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According to the folks at the Common Application, in the 2018-19 admissions cycle, Option #7 (topic of your choice) was the most popular and was used by 24.1% of applicants.Second most popular was Option #5 (discuss an accomplishment) with 23.7% of applicants.Recount a time when you faced a challenge, setback, or failure.
In third place was Option #2 on a setback or failure. Always keep in mind why colleges are asking for an essay: they want to get to know you better.
Nearly all selective colleges and universities (as well as many that aren't overly selective) have holistic admissions, and they consider many factors in addition to numerical measures such as grades and standardized test scores.
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.
At the same time, you'll impress the college admissions folks greatly if you can show your ability to learn from your failures and mistakes.
Be sure to devote significant space to the second half of the question—how did you learn and grow from the experience?The essay prompts are designed to encourage reflection and introspection.If your essay doesn't include some self-analysis, you haven't fully succeeded in responding to the prompt.This question was reworded in 2017-18 admissions cycle, and the current language is a huge improvement.The prompt use to talk about transitioning from childhood to adulthood, but the new language about a "period of personal growth" is a much better articulation of how we actually learn and mature (no single event makes us adults).The best essays focus on self-analysis, rather than spending a disproportionate amount of time merely describing a place or event.Analysis, not description, will reveal the critical thinking skills that are the hallmark of a promising college student.This prompt may seem to go against everything that you've learned on your path to college.It's far more comfortable in an application to celebrate successes and accomplishments than it is to discuss setbacks and failure.However you approach this prompt, your essay needs to reveal one of your core personal values.If the belief you challenged doesn't give the admissions folks a window into your personality, then you haven't succeeded with this prompt.