If college applications are barreling like a thousand stampeding buffalo toward you, chances are the Common Application essay leads the pack—one of the seemingly most intimidating parts of the process.
However, writing this essay doesn’t have to mean dealing with the biggest bison in the herd. In fact, the summer before senior year—or the summer before junior year—is a great time to start working on this essay, both in coming up with an idea and an execution.
The prompts for the 2017–2018 application season are as follows:
- 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. [No change]
- The lessons we take from obstacles we encounter can be fundamental to later success. Recount a time when you faced a challenge, setback, or failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience? [Revised]
- Reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea. What prompted your thinking? What was the outcome? [Revised]
- Describe a problem you've solved or a problem 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. [No change]
- Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others. [Revised]
- 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? [New]
- 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. [New]
Although it might seem tempting to relax the whole summer, much less effort will be required of you come fall if you take some time to ruminate upon and/or have experiences to write about during your vacation.
Part of the problem, of course, is how broad the topics are. Being broad and general is the last thing you want to do.
“Step in the shoes of the person who will be reading your essay. They want to see a real person, who struggles and who has flaws, and who is trying to improve him or herself,” says Kyle Huang, a current high school senior from California who has been accepted to MIT, Vanderbilt, and Yale, among others. “They don't want to read the same thing over and over again, so make sure you do something to stand out. Any story can be told in an interesting way if you make it.”
His essay for the Common Application, using the guidelines of prompt one, began with an anecdote about seeing the sunrise from a plane window—a specific moment—to illuminate his journey and differences that he experienced when transitioning to America from Shanghai, China.
Likewise, current senior Duha Alfatlawi (accepted to Harvard and Columbia, among others) framed her 650-word narrative, which took her from Iraq to the US, with simple objects that meant much to her.
“I wanted to show the admissions counselors that I came from a completely different world when I was young but that throughout my journey to America, I remained inquisitive and adventurous,” Alfatlawi says. “To represent these two traits, I used my magnifying glass and my training wheels. I said that those things are no longer tangible items for me since they were left behind; however, their symbolic meanings are still a huge part of my life as I continue to want to explore the world, travel, and of course delve into the world of nanobiology and engineering, a world in which I would need a magnifying glass to look into.”
Both of these essays share moments, which you should seek when writing. Moments can be based around objects (like Alfatlawi’s magnifying glass), places, people, ideas, or a memory no more than a few minutes long (like Huang’s sunrise).
Moments provide an entry point to the essay, giving it a thematic, contemplative side (or a humorous perspective) without having to resort to common clichés, and can be used at the end to tie up all threads of the mini-narrative. The word limit can be restrictive, so having these types of symbols helps in that manner as well.
These moments should be looked for, contemplated upon, or experienced as soon as possible to give the subconscious enough time to work in developing the strongest idea possible.
“Starting early is a really important component to producing a quality essay, because it gives you time and the ability to really develop what you want to say,” Alfatlawi says. “Overall, I think it's important to present yourself in a way that is true, but also distinguishing.”
The first steps in both students’ Common Application essay process include brainstorming and outlining. While these might sound rather tedious and school-like, the goal is to have fun with whatever process you ultimately choose—if the writing is enjoyable because it is based on something you truly enjoy, then it can be reasonably inferred that the admission officers will see this too. Genuine passion shines through.
Related: College Application Essays: A Step-by-Step Example
So start a list this summer and add to it as you think of more ideas or have more experiences—adding what truly matters to you, regardless of how “trivial” you might think it is. It’s more important to be honest when writing than to write merely to please the admission officers.
“For people who maybe don't [think they have] a super interesting story to tell, I'd tell them don't pull their hair out for it,” Huang advises, adding that the telling of the story and the personal voice you develop is most important.
While making your list, if you find it difficult or think an improvement can be made, summertime is great for making memories and choosing moments. Decide which trait you would like to present to admission officers in your essay, or which theme that runs through your life you’d like to explain; with that knowledge in hand, seek out moments that correspond, and begin to write.
“Think about all the little stories that you can tell surrounding your main topic,” Huang says. “Really try to show your personality in the essay(s)…Don’t talk about academic achievement too much—they already see that in the rest of your application.”
These moments are, after all, the ones that translate best into stories people seek to read. One of the most cliché pieces of advice—“show, don’t tell”—is what helped Huang in his many applications.
“Instead of saying, ‘I did not understand anything on the board,’ say something like, ‘The lines and scribbles on the board seemed like a foreign language,’” Huang explains. “Clearly, the latter one really paints a picture really well in the reader’s mind. I found that using imagery or using a small real-life example is really beneficial in a lot of cases. Doing so breathes life into your sentences.”
(Click here to see The New York Times’s four favorite successful essays from last year, examples of moments done successfully.)
Seek moments, and the lead buffalo of college applications will begin to slow. Here’s to hoping that makes the rest of the process easier to control too.
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Narrative Essay Topics
In a narrative essay, the writer tells a story about his/her personal experience. However, treating a narrative essay like an interesting bedtime story would be a mistake. It goes further. In this type of essay, the writer should speak about his/her experience within a specific context, such as a lesson learned. With a narrative essay, the writer not only entertains the reader but also teaches him, illustrating his point of view with a real-life example.
If you are assigned to write a narrative essay, here are some narrative writing prompts:
NARRATIVE ESSAY WRITING
How to Choose a Narrative Essay Topic?
Choosing an interesting topic and thinking over short story ideas is particularly important. When writing a narrative essay you should think about your life experience in the framework of the assignment’s theme, you would like to speak about. You should always remember that even a tiny event or incident could serve a plot for an interesting narrative story. The point is that it should convey a meaning; it should be a kind of instructive story.
There is a number of helpful techniques helping to invent an essay topic. If you don’t have a clue what experience to describe, you can brainstorm with your friends, surf the Internet or use this list of sample narrative essay topics.
Before getting started to choose a topic from the list provided by our writers, let’s read one of the narrative essay examples:
NARRATIVE ESSAY EXAMPLE
In case you already have the topic to write about but need help with your essay, you can contact our essay writing service in UK to order a custom-written narrative essay with www.essaymasters.co.uk! Our professional writers are available 24/7!
Below is the great list of short story ideas:
TOP 70 Narrative Essay Topics
- If I could go back in time.
- If I could change anything in the history, what would I choose?
- The time I saw the weirdest thing in my life.
- My most frightening experience.
- One thing I’m afraid to lose.
- If I could change one thing about me.
- If I had a billion dollars.
- If I could stop the time.
- The most beautiful thing in the world for me.
- The most pleasant sound for me.
- My first day at a new school.
- The time I lost my friend.
- The time I got a new friend.
- My first day at a new job.
- My most disastrous day ever.
- My happiest day ever.
- The most irritating things in my life.
- An experience that left me disillusioned.
- How I met my fear.
- The moment I overcome my phobia.
- The achievement I’m proud of.
- My most dangerous experience.
- The journey that has changed me.
- The experience that taught me how appearance can be deceiving.
- My act of heroism.
- My act of cowardice.
- A thing I would like to change in my past.
- My first month of living on my own.
- The most successful day in my life.
- The time I was wrong about the person.
- My sudden act of a kindness.
- What my younger sibling taught me.
- A time when I felt that I’m experiencing a historic event.
- How I started relationships.
- The worst quarrel with my mother.
- An experience I thought I would never have.
- The biggest risk I’ve ever taken.
- Why do I like being alone?
- The hardest decision I’ve ever made.
- The hardest thing I’ve ever done.
- What challenges have I overcome?
- How do I relieve stress?
- What do I do when I feel depressed.
- 5 everyday problems that bother me.
- Who inspires me and why.
- Whom would I ask to come if I had my own Talk-show?
- People that have changed my life.
- Books or movies that have changed my world view.
- Devices playing the biggest role in my life.
- Side effects of my digital life.
- One day or week without an access to the Internet.
- What my profile in social networks tells about me.
- What music inspires me.
- What music can change my mood?
- What movies inspire me.
- What role television plays in my life.
- What television shows have mattered to me?
- What reality-show I would like to participate in.
- What memorable poetry have I learned?
- What books teach me.
- Why do I keep (or don’t keep) a diary or journal?
- What words or phrases I don’t like to use.
- The time I learned that grammar is necessary.
- The greatest conversation of my life.
- The teacher who inspired me.
- The role clubs and teams play in my life.
- My long-time passion.
- What superhero power I would like to have.
- Why I like (or don’t like) cooking.
- Waiting in line story.
More about a narrative essay:
NARRATIVE ESSAY OUTLINE
Have you already chosen a topic for your narrative essay? If not, feel free to contact our professional writers as they will offer a lot of topics to write about. Place an order for getting an instant quote for your narrative essay.