Essay Prompts and Resources for the 2017 – 2018 Application Season

The essays are one portion of the application students have total control over. It’s what can set a student a part from other applicants with similar academic profiles. It’s how a student can show they are a good fit for a university and express more than a GPA and test score. Take the time to brainstorm, draft, re-draft and feel confident in the application you are presenting. See the prompts and resources below for the Common Application and UC Application as you head into the summer.

Common Application 2017-2018 Essay Prompts

Just over 700 colleges and universities utilize the Common Application as a platform for students to complete and submit applications. While you still will have to complete additional information and essays for each college/university, you can complete a large portion of your application that will carry over to each institution and streamline the process. 650 word limit, choose one prompt to respond. Source: Whats Happening: Application Updates 2017-2018 Prompts 

Essay Prompts (650 Word Limit)

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? [New prompt]

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. [New prompt]

University of California Application

You can apply to all undergraduate UC campuses on one application. Out of the 8 personal insight questions, students choose 4 to answer with a word limit of 350 words. 

1. Describe an example of your leadership experience in which you have positively influenced others, helped resolve disputes or contributed to group efforts over time.

2. Every person has a creative side, and it can be expressed in many ways: problem solving, original and innovative thinking, and artistically, to name a few. Describe how you express your creative side.

3. What would you say is your greatest talent or skill? How have you developed and demonstrated that talent over time?

4. Describe how you have taken advantage of a significant educational opportunity or worked to overcome an educational barrier you have faced.

5. Describe the most significant challenge you have faced and the steps you have taken to overcome this challenge. How has this challenge affected your academic achievement?

6.  Think about an academic subject that inspires you. Describe how you have furthered this interest inside and/or outside of the classroom.

7. What have you done to make your school or your community a better place?

8. Beyond what has already been shared in your application, what do you believe makes you stand out as a strong candidate for admissions to the University of California?

Downloadable UC personal insight brainstorming worksheet courtesy of UC Admission: UC Personal Insight Questions Guide Freshman

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