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Apr 15th 2015

A Guide to Five Great Application Essay Prompts


essay prompts

  The new college application season has arrived and the essay topics have been confirmed. This could mean fun or torture for prospective college students. It all depends on how you handle the essay writing.

  We feel that even classical topics could use some creative interpretation. And, of course, when writing an application essay your individual experience and voice are essential. Still, having some basic guidelines to follow will help you a lot.

  The five prompts below are flexible enough to start the creative juices flowing, and they will also give you some insight on what admissions will be looking for. These prompts allow exceptional self-reflection. They will assist you in highlighting your best assets and provoke you to truly show your personality. In addition to that, we have provided some useful tips and tricks on how to answer these provocative questions.

 It's good to know that you will only have to choose one of the five questions. The rest is not needed unless you really feel compelled to do it. Have fun with EssayMama guide to Application Essay Prompts!


 Do you have a background story which is vital to revealing who you really are? If that applies to you, you should definitely tell this story!

  Here is the question to begin with: “Which event in my life so far has shaped me into the person I am today?”

  That's quite a broad question. This event may be everything and anything: an episode of a TV show; moving to live somewhere else; meeting someone. This prompt is really the one which students like best and it is best answered by giving a story of your personal history and examples of development.

  Does your family have traditions and rituals you would like to tell about? Does your crazy hairstyle define you? Did a visit to a museum inspire you to choose a career path beyond your previous plans and dreams? What is it you love the most and why? How would you define yourself and your life? What funny story do you never get tired of telling? How are the events in your life related to your current qualities and values?


Have you ever gotten through a thought provoking failure? What lessons did you learn? How did it affect who you are?

  Even though this prompts calls for examples of weakness and failure on the surface, what the admissions are really asking is: “What failure of yours did you manage to turn around and end up with a success?” Are you able to approach difficulties and disappointments constructively? Do hardships take you off track? Are you the kind of person who is able to turn every experience into a valuable lesson?

  Be careful not to choose a failure that is too corny and transparent – like not getting an A+, for example. Examples of short-lived bad judgment are also not too original. Instead, think of something extraordinary. Has your inability to accomplish a game achievement, for example, given you a lesson on how teamwork means a lot more to you instead? Or maybe you didn't become a great artist, but you developed a passion for photography while learning to paint?

Keep your failure stories as positive as you can. Remember that the main point of the story is overcoming a problem. You should prove that you are great at facing challenges and learning from problems you have faced.


Have you defended an unpopular idea or a belief? What were your motives to do that? Would you make the same choice today?

  This is one of our most challenging prompts. The tricky part is being passionate about your ideas and beliefs – broad subjects presented as a compact story without being overly preachy or moralistic. Ideology could also be rather debatable. Since you don't know what beliefs the ones who will read your application hold, you should try not to insult them.

  If you have a specific story or opinion you feel describe you, this is a prompt for you. Have you kept your belief or opinion against everybody else? Have you been openly gay in a strict Catholic environment? Have you stood up for somebody else when everyone else was against them? What values are most important to you? These questions will probably give you some ideas for directions you could take with this prompt.


Is there a place or environment where you feel truly happy? Why? What about your experience there is most meaningful to you?

  This is one of the most creatively wide prompts. A place could mean lots of things: a location, a period, a state of mind. You have unlimited possibilities and fun perspectives to come up with.

  Could you ideal place be the “GO” square in a Monopoly game as a fresh start on the board? It surely can. What does your favorite place say about you? Maybe you enjoy being alone you're your thoughts before a sports event? Do you enjoy looking for rare biological species in the woods most of all?

  You could really take that prompt and turn it upside down. Be imaginative, vivid and detailed. But don't forget to come back to your overall personality and life so far.


Can you describe an achievement or event which marked your growth and transition to adulthood? Is there an interesting happening in that regard which is specific to your community or culture?

  This prompt allows great flexibility – you could describe anything from an official event to the smallest occurrence. Just as with the previous prompt, the words (in this case “achievement” and “event”) can be understood in your own way. That episode may be a birthday of yours or earning an award. Or, alternatively, it could also be getting your first car or meeting someone truly special. Often the smaller, seemingly insignificant events make the most astonishing and memorable essays, as long as they are handled with originality and given a fun twist.

  So, what made you feel grown up for the first time? What made you think of yourself as an adult? Do you miss your childhood or do you enjoy your growing independence? The most important thing about this prompt is describing how you see the world through your new, more mature lens.

  All these prompts can inspire you to reflect on your life and tell your unique story. Show what you value, what your passions and interests are, and what kind of person you are. Brainstorm with your friends and family members. Recall stories which steer your creativity. You surely have your amazing essay coming to you – take your time to find it.

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