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What’s Your Story: Why Common App Essay Prompt #1 is the Most Popular

by Carol Barash, PhD, on Aug 12, 2015 5:00:00 AM


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.

This is blog 1 of a 5 part blog series: Tackling the 5 Common App Essay Prompts

The Common Application personal statement is meant to be straightforward and engaging, so don’t over-complicate them!  The instructions ask you to reveal something that distinguishes you or sets you apart from others in your own voice. They are not asking for something elaborate, but something uniquely your own.

The first question--which Common App member colleges say is the most popular and the most useful--allows you to write about any moment that has shaped who you are as a person. It’s the simplest to answer because it is the most straightforward and most capacious: really, you can write about anything important to you.

Here are 3 steps to conquer the first Common Application essay prompt:

Step 1 - Find a Moment: This is not a time to tell your whole life story! Whatever is that big thing that “shaped who you are as a person,” explore specific moments that show when you changed, grew, or made a difference. Start by making a list of moments when something changed; moments that show how your unique story unfolded. At Story2 you’ll find other students’ stories that worked in the admissions process, and a step by step process to find and develop your own unique story.

Step 2 - Tell a Story: Once you have a moment you want to write about, tell your story out loud--this unlocks your creativity, activates the specific memories of your story, and starts the process in your authentic voice. Story2 EssayBuilder teaches you how to unlock the secret of storytelling to make your essay one that your admissions readers can’t forget.

Step 3 - Keep it in the World: Most of us think about our life in broad, generic brush strokes that sound like many other people. “My parents were first generation college students,” I often say. To connect to your reader, you want to work sentence by sentence to replace those general ideas and things that lots of people can say with specific details. Wondering how to do that? Story2 EssayBuilder  walks you through a proven process, step by manageable step. 

Want more tips for Common App prompts? Check out our Guide to the Common App.

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Topics:college admission