The College Admissions Essay: Common App Essay Topic Number 2

The College Admissions Essay: Common App Essay Topic Number 2

You are faced with the following college essay prompt: “Discuss some issue of personal, local, national, or international concern and its importance to you.” This article show you how to approach this prompt and draft a stand-out admissions essay.

This prompt can be a bit of a trap for the unwary. It seems to invite the applicant to write about any of the hot topic issues of our time – war, environmental degradation, immigration, etc. But remember that the purpose of the admissions essay is not dependent on the essay prompt. That purpose is: convey a personal message to the admissions committee. Therefore choose a topic that is personal to you in the sense that it has impacted your life directly. You can always connect your chosen topic to a larger “issue” for purposes of addressing the essay prompt.

Imagine that you are an admissions officer tasked with reading several thousand admissions essays. Now take a look at the following opening paragraphs. Which one is more compelling?

  1. As the US continues to deal with the ramifications of 9/11, immigration policy has become an increasingly important issue. For states like California, it is particularly important because policy changes can have dramatic effects on their economy, employment rates, and culture. Although a liberal immigration policy can have potentially negative effects, it is important to keep in mind that the US benefits from the influx of new blood from beyond its borders.
  2. Immigration policy is an issue that is important to me personally. In 2003 my family and I left our home in Colombia to move to the United States. I remember my mother telling my brother and I to say goodbye to the home we grew up in. I knew that we were moving away for a better life, but I could feel emotion welling up in me as I looked at our home for the last time. I would never have dreamed that seven years later I would be graduating from an American high school and applying to college to study molecular biology.

See the difference? The first paragraph is generic and conveys very little about the author, while the second paragraph tells the reader about one of the most important events in the author’s life (and sets up the structure for the rest of the essay).

Don’t worry if you haven’t moved here from South America. You don’t have to have had that sort of experience to write a great college essay. Just keep in mind that your job is to convey something personal and write from the heart.

When you are done, be sure to have your essay edited by someone you trust or by an admissions essay editing service.