stand out to admissions officers. Remember that your essay is your opportunity to showcase your voice and demonstrate why you deserve a place in their institution.

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