How To Get Accepted With Common App Essay #1

Option #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.

This essay is asking you to tell colleges about a piece of your background, identity, interest, or talent that is central to your being and what aspects of your background, identity, interest, or talent have led you to develop in this way.  A “background story” is not a specific event or accomplishment; it is something that has become a part of your life for a long period of time.  Examples of “background stories” could include:

  • Living in a multi-generational household
  • Having a particularly strong ethnic, religious or cultural heritage
  • Coming from a family of military personnel, circus performers or missionaries
  • Growing up in different places or cultures
  • Being one of ten children or being an only child

When answering any question, read the question carefully and break it into its component pieces.  Of the 650 word limit, what portion of your essay “real estate” should go to each section of the prompt?  Let’s revisit Option 1 in this context:

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.

This question is challenging for many reasons.  First, this question is quite vague.  In fact, it is so vague that some students might interpret this question to be a catch all for whatever they want to write.  Wrong.  This prompt is asking a very specific question, “What about your background, identity, interest, or talent has been most influential in developing your core being?”  So, you need to discuss who you are at your core and what factors have led you there.  The second reason this question is so challenging is that part of what is being asked is not specifically written in the essay prompt. 

Here’s how I suggest you attack this prompt:

15% - 20% - describe your background story, identity, interest, or talent

10% - 20% - show how your background story, identity, interest, or talent is unique or special to you

50% - 65% - discuss how it has impacted your identity, your beliefs, your values or your passions

10% - 15% - carry your identity forward – what are the implications for college and beyond (optional)

To learn where most students go wrong in Essay Option 1, read examples from successful applicants and to get step-by-step instructions on how to leverage the essay as part of a compelling strategy that will help you earn admissions to your top choice colleges, get The Complete Candidate: A Comprehensive System for Solving the College Admissions Puzzle, available on Amazon.

 

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