The Common App folks recently announced that, for the 2022-23 application cycle, essay prompts will remain the same as last year.

Article by Marcie Cowan

Following is the full set of essay prompts for the coming admissions cycle:

  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. Reflect on something that someone has done for you that has made you happy or thankful in a surprising way. How has this gratitude affected or motivated you?
  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.

Most Frequently Chosen Topics

The most frequently selected topic, chosen by 24.1% of students, was No. 7, the “Topic of Your Choice” essay. The second most frequently selected, chosen by 23.7% of applicants, was No. 5, “Discuss an Accomplishment” prompt. Prompt No. 2, chosen by 21.1% of applicants, was the “Challenge, Setback or Failure” theme.

Arguably, these three are the easiest prompts for most students, and don’t require the deep introspection to the extent that the others do. But remember that colleges and universities ask for essays because they want a holistic picture of who you are, not just a data matrix of your classes, grades and test scores. The harder essay may just be the one that you should choose. As you reflect on the topic, make notes and let the question percolate; you’ll likely have a more impactful essay than choosing a prompt that seems easier and more obvious to you.

Brainstorming Your Essay

Brainstorming your essay starts with understanding what the prompts are trying to get you to explore within and about yourself. For example, Prompt No. 1, the so-called “Identity Prompt,” wants you to communicate what makes you the person you are. For example, did you grow up in a military or foreign service family that had values and belief systems that makes you and the way you view the world unique? Specifically, what are those values and belief systems, and how did they contribute to your interests, passions and character.
As another example, Prompt No. 4, the “Gratitude” prompt, was added last year during Covid, allowing students to focus externally on the acts of others. This is in direct contrast to the other prompts, which ask you to talk about yourself. The best essays will show a student’s generosity of spirit and awareness of the acts of others in positively impacting the student’s personal, spiritual or academic journey. Many colleges and universities value and look for students who exhibit caring and appreciation of others when deciding whether to invite them into their community.

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Colleges and universities that require essays do so because they want a holistic view of who you are. A thoughtful, introspective, well-written essay will go a long way to differentiating you from other candidates. At ACC, we are here to help you communicate your best self to the colleges of your choice.