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Tackling the Common App Essay Prompts
2018-19 Common App Essays
Short Answer Questions

Perhaps one application stands out because of sparkling recommendations, while another presents outstanding extracurricular talent; maybe your personality shines through a powerful written voice, or maybe your keen mathematical mind packs more punch. Our goal is to assemble a diverse, well-rounded student body, and that means admitting exceptional individuals of all types. You may find this answer unsatisfying, but we assure you that it is true: This section of our website aims to help you submit the very best application possible.

We asked admissions officers to weigh in with their own thoughts on each topic and we have compiled their responses below. We know that the application process can be confusing, daunting, even overwhelming, and we hope this page proves helpful as you compile your applications, not only to Yale but to every school on your list.

When you write your essays and short answer responses, write about something that matters to you. Use your own voice. Do not worry about making a special effort to include impressive vocabulary words or overly complex sentences. If you sound like yourself and discuss something you care about, your essay will be more effective.

Pick topics that will give us an idea of who you are. We have read wonderful essays on common topics and weak essays on highly unusual ones. Your perspective — the lens through which you view your topic — is far more important than the specific topic itself. In the past, students have written about family situations, ethnicity or culture, school or community events to which they have had strong reactions, people who have influenced them, significant experiences, intellectual interests, personal aspirations, or — more generally — topics that spring from the life of the imagination.

Share your essays with at least one or two people who know you well — such as a parent, teacher, counselor, or friend — and ask for feedback. Remember that you ultimately have control over your essays, and your essays should retain your own voice, but others may be able to catch mistakes that you missed and help suggest areas to cut if you are over the word limit.

Interviews are another way to help your application stand out. An interview is not required, but if you are offered the opportunity to interview, we strongly encourage you to take it.

Although the interviewer will get the ball rolling with questions, come prepared to be an engaged conversationalist. Rather than answering a question with a one-word, direct answer, approach each question as an opportunity to elaborate on various aspects of who you are. Share whatever additional information you feel the admissions committee should consider in order to fully appreciate your ideas, intellectual curiosity, character, and values.

Interviewers can also learn about candidates from the interesting, thoughtful questions they bring to the table. Recommendations tell us a great deal about the way you think and learn, how you contribute to your school community, and what you add to a classroom dynamic.

The best recommendations are not always from the teachers in whose class you earned the highest grades, but rather from those teachers who know you best and can discuss the substance of your intellect and character. We are as interested in your intellectual curiosity and resilience as in your innate ability and work ethic. A string of generic superlatives is not as useful as a specific, thoughtful discussion of your strengths.

Be honest and specific when you respond to this question. Your answer should not be a book report. What does your favorite book reveal about you? How do you identify with it, and how has it become personal to you?

As with all essay questions, the most important thing is to tell a great story: Get one-on-one help from former Ivy League and top tier admission officers. Our College Admission Counselors will help you find, apply, and get accepted to your dream school. Connect with our featured colleges to find schools that both match your interests and are looking for students like you. We know that great scores take work.

We love our teachers, and so will you. Teach or Tutor for Us. The Princeton Review is not affiliated with Princeton University. Privacy Terms of Use Site Map. 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. Recount a time when you faced a challenge, setback, or failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience? What prompted your thinking? What was the outcome? It can be an intellectual challenge, a research query, an ethical dilemma—anything that is of personal importance, no matter the scale. 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? Share an essay on any topic of your choice. Why The Princeton Review? Productive Preparation We know that great scores take work. Engaging Teachers We love our teachers, and so will you. Yes, I love saving money!

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