A Guide to Answering Common App Essay Prompts (2022-2023)
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The Common Application, or Common App, is an application portal used by over 700 colleges and universities. It simplifies the application process, meaning you’re able to apply to several schools with just one application. 

Common App essay prompts change every year. SAT/ACT scores, GPA, course load, and extracurriculars are important, but they paint a more quantitative picture, where your essay is your chance to tell admissions counselors who you are. Your essay responses are essential parts of your application, so it’s critical to spend a lot of time brainstorming, writing, and revising. 

Don’t panic—you’re not in this alone. Knovva Academy is made up of college counselors, teachers, and academic advisors with decades of experience in the college admissions process. We’re breaking down tips and strategies to answer this year’s Common App essay prompts.  

The Common App essay prompts for 2022:

  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.

Here are some strategies for writing an outstanding personal essay using these prompts that tells your story in an engaging, impactful, and polished way.

Select the best essay prompt for you

It’s crucial to select a prompt that you identify with. This makes it easier to tell your story. For example, if a talent or activity is central to who you are and has had a significant impact on your life, prompt #1 might be perfect for you. Instead, if there was one particular moment or event central to your identity, you may want to select prompt #5. 

No matter what prompt you choose, the most important thing you can do is make it as personal as possible. Your essay should tell your story in a unique way that showcases who you are. 

Organize your ideas

Common App essays are completely free-form—meaning you can structure them in any way you want! This leaves a lot of room for creativity, but it does not mean you don’t have to figure out an organizational structure for the essay. However you decide to structure your writing, your ideas should flow in a way that feels logical and natural. One strategy is to focus on cause and effect—start by describing what happened and then move into how it affected you. 

Write the first draft

Your essay must be well-written, consistent in voice, and easy to understand. 

  • Pay attention to sentence structure and word choice. Your sentences and words are significant to the story you are telling and should align with the general mood and tone of the essay.  
  • Be as descriptive as you can. Your essay should show, not tell. 
  • Utilize the active voice instead of the passive voice, meaning that the sentence’s subject is performing the verb. 
  • Avoid clichés. Clichés are phrases and adages that are overused and lack originality. Take the time to find more unique ways to state things. 

Revise, revise, revise! 

Completing the first draft is an accomplishment—once you’ve reached this milestone, you’re halfway there, but you still have work to do. Revising and editing your work can transform your first draft into a polished, first-rate finished product. 

First, focus on larger-scale issues like your essay’s overall storyline and clarity. It should be straightforward to follow and understand. Next, think about the tone of your essay and make sure it is consistent throughout. And lastly, look closely at grammar, sentence structure, spelling, and punctuation. 

It’s well worth it to revise your paper several times. It can also be helpful to take some time away from it and come back in a day or two with fresh eyes. Ask for feedback from a trusted teacher—getting another perspective on your work can make a big difference. 

The most important thing to remember as you write your college essay, no matter which prompt you choose, is to make sure it showcases your personality, goals, interests, character, values, and connection to the community. Essentially, it should be an excellent representation of who you are. Colleges want to know what makes you you and what makes you unique. 

With these writing tips and strategies, you’ll be on your way to writing a superb college essay that gets you accepted to the school of your dreams. For more in-depth help with college essay writing, Knovva offers a live, online College Essay Writing Course taught by a best-selling author and experienced writing professor. Learn more about the course and enroll here.

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