Jan 24, 2018

The Common Application announces essay prompts for 2018-19 and looks to the future

Much to the relief of the cottage industry that’s grown up to support college essay preparation, the Common Application recently announced that the 2018-19 prompts for the personal statement will remain the same as the 2017-18 prompts.

According to the Common App, by conducting a review process every other year, rather than annually, the organization is able to reach out for feedback from admissions officers, as well as from applicants, parents and counselors about “the effectiveness” of the prompts.

With the early release of the essay prompts and the announcement that student accounts created now will rollover to 2018-19, the Common App is furthering a practice designed to give counselors and others the opportunity to get a jump on preparing students for a process many find increasingly stressful.

At the same time, the Common App’s Board of Directors Strategic Planning Committee has launched an internal “creative and collaborative process” by engaging Tomorrow Partners, a California-based design team, to support a project “to begin reimagining the college preparation and application experience.”

"In this rapidly evolving higher education landscape, we are eager to engage our members, counselors, students, and other important stakeholders in envisioning the Common App’s future in support of its mission to promote access, equity, and integrity in the college admission process,” said Jenny Rickard, Executive Director of The Common Application.

So while essay prompts remain the same for the coming application cycle, it should come as no surprise that the Common Application may be looking to make future changes in product and operations. And unlike the experience of the recent past with CA4, the Common App is bringing in stakeholders early enough to voice opinions and respond to proposed changes long before anything new is launched.

For the record, the 2018-19 Common Application prompts will inspire essays on the following topics:

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. 

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