Prompt 1: Background Story

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.

Who Am I, spelled out in letter tiles on bright yellow background

This Is Who I Am

Students who chose to answer this prompt tend to have something unique or special about their daily life or life experience that has come to define who they are. Successful responses discuss something that has caused you to evolve over a period of time rather than just discussing a one-time experience or single event. 

In addition to telling your story, use the essay to reflect on how the change or growth you have realized from an experience has left you the person you are today. Your essay should reveal something about your character, ideas or traits to admissions so that they can make a deeper connection with you and understand why you might be successful as a student at their school.

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There are no right or wrong answers to Common Application essay prompts but you do need to offer details in your essay that tell admissions what they really want to know.

Here are some essay writing tips that will help you get started.

  • Background: Your essay should discuss an environment that has caused you to become the person you are today. For example, if you moved around while growing up you might discuss how you have become better at making friends and adapting to new situations. If you have unusual family circumstances that have shaped you or have experiences that had a profound impact on your identity those can be discussed in your essay.
  • Identity: Perhaps your identity is that of an athlete at school or of a science and tech nerd who grew to love physics. Or you could discuss your racial or sexual identity and how that has shaped you or caused you realize things that others have never considered or confronted. Whatever your identity, use the essay to show the reader who you are and why it matters to your college application.
  • Interest: Did you join a club or service group out of interest and have become more involved in that group than you originally expected? Do you have a special interest in a sport or activity that you can write about to show your personal growth? Whatever interest you chose to write about, it should be something significant that you are still involved with.
  • Talent: Are you a talented musician that plays in an orchestra or a marching band? Do you have a talent for leadership that you demonstrate at school or in the community? Or are you an athlete with a talent for sports? Whatever your talent is, make sure it is one that can be discussed to show why the talent is important to your personal growth and how it has helped you develop as a person.

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