The 2018-2019 college application process is arriving, and with it comes the anxiety most students experience when writing their college application essays.

While the rest of the admissions application is straightforward with checking and filling in boxes, the college admissions application essay is the only portion that allows for creativity, self-expression, uniqueness, and personality. It reveals the person behind the numbers!

The key to college application essay success is creating engaging, error-free writing infused with a strong voice, perspective, character, and personal growth. Writing a winning college admission essay involves self-reflection, vision, critical thinking, analysis, and projection, so colleges get a glimpse of the applicant’s thought process, plans for action, ability to learn from the past, dedication to progress, and higher-order thinking skills. The college application essay is also writing sample that shows mastery of the English language, grammar, and written expression.

Many universities use The Common Application for their admissions process, which makes it easier for students to apply to more than one school. Over the past few years, the Coalition application has also gained a following with many colleges. All About Writing’s August 2018 blog post will feature more information on the Coalition application essays. Colleges that do not participate in The Common Application usually have similar college application essay prompts of their own, and many schools have additional, or supplemental prompts, in addition to the main prompts below.

2018-2019 The Common Application Essay Prompts

(word count: 650)

Word of advice for college application essay prompt selection: It can make a college admissions essay more memorable and noticeable if the applicant “takes a risk” and chooses one of the less frequently chosen prompts (see percentages below). However, always feel comfortable and confident when choosing a prompt.

  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. (3rd most popular prompt in 2017-2018, with 21.4% of applicants choosing it)
  1. The lessons we take from obstacles we encountercan 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?
  1. Reflect on a time when you questionedor challenged a belief or idea. What prompted your thinking? What was the outcome?
  1. 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.
  1. Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realizationthatsparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others. (most popular prompt in 2017-2018, with 23.6% of applicants choosing it)
  1. 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?
  1. 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. (2nd most popular prompt in 2017-2018, with 22.5% of applicants choosing it)

Remember to check our August 2018 blog post for Coalition application essay information.

For more information directly from The Common Application, visit

Read our previous blogs under “Academic Writing and School Admission Essays” for general pointers with college application essays, whether you are writing for a college’s own application essay prompts or The Common Application.

All About Writing’s in-person and remote application essay services deliver effective strategies based on decades of expertise in academic writing and admission essays. While other college admissions consultants offer a broad range of financial and school selection advice, our expertise focuses solely on the essay and application portion of the process. In fact, many of our clients come to us after using college admissions consultants with concerns that their essays are not as strong as they could be; usually, our thorough assessments confirm their concerns.

All About Writing is here to assist with the entire college application essay process, from brainstorming, idea selection, and prompt alignment through content analysis and final proofreading.

We have provided essay assistance for undergraduate, doctoral, medical school, dental school, and fellowship applicants across the U.S. for the past 11 years. Visit our website’s “Academic Writing and College Application Essays” page for information our services and a list of our clients’ colleges.

Call us today to put your mind at ease during a time that is stressful for students and parents alike!

-by Christa Riddle