COMMON ESSAY QUESTIONS YOU CAN
EXPECT TO ENCOUNTER.
- Example essay questions
- Tips for addressing common application essay questions.
- The "you" questions. "Tell us about yourself".
- The "why do you want to attend this college" questions.
- The Creative Questions.
"Use this space to let us know something about you that
we might not learn from the rest of your application."
"Your application is meant to help us learn more about
you. What else would you like us to know?"
"Describe a significant interest, experience, challenge
"How have you grown and developed over the 4 years of
your high school career?"
"What is the biggest risk you have ever taken?"
"Evaluate a significant experience or achievement that
has special meaning for you."
"Why have you selected this college?"
"Why do you think you and college X would be a good match
for each other?"
"Why have you chosen this college and major?"
"Review your reasons for attending college. Explain how
earning a college degree will help fulfill your career goals."
"Discuss some issue of personal, local or national concern
and why it is important to you."
"If you had the chance to meet a famous person, past
or present, who would it be, and why?"
"Write about a person who has had an influence on you,
and describe that influence."
"Write about your favorite book or film and tell why
it has influenced you."
"Relate the most humorous experience in your life."
"You have just finished writing your 300 page autobiography.
Please submit page 217."
The "you" question. Tell us about yourself. How
should you approach it?
The "why did you want to attend this college" question.
Know your subject.
The "creative" question.
If you are comfortable with taking risks, this is your chance.
How should you approach the "You" question?
Write about a subject you
should know well---YOU! The purpose of this kind of question
is to enable the college to get a clearer sense of who you
This is an open opportunity to reveal
your "voice" and your personality. Take advantage
of this. Your essay should focus on showing your personality,
insights, ideas and a commitment to your goals.
A "you" question is usually very open-ended.
Use the pre-writing techniques described
in the next section to help narrow your choices down to just
one or two things as examples of your best qualities.
Zero in on the essence of you
by brainstorming and
asking your friends and family to help you define who you are.
Look at yourself and pick a version or interpretation that you
are most comfortable with and write about it. Remember to back
up this version with vivid events from your life to
prove your interpretation of yourself.
Loosen up and
have some fun with it. Remember that an admissions essay is generally considered
an informal piece of writing. This is not an English essay. Try to achieve
a natural feel or tone that reflects who you are.
The best advice: KNOW WHAT
YOU ARE TALKING ABOUT.
This question concerns a topic you should know a great deal about: the school you hope to attend.
This kind of question helps you focus
"Why did you choose this school?" In the process
of researching colleges and comparing them to what you feel is
most important you should have developed a good idea why you are applying to a
It is important that you
be clear about the real reasons
a school appeals to you. You are probably more likely to succeed at a
school where you really understand what the school expects from its students.
The more in touch you are with your reasons, the more likely you will write a
sincere essay that reflects the kind of commitment and attitude that the school
is looking for.
Know about the college and simply state in a direct way why
it is the school for you! Be able to provide proof to back
up your assertion. Be specific in referring to your knowledge about
the college, its programs, its philosophy, its professors, facilities
and other aspects which make it a special place for you.
Be careful about indulging in too much praise for a
school. Insincere flattery and rewriting passages (describing the advantages of a school) from college catalogs do not necessarily impress admissions officers.
The "creative" question. If you are comfortable with
taking risks, this is your chance!
Creative questions are more open ended and are designed to
push you towards taking some risks with your writing. Take advantage
of the opportunity to explore some different ways of expressing yourself and
some topics outside of the ordinary. You may find that responding to this kind
of question can be fun.
Consider using an interesting title to help liven up your
essay. Using an appropriate pun, play on words or some sort of connection between
your essay and a popular film, story, or novel can be effective in catching your readers eye.
Be careful to think these strategies out thoroughly and use a
title that is appropriate and clever.
Be willing to
take some risks with your writing style. Experiment
with varied sentence structures (intentional use of incomplete
sentences, or run ons), or try using narration or dialogue to bring
your essay to life with realistic characters.
Use a varied vocabulary to sustain interest and readability.
It is imperative you maintain an effective link with your reader by avoiding predictable prose.
Re-read your work to edit out boring or trite phrases. Use a thesaurus to help avoid
overuse of certain words, but remember to only use words
you feel comfortable using.
Use humor to strengthen the impact of an essay. Humorous
essays can be taken seriously by Admissions Officers if
well done. If you haven't worked with humor in your writing
previously, a college admissions essay is probably not the place
to start. Don't attempt this strategy if you are not comfortable with this
style of writing.
Remember, use the "creative question" to
yourself. Show who you are with well thought
out examples of your interests, concerns, goals and accomplishments.