Prompt: For many students, the time of transition between high school and college is not long at all. They graduate in late May or early June and enter postsecondary education in August. Students may take a few different paths through those few months between these two stations in life. In an essay of 400-500 words, describe the path you plan to take as you journey from high school graduation to your first day here at Old Dominion University.
Throughout high school, I worked a part-time job, took care of my siblings, and tried to achieve the best grades possible. As I struggled through these troubled times, I seldom thought about college. I just wanted to be the first in my family to graduate from high school. However, Mr. Jones, my tenth grade biology teacher, encouraged me to consider going to college. As I began my senior year, he called me into his office to make me aware of the application process not only for colleges but also the various scholarship offers and grants available to me. Because of his efforts, I will be stepping onto the campus of Old Dominion University in August 2012 after winning a scholarship. Because my scholarship does not provide spending money and I must maintain a grade point average of 3.2, my path over the next few months will be a balancing act as I work to save money for spending, study to make certain I am ready for classes, and spend as much time as possible with my family before I leave home.
Working is nothing new to me. I have had some type of a part-time job since I was fourteen years old. I spent many summer days harvesting crops at my grandfather's farm. The work was hard, but I learned the importance of staying focused on the task at hand. Failure to do so could have resulted in a serious injury, as farm machinery is not forgiving. These experiences with "Pap" enabled me to learn a great deal about the farming process and the selling of produce to local restaurants. I can see now just how he groomed me for the work I will do over the next few months.
I have a route that services twenty-five restaurants within a radius of 50 miles from Pap's place. I will be making two runs per week to service these establishments. The good news for me is that I have access to the Internet and can fill orders prior to each run. As a result, I simply need to carry with me the requested produce. Poor Pap never had such an opportunity. Forty years ago, he just filled the truck and hauled the "farm," just hoping to sell what he had. Needless to say there was spoilage and money lost. Because of refrigeration and the Internet, I will take only what I need; little will be lost to spoilage. Pap is allowing me to keep all profits from these routes this summer.
I am not necessarily the smartest student in the state, but I was able to graduate from high school with honors. Over the course of those four years, I learned to manage my time wisely so that I was able to study yet still care for my siblings until my parents came home from work. Many nights I had to make dinner and help the twins with their homework before I was able to begin my own studies. Fortunately for me, the twins will be gone for the summer. I will not have to look after them. However, the lessons I've learned in doing so will guide me through my efforts as I prepare for college. I will have my books with me on my routes. In the event there is down time, I will be able to study. I plan on studying during my lunch hour each day. Of course there will be a few hours at night when I can also study. I will be laying out a schedule, as I learned a few years ago that having a plan makes for a better study session. I also learned to focus on my least favorite subjects first. Yes, I will be working on literature; I despise talking about the works of all the great dead people. William S. was never one of my favorite folks, but I did learn a great deal about the English language as we studied his works.
I know that work and studies will keep me busy this summer, but I will most definitely find time to spend with my family. I know my absence will leave a void in the weekly routine at home. Luckily, the twins are older now, and they should be able to take care of themselves after school. I just hope they do not burn the house down while trying to make a grilled cheese sandwich. Over the last four years, I have formed a bond with both of them. We are close, and I do hope that my being over two hundred miles from home will not dampen their spirits. I certainly appreciate the times I have had with them.
Although I have not had a great deal of time to spend with my mother and father, I know that they both want the best for me. Just graduating from high school was an accomplishment that they were un able to achieve. When they found out that I had the chance to go to college due to a scholarship, they were overjoyed. Obviously, I want to spend as much time with them as I possibly can; since the twins will not be home, I think there will be a bit more "me" time with my mother and father. Pap, well I'll see him every day.
These next few months will be busy for me, and there is a great deal that I need to get done before I leave for Norfolk. The key to success will be for me to balance my time and obligations so that I can be successful with business, brush up on my known areas of academic weakness, and ensure I have quality time with family.
Get help writing your college application essays. Find this year's Common App writing prompts and popular essay questions used by individual colleges.
The college essay is your opportunity to show admissions officers who you are apart from your grades and test scores (and to distinguish yourself from the rest of a very talented applicant pool).
2018-19 Common App Essays
Nearly 700 colleges accept the The Common Application, which makes it easy to apply to multiple schools with just one form. If you are using the Common App to apply for college admission in 2017, you will have 250–650 words to respond to ONE of the following prompts:
- 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.
- 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?
- Reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea. What prompted your thinking? What was the outcome?
- Describe a problem you've solved or a problem you'd like to solve. It can be an intellectual challenge, a research query, an ethical dilemma—anything that is of personal importance, no matter the scale. Explain its significance to you and what steps you took or could be taken to identify a solution.
- Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others.
- 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. It can be one you've already written, one that responds to a different prompt, or one of your own design.
Tackling the Common App Essay Prompts
Prompt #1: Share your story.
Answer this prompt by reflecting on a hobby, facet of your personality, or experience that is genuinely meaningful and unique to you. Admissions officers want to feel connected to you and an honest, personal statement about who you are draws them in. Your love of superheroes, baking chops, or family history are all fair game if you can tie it back to who you are or what you believe in. Avoid a rehash of the accomplishments on your high school resume and choose something that the admissions committee will not discover when reading the rest of your application.
Prompt #2: Learning from obstacles.
You're trying to show colleges your best self, so it might seem counterintuitive to willingly acknowledge a time you struggled. But overcoming challenges demonstrates courage, grit, and perseverance! That’s why the last piece of this prompt is essential. The obstacle you write about can be large or small, but you must show the admissions committee how your perspective changed as a result.
Prompt #3: Challenging a belief.
Your answer to this question could focus on a time you stood up to others or an experience when your own preconceived view was challenged. Choose this prompt if you have a relevant—and specific!—experience to recount (and reflect on). A vague essay about a hot button issue doesn’t tell the admissions committee anything useful about YOU.
Prompt #4: Solving a problem.
This essay is designed to get at the heart of how you think and what makes you tick. Present a situation or quandary and show steps toward the solution. Admissions officers want insight into your thought process and the issues you grapple with, so explain how you became aware of the dilemma and how you tackled solving it. Don’t forget to explain why the problem is important to you!
Prompt #5: Personal growth.
Just like Prompt #2, the accomplishment or event you write about can be anything from a major milestone to a smaller "aha" moment. Describe the event or ccomplishment that shaped you but take care to also show what you learned or how you changed. Colleges are looking for a sense of maturity and introspection—pinpoint the transformation and demonstrate your personal growth.
Prompt #6: What captivates you?
This prompt is an invitation to write about something you care about. (So avoid the pitfall of writing about what you think will impress the admission office versus what truly matters to you). Colleges are looking for curious students, who are thoughtful about the world around them. The "what or who do you turn to when you want to learn more” bit isn't an afterthought—it's a key piece of the prompt. Make sure you explain how you pursue your interest, as well.
Prompt #7: Topic of your choice.
This question might be for you if you have a dynamo personal essay from English class to share or were really inspired by a question from another college’s application. You can even write your own question! Whatever topic you land on, the essentials of a standout college essay still stand: 1.) Show the admissions committee who you are beyond grades and test scores and 2.) Dig into your topic by asking yourself how and why. There isn’t a prompt to guide you, so you must ask yourself the questions that will get at the heart of the story you want to tell.
More College Essay Topics
Individual schools sometimes require supplemental essays. Here are a few popular application essay topics and some tips for how to approach them:
Describe a person you admire.
Avoid the urge to pen an ode to a beloved figure like Gandhi or Abraham Lincoln. The admissions committee doesn't need to be convinced they are influential people. Focus on yourself: Choose someone who has actually caused you to change your behavior or your worldview, and write about how this person influenced you .
Why do you want to attend this school?
Be honest and specific when you respond to this question. Avoid generalities like "to get a good liberal arts education” or “to develop career skills," and use details that show your interests: "I'm an aspiring doctor and your science department has a terrific reputation." Colleges are more likely to admit students who can articulate specific reasons why the school is a good fit for them beyond its reputation or ranking on any list. Use the college's website and literature to do your research about programs, professors, and other opportunities that appeal to you.
What is a book you love?
Your answer should not be a book report. Don't just summarize the plot; detail why you enjoyed this particular text and what it meant to you. What does your favorite book reveal about you? How do you identify with it, and how has it become personal to you?
Again, be honest in answering this question—don't choose a classic from your literature class or a piece of philosophy just because you think it will make you seem smarter. Writing fluently and passionately about a book close to you is always better than writing shakily or generally about a book that doesn't inspire you.
What is an extracurricular activity that has been meaningful to you?
Avoid slipping into clichés or generalities. Take this opportunity to really examine an experience that taught you something you didn't previously know about yourself, got you out of your comfort zone, or forced you to grow. Sometimes it's better to write about something that was hard for you because you learned something than it is to write about something that was easy for you because you think it sounds admirable. As with all essay questions, the most important thing is to tell a great story: how you discovered this activity, what drew you to it, and what it's shown you about yourself.
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