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The college application can be stressful sometimes. But a great way to stand out from the other candidate and get into your dream school is to write a strong essay.

When applying to your selected colleges, most colleges will require you to submit a college essay with other important documents.

To help you in writing your college essay, most institutes provide creative college essay prompts to help students start the writing process easily.

In case you are not sure about the college prompts, essay writers at CollegeEssays.org have compiled a list of typical college essay prompts for the Common app, Coalition app and the top universities in the United States.

College Essay Prompts and Topics

Here are some good college essay prompts and topics for 2020-21.

College Essay Prompts Common App

  • Some students have a meaningful background, identity, interest, or talent that they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.
  • Reflect on a time when you questioned a belief or idea. What prompted your thinking and what was the outcome?
  • Describe a problem you've solved or 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. Explain its significance to you and what steps you took or could be taken to identify a solution.
  • Share an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others.
  • 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?
  • 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.

Coalition Essay Prompts

  • Tell a story from your life, describing an experience that either demonstrates your character or helped to shape it.
  • Describe a time when you made a meaningful contribution to others in which the greater good was your focus. Discuss the challenges and rewards of making your contribution.
  • Has there been a time when you’ve had a long-cherished or accepted belief challenged? How did you respond? How did the challenge affect your beliefs?
  • What is the hardest part of being a teenager now? What’s the best part? What advice would you give a younger sibling or friend (assuming they would listen to you)?
  • Submit an essay on a topic of your choice.

College Essay Prompts UC

  • Share your leadership experience in which you have influenced others in a positive way and contributed to group efforts over time.
  • Every person has a creative side, and it can be expressed in many ways: problem solving, innovative thinking, and artistically, to name a few. Describe how you express your creative side.
  • What is your greatest talent or skill? How have you developed and demonstrated that skill or talent over time?
  • The lessons we take from difficulties we encounter can be fundamental to later success. Write about a challenge, setback, or failure that you have faced. What did you learn from the experience?

College Essay Prompts Texas

  • Share your story with us. What opportunities or challenges have you faced throughout your high school career that have shaped who you are today?
  • Most students have an identity, an interest, or a talent that defines them in an essential way. Tell us about yourself.
  • You’ve got a ticket in your hand. Where will you go? What will you do? What will happen when you get there?

College Essay Prompts Harvard

  • Travel, living, or working experiences in your own or other communities.
  • The mission of Harvard College is to educate students to be citizen-leaders for society. How would you contribute to the lives of your classmates in achieving this mission?
  • Each year a substantial number of students admitted to Harvard defer their admission for one year or take time off during college. If you decided in the future to choose either option, what would you like to do?

College Essay Prompts Stanford

  • Briefly share your extracurricular activities or significant work experiences.
  • What you are looking forward to experiencing at Stanford.
  • What historical moment do you wish you could have witnessed?
  • Share an idea or experience that makes you genuinely excited about learning.

Boston College Essay Prompts

  • Great art evokes a sense of wonder. It nourishes the mind and spirit. Is there a particular song, poem, speech, or novel from which you have drawn insight or inspiration?
  • When you choose a college, you will join a new community of people who have different backgrounds, experiences, and stories. What is it about your background, your experiences, or your story, that will enrich Boston College’s community?
  • Boston College strives to provide students a learning experience emphasizing the liberal arts, personal formation, quality teaching, and engagement of critical issues. If you had the opportunity to create your own college course, what problem would you address and why?

College Essay Prompts Brown

  • Brown’s Open Curriculum allows students to explore broadly while also diving deeply into their academic pursuits. Tell us about an academic interest (or interests) that excites you, and how you might use the Open Curriculum to pursue it.
  • At Brown, you will learn as much from your peers outside the classroom as in academic spaces. How will you contribute to the Brown community?
  • Tell us about a place or community you call home. How has it shaped your perspective?
  • Please briefly elaborate on one of your extracurricular activities or work experiences.

College Essay Prompts Cornell

  • College of Agriculture and Life Sciences: Why are you drawn to studying the major you have selected? Please discuss how your interests and related experiences have influenced your choice. Specifically, how will an education from the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS) and Cornell University help you achieve your academic goals?
  • College of Architecture, Art, and Planning: What is your "thing"? What energizes you or engages you so deeply that you lose track of time? Everyone has different passions, obsessions, quirks, inspirations. What are yours?
  • College of Arts and Sciences: Students in Arts and Sciences embrace the opportunity to delve into multifaceted academic interests, embodying in 21st century terms Ezra Cornell’s “any person…any study” founding vision. Tell us about the areas of study you are excited to explore, and specifically why you wish to pursue them in our College.
  • Cornell SC Johnson College of Business: What kind of a business student are you? The Cornell SC Johnson College of Business offers two distinct business programs, the Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management and the School of Hotel Administration. Please describe how your interests and ambitions can be met through one or both of the Schools within the College.
  • College of Engineering: Tell us about what excites you most about Cornell Engineering and/or studying engineering at Cornell University. How do you see yourself becoming a part of the Cornell Engineering community?
  • College of Human Ecology: How has your decision to apply to the College of Human Ecology been influenced by your related experiences? How will your choice of major impact your goals and plans for the future?
  • School of Industrial and Labor Relations: Using your personal, academic, or volunteer/work experiences, describe the topics or issues that you care about and why they are important to you. Your response should show us that your interests align with the ILR School.

College Essay Question Princeton

  • Please briefly elaborate on one of your extracurricular activities or work experiences that was particularly meaningful to you.
  • Please tell us how you have spent the last two summers (or vacations between school years), including any jobs you have held.
  • Tell us about a person who has influenced you in a significant way.

College Essay Prompts Dartmouth

  • While arguing a Dartmouth-related case before the U.S. Supreme Court in 1818, Daniel Webster, Class of 1801, delivered this memorable line: “It is, Sir…a small college. And yet, there are those who love it!” As you seek admission to the Class of 2024, what aspects of the College’s program, community or campus environment attract your interest?
  • The Hawaiian word mo’olelo is often translated as “story” but it can also refer to history, legend, genealogy, and tradition. Use one of these translations to introduce yourself.
  • In the aftermath of World War II, Dartmouth President John Sloane Dickey, Class of 1929, proclaimed, “The world’s troubles are your troubles…and there is nothing wrong with the world that better human beings cannot fix.” Which of the world’s “troubles” inspires you to act? How might your course of study at Dartmouth prepare you to address it?
  • “I have no special talent,” Albert Einstein once observed. “I am only passionately curious.” Celebrate your curiosity.

College Essay Prompts Yale

  • Students at Yale have plenty of time to explore their academic interests before committing to one or more major fields of study. Many students either modify their original academic direction or change their minds entirely. As of this moment, what academic areas seem to fit your interests or goals most comfortably? Please indicate up to three from the list provided.
  • What is it about Yale that has led you to apply?
  • Yale’s residential colleges regularly host conversations with guests representing a wide range of experiences and accomplishments. What person, past or present, would you invite to speak? What question would you ask?
  • Think about an idea or topic that has been intellectually exciting for you. Why are you drawn to it?

College Essay Prompts Columbia

  • List the titles of the required readings from courses during the school year or summer that you enjoyed most in the past year.
  • List the titles of the books you read for pleasure that you enjoyed most in the past year.
  • List the titles of the print, electronic publications and websites you read regularly.
  • If you are applying to Columbia College, tell us what from your current and past experiences (either academic or personal) attracts you specifically to the field or fields of study that you noted in the Member Questions section. If you are currently undecided, please write about any field or fields in which you may have an interest at this time.

University of Pennsylvania Essay Prompts

  • How will you explore your intellectual and academic interests at the University of Pennsylvania? Please answer this question given the specific undergraduate school to which you are applying.
  • At Penn, learning and growth happen outside of the classroom, too. How will you explore the community at Penn? Consider how this community will help shape your perspective and identity, and how your identity and perspective will help shape this community.

Note: Some of the information relates to last year’s college essay prompt. We will update this list with the new prompts as soon as they become available.

How to Answer College Essay Prompts?

In response to any of the above essay prompts, you need to tell how well you would fit with an institution. Here are some expert tips to help you answer your college essay prompts in the best way possible.

  • Do not provide a summary of your life in one sentence or two.
  • Do not iterate your resume here. Tell a different story about yourself.
  • Avoid writing about an experience or event that is not unique.
  • Choose a topic that is significant and meaningful to you.
  • Avoid using too many quotes in your essay.

College Essay Prompts Examples

Reading college essays of students who got accepted into their dream schools is a great way to learn how to write a perfect college essay.

Here are some top college essay examples that you can go through before starting writing your essay.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What should you not write your college essay on?

You should not write your college essay on the following topics. .

  • Controversial topics
  • Inappropriate subjects
  • Information already covered in your application
  • Topics that focus on someone else

How to format a college essay?

Here are the steps you need to follow for formatting your college essay.

  • One inch margin on all sides of the paper
  • Use 1.5 or double spacing to make your essay easy to read
  • Indent the first line of each paragraph
  • Fonts like Times New Roman, Arial, or Calibri is appropriate to use

How many paragraphs should a college essay be?

There should be five paragraphs in a college essay. One introductory paragraph, three body paragraphs and one conclusion. .

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