common application essay questions

Common Application Essay Questions

Class of 2025, it’s your turn! Each year we wait for the announcement of the Common Application essay questions that the next class of applicants will use as they apply to college this fall. These prompts are designed to spark thinking and allow the students to tell their story beyond what a college can see in the grades, activities, and other shared information.

The Common App is used by 1,079 colleges across the nation. It’s likely that your high school student will use it to apply to some colleges. The application goes “live” every year on August 1st.

If you are the parent of a rising senior, you may be surprised to realize how soon the application season will start!

You will find the complete list of prompts you can choose to write about below.

If your student will complete a Common Application in the fall, you might not know that your student can get a jump start filling it out.

Why is this jump start important?

We see it every year. New seniors tackling a new year of school and activities (and just being seniors!) now have the whole college application process on top of that. Starting over the summer is such a popular idea that we created a College Application Workshop to help—especially with the essay question struggles.

At our workshop held every June (among other things), we bring in an outside personal statement writing expert to focus just on the essay portion. They teach students how to do this work, and they share valuable tips about topics and the writing process.

We also continue to support and motivate your student throughout the summer so they can begin the fall school year with less stress. Click to read more about the College Application Workshop and reserve your seat today. Looking for an alternative to the workshops? Learn more about our Senior Private Consultations.

In the meantime, students can take a moment to read these. Perhaps they can start a notebook to document their thoughts about what essay prompt speaks to them. All early thinking is a great way to be prepared.

2024-25 Common Application Essay 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 own design.

Optional Community Disruption Prompt

The 2020/21 application season saw the addition of an optional prompt that provided students a space to talk about how COVID-19 impacted their family. This prompt is separate from the essay they are asking you to write above and is completely optional.

This prompt makes its return again this year. The prompt is not meant for “normal” challenges that we all have faced during these difficult times. It is also not meant for adjustments to school procedures that your counselor will address. It is meant as a truly optional opportunity for students to talk about those challenges outside the norm that they may have faced due to COVID-19 or other natural disasters. You can read about it here.


Updated 2/2024

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