Ready to sell yourself to a college admissions office in 500 words or less? For the second year in a row, for responses to the essay prompts in the Common Application, the popular (and free) online undergraduate application created back in 1975 by 15 colleges that believed students should have a standardized application process. Today, the Common Application is used by 488 schools, which means modern students have no choice but to figure out how to compose the short and sweet version of their accomplishments and stand out from the crowd.
This year students have six familiar essay prompts to choose from:
1. Evaluate a significant experience, achievement, risk you have taken, or ethical dilemma you have faced and its impact on you.
2. Discuss some issue of personal, local, national, or international concern and its importance to you.
3. Indicate a person who has had a significant influence on you, and describe that influence.
4. Describe a character in fiction, a historical figure, or a creative work (as in art, music, science, etc.) that has had an influence on you, and explain that influence.
5. A range of academic interests, personal perspectives, and life experiences adds much to the educational mix. Given your personal background, describe an experience that illustrates what you would bring to the diversity in a college community or an encounter that demonstrated the importance of diversity to you.
6. Topic of your choice.
Feeling stressed just from reading the prompts? You'll be happy to know that some students aren't freaking out over these. "I know what I'm writing my common app essay about and how I'm starting it. Omg I couldn't be happier," tweeted one student. And forget agonizing over the 500-word limit. Another student tweeted his "essay" in fewer than 140 characters: "my common app essay: accept me please. i will worship the dean of admissions and do your work."
And if you need help writing, enterprising tutors and counselors are also taking to Twitter offering their advice. The best offer so far? A promise to make your Common App essay This American Life-ish.