A List of Common Essay Topics for College Applications

The Common Application is used by close to 800 colleges and universities in the U.S. For participating schools you can write one essay, and send it to any colleges accepting the Common Application.

Many times, the common essay topics on the Common Application can be recycled to fit the requirements of non-Common Application colleges and universities.

Common Application essay topics have changed this year, 2013, and for private school applications you need to check your target schools to see what Supplemental questions they ask, if any. Keep track throughout the summer and early fall as the applications go on line.

Common Application Topics, Fall 2013.

  • Some students have a background or story that is so central to their identity that they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.

  • Recount an incident or time when you experienced failure. How did it affect you, and what lessons did you learn?

  • Reflect on a time when you challenged a belief or idea. What prompted you to act? Would you make the same decision again?

  • Describe a place or environment where you are perfectly content. What do you do or experience there, and why is it meaningful to you?

  • Discuss an accomplishment or event, formal or informal, that marked your transition from childhood to adulthood within your culture, community, or family.

    The Common Application

    Common Application Web Site.


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    Private Colleges and their Supplemental Essays

    Essay Topics for the Common Application Supplements

    Remember, essay topics can be an ordinary event, but you must write about it in an extraordinary way.

    Above the required essay topic is space for a 150 word, short essay about an extracurricular activity.

    Below the required essay topic is space for a second, optional, essay on a topic of your choice. ALWAYS WRITE 'optional" essays.

    You will find a list of colleges who support the Common Application process, listed on the Common App Website.

    Originally, the purpose of the common application was to make it easier to apply to private colleges. It still does that, but in the past few years, the colleges have made the process more complicated.

    As you enter your prospective colleges into your CommonApp, account, you need to look at the Supplements required by each college, and the additional essays each may require. These supplemental questions must be answered with as much care as you put into the required essays from the Common App.

    Most, but not all, of the time, the supplemental topics will be short answer questions, with a word limit of around 150 words.

    Some questions will be longer, and some will have no word limit.

    Always regard these supplemental essays as an opportunity for you to tell them more about yourself.

    Writing College Application Essays

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    Top of Common Essay Topics for College Admissions

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