The Common Application essay prompts are confirmed for the Class of 2025. Get started on your Common App essay now.

Every student using the Common Application is required to complete the Personal Statement, also known as “the Common App essay,” which will be visible to most, if not all, of the schools the student applies to through the Common App. Through the essay, admission readers gain insight into who the student is as an individual and how they could enrich the college’s community. Therefore, the essays—both the Personal Statement and any supplemental questions specific to the college—are pivotal components of the application.

With seven Common Application essay prompts available for students to choose from, they must select and respond to one prompt.

Below are the seven prompts and a little insight into how to answer each. For high school juniors working with International College Counselors, your ICC college advisor will soon be going through our exclusive Essay Packet and will start discussing essay topics with you (or they have already done so). For families who are not clients of ICC and who only seek one-on-one personalized essay help, contact our sister company Edit the Work. They have a unique approach which makes it easy for your student to find their authentic story, develop it into an essay that appeals to colleges, and finalize it for submission.

PROMPT #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 prompt asks a student to write about something that defines them as a person. The key is to be authentic and sincere, sharing a story that is uniquely yours and highlighting how it has shaped your identity and aspirations.

PROMPT #2: 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?

Admissions doesn’t really want to hear a long story about failure; rather, they want to know how you handled the challenge or setback, how it affected you, and what positive lessons you learned. A good answer to this question will reveal how you deal with and overcome difficulties. A great essay will show that you are the kind of person who can bounce back, learn from an experience, and channel it into a personal victory. The key here is for a student to be honest and reflective, showing how they have grown and developed as a result of facing this challenge.

PROMPT #3: Reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea. What prompted your thinking? What was the outcome?

What schools are looking for in this essay is how a student thinks critically and even creatively. At its essence, this is a problem/solution essay. Less important is the actual belief or idea that was challenged; more important is the reason the student chose to challenge or question that belief or idea. Most important is how a student investigated the belief/idea, evaluated it, and came to a resolution. Overall, the key is to be reflective and insightful, showing how this experience has influenced a student’s beliefs and actions.

PROMPT #4: Reflect on something that someone has done for you that has made you happy or thankful in a surprising way. How has this gratitude affected or motivated you?

For this essay, the student needs to think about someone who has influenced them in a positive way. Students need to answer this prompt with an essay that is both sincere and reflective, showing how this act of kindness has touched their life, contributed to their growth, and motivated them to be a better person.

PROMPT #5: Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others.

Most students demonstrate steady growth during high school. This prompt asks if there was a particular “accomplishment, event, or realization” that led to a spike in growth. The admission reader is looking for a life moment or experience that really changed the student as a person. In other words, the event, challenge, or experience chosen is one that propelled the student to be more capable, responsible, self-aware, and/or “adult.” The key is to be introspective and thoughtful, showing how this experience has contributed to personal growth and an understanding of oneself and others.

PROMPT #6: 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?

This prompt is for students with a passion, whether it’s coding, scientific research, horses, community service, writing, or restoring cars. The key is to be passionate and enthusiastic, showing how this topic has captured a student’s interest and why it is important to them. Students must also describe how they pursue this passion.

PROMPT #7: 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.

If a student has a story to tell that does not fit one of the above prompts, then here is their chance to share it. Make sure whatever is written shows the student in a great light. That said, your Personal Statement should not be a narrative form of your resumé, as readers will see your activities and awards elsewhere on the Common App. Remember that the essay is your chance to help the committee understand who you are and what makes you tick.

Get help starting and working on the Common Application essay prompts. Families who only want help with the essays can work with our sister company, Edit the Work. For full-service college advising, including the essays, contact International College Counselors at 1-954-414-9986 or

Join us on Wednesday, March 13 @ 7PM ET for our next FREE webinar: How to Write an Amazing Common App essay


Even if you can’t make it to this webinar, register, and we’ll email you a link to the recording following the webinar.


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