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  • Writer's picturePirie McIndoe

Common Application Essay Prompts for 2022-2023

Updated: Apr 22, 2022

Common App Essay Prompts 2022-2023

The Common Application has announced that the 2022 essay prompts will remain the same. They have not changed in several years. This allows students to get a head start on the fall college application process. The essay prompts provide a broad range of topics for students to share their experiences and goals.

Essays are a critical part of the college admissions process. The basic application is essentially academic and demographic information. Important to be sure, but it paints only a black and white version of a student.

The Common Application essays allow the student to share their experiences, goals, passions, and more. They add color to the student portrait.

These essays allow the admissions counselors to get to know the student. The best essays allow the counselors to make a personal and emotional connection.

While a few students find the essays easy to write, most do not. Most students find the process challenging, stressful, and nerve-wracking. Working with an experienced college admissions counselor can make this process much easier.

2022-2023 Common Application Essay Prompts

Without further ado, here are the prompts.

  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.

  2. 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?

  3. Reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea. What prompted your thinking? What was the outcome?

  4. Reflect on something that someone has done for you that has made you happy or thankful in a surprising way. How has this gratitude affected or motivated you?

  5. Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others.

  6. 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?

  7. 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 designs.

Which Prompt You Should Use

Is one essay prompt better than another? No!

Students should respond to the prompt that will allow them to tell a good story about who they are, and who they want to become in the future. Essays should be well written, free of typos and obvious grammatical errors, and provide insight into who you are as a person.

They do not need to be works of literature. Remember, admissions counselors are trained to spot essays that are professionally written.

Essays really are that important

Admissions are even more competitive today than they were just a few years ago. Every part of the application is important, and student essays carry even more weight at colleges where SAT and ACT scores are either optional or not considered.

Strong essays are often the difference-maker when deciding between multiple qualified candidates. Furthermore, essays are critically important when it comes to honors college applications and scholarships.

Poor Essays Can Sink a Student’s Chance of Admission

This is true! Essays are a unique form of communication. The student writes the essay, and the admissions counselor reads it. However, the admissions counselor interprets the essay as correct. There is no discussion between the writer and reader. If the counselor misunderstands the point or draws a different conclusion, the application may suffer.

In my experience, pretty much every student I work with makes one or more of the following errors when responding to either the Common Application Essay or one of the school-specific essays. This includes students who are great in English and are talented writers.

Common Mistakes in the Common Application Essay

  • Students don’t answer the prompt directly.

  • Students exaggerate and use over-the-top effusive language.

  • Students try to write in a style they think admissions counselors expect, and, quite honestly, the essay becomes a train wreck.

  • The essay is too generic and not student-focused.

  • The essay has grammatical and syntax errors.

  • The essay is poorly structured and rambles.

  • The essay is redundant. This is quite common.

  • The essay inadvertently insults a person or group of people. This happens more than you think, and it can be an application killer.

  • The essay is too well written. If a student has a 550 verbal SAT score, and the essay looks like it was written by Hemmingway, it throws the entire application into doubt.

Again, admissions counselors are trained to spot this, and colleges will err on the side of caution and reject the application. There are lots of qualified applicants to choose from, and colleges don’t want to admit someone who may be breaking the honor code in their application.

Reduce Your Stress

Writing the Common Application Essay, and many others can be very stressful for students. They don’t know where to begin, what might be a good topic, or for that matter, a bad topic to stay away from.

I’ve spent 35 years working in the higher education market and understand what colleges value in selecting students. The information and guidance I provide can help students present the best version of themselves for college consideration.

Fun Fact & An Awesome Prank…

Caltech…at the Rose Bowl? In 1961 they participated. The 1961 Rose Bowl was played between the University of Washington Huskies and the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers - but Caltech stole the show. A group of students, now known as the “Fiendish Fourteen” pulled off one of the largest and most meticulous pranks in college and sports history.

1961 Rose Bowl Prank
Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

Caltech’s campus is only a few miles away from the Rose Bowl stadium, so this group of pranksters decided to celebrate their university by replacing instructions and cards to be used in the halftime show. At halftime on game day, when the Huskies’ cheerleaders led fans in turning around giant cards meant to spell out “Huskies,” they instead flipped around cards that spelled “Cal Tech” in big, bold letters. The stadium fell silent before the crowd roared with laughter.

About An Advisor for College

My name is Pirie McIndoe, and I am the founder of An Advisor for College. Having worked with over 350 colleges and universities during my 35 years in the higher education market, I bring a unique perspective to the college admissions process. I know what college admissions officers are looking for as they seek to develop a diverse student body. I am fully invested in each student’s success; helping them present the best version of themselves for college consideration. Contact me to learn how I can help you navigate this complex and competitive process.


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