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How to Answer the 2024-25 Common App Essay Prompts

Updated: Mar 15


This article provides insights on how to answer the Common App essay prompts for 2024-25.

Answering the 2024-25 Common App essay prompts doesn't have to be a solo quest into uncharted, shark infested waters! You are not alone. Fear not. In this article, we'll explore the Common App essay prompts for 2024-25 and provide insights on how to weave together your unique experiences to create a compelling narrative. By understanding these prompts and the purpose behind them, you'll be better equipped to budget your time and create your best writing ever. So, let's dive in and turn your college application essay into an unforgettable story that showcases your multifaceted talents!



What are the 2024-25 Common App essay prompts?

The diverse array of questions in the Common App essay prompts is designed to inspire candidates to uncover compelling personal stories that showcase their unique perspectives. With a 650-word limit, which is roughly equivalent to just over a single-spaced page, students have the perfect amount of space to make a lasting impression on admissions committees (or pen an enthusiastic fan letter to their favorite celebrity).

Common App logo. This article provides insights on how to answer the Common App essay prompts for 2024-25.

Below is the full set of Common App essay prompts for 2024-25.


  1. Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete withou t it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.

  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?

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

  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?

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

  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?

  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.



You might be wondering...


What do admissions officers look for in college essays?


Admissions officers seek a few key elements when reviewing your essays. They're looking for authenticity, a strong personal voice, and a glimpse into your character and experiences that set you apart from other applicants. They want to see how you think, what matters to you, and how you can contribute to their campus community.


As someone who has served on numerous scholarship award committees and personally reviewed countless competitive college essays, personal statements, and scholarship applications, I can attest to the importance of standing out from the crowd. When I read through essays, I'm always on the lookout for students who are authentic, self-aware, and able to articulate their unique stories and perspectives.


In a sea of essays, the ones that captivate me are those that convey a student's passion and curiosity, reveal their thought processes, and demonstrate a genuine desire to grow and learn. I love seeing how students make connections between their experiences and aspirations, and how they can contribute to the campus community. So, as you write your own essay, remember to be yourself, embrace your individuality, and let your true voice shine through. Trust me, that's what will make your essay truly memorable.



This article provides insights on how to answer the Common App essay prompts for 2024-25.


Can AI write the perfect college application essay?


While AI programs like Chat GPT can offer assistance during the writing process, it's crucial to remember that it lacks the human touch and the capacity to genuinely comprehend and express your emotions, personal growth, and unique story. In short, it's wise to avoid relying solely on AI for crafting your college application essay. Your primary goal is to stand out from the crowd, and by using AI-generated content, you run the risk of admissions officers encountering similar responses from other applicants. Instead, focus on showcasing your authentic voice and experiences to truly make an impact.



Tips To Answer Prompt 1 Of The 2024-25 Common App Essay Prompts


The prompt:

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.


Examples of answers:

  • Do you have a hobby or interest that nobody in your school or town shares with you?

  • Do you identify with a non-mainstream philosophy or group?

  • Were you born into another county or culture that has shaped who you are today?


Key takeaways of this answer:

Think of your background, identity or interest broadly. Often we think of identity as something to do with race, gender, or gender identity, but consider other portions of your identity that will make you stand out in the crowd. Do you have a hobby or interest that nobody else does? Have you had life experiences that are different from others at your school or in your community? I have read so many beautiful essays about student’s cultural backgrounds, family structures, and extracurricular pursuits that are integral to the student’s identity. This prompt is the chance to tell your story about these very things!



Tips To Answer Prompt 2 Of The 2024-25 Common App Essay Prompts


The prompt:

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?



Examples of answers:

  • Write about a time where you overcame something very difficult. How did that change you?

  • Did you ever make a big mistake and learn from it? What did you learn? Humility? Positivity? Grit?

  • Have you ever been very disappointed and turned the situation into something positive anyway?


Key takeaways of this answer:

The key point for this prompt is ‘what did you learn from the experience?’ This essay can describe a physical challenge or disability, a mistake that you made (and own), or how you overcame when the odds were against you. The biggest mistakes make the best stories, but be sure you are framing this as a story of growth and increased knowledge, of tenacity and perseverance. The narrative structure works well here, but be sure to show what you went through, don’t simply tell. Overcoming challenge is a staple theme in film, literature and beyond. When drafting, think of this as a 650 word screenplay. Your reader should want to complement your hard work at the end!



Tips To Answer Prompt 3 Of The 2024-25 Common App Essay Prompts


The prompt:

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


Examples of answers:

  • Have you ever questioned authority out loud? What was the result?

  • Have you ever been so outspoken or persuasive that you have persuaded others to change their beliefs?


Key takeaways of this answer:

It is not always a bad thing to question authority, and it is possible to do so in a variety of ways. If you have ever done so, here is your chance to explain the inner workings of your mind and let the admissions committee know how boldly or quietly you went about doing so. This can be done well as a montage essay, with the focusing lens being the challenged idea, and the ‘what prompted your thinking’ as a series of small vignettes describing inciting events. Remember that even if the outcome wasn’t positive, be sure to frame it as a lesson learned instead of a complete failure. If you experienced wild success or a policy was changed based on your challenge to authority, be sure to be respectful to the opposing views in your storytelling. These essays should always have an overarching positivity. Keep this in mind as you share your story.





Tips To Answer Prompt 4 Of The 2024-25 Common App Essay Prompts


The prompt:

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?


Examples of answers:

  • Have you ever received a gift that changed your life?

  • Have you been the recipient of an undue or random act of kindness?

  • If either of these has happened to you, what did you do as a result?


Key takeaways of this answer:

I doubt that anyone will have trouble extracting positivity from a well-written essay on this topic! This prompt has the power to restore faith in the human condition and when written well, will have the admissions committee feeling grateful for your happy surprise. The biggest takeaway, however, is what you DID with the surprise or positivity. Were you able to pay it forward? If not yet, are you planning to? What new appreciation for humanity did you gain as a result of this positive experience? This can be a story of second chances, of restored faith, or dreams come true.



Tips To Answer Prompt 5 Of The 2024-25 Common App Essay Prompts


The prompt:

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


Examples of answers:

  • Have you ever worked hard for an award and had your perspective changed by the accomplishment?

  • Have you ever learned something new that changed your perspective on the world around you?

  • Have you ever made an observation about the way the world works and applied it positively to your words and actions?


Key takeaways of this answer:

The key word in this prompt is the NEW. Structurally, this can be done very well in a narrative format since there will be an inciting incident, or a ‘my life forever changed when….’ moment. If you were able to participate in something new or compete in a way that caused your self-knowledge to skyrocket, this is what will impress the admissions committee in your answer. Remember, describing your understanding of others (classmates, friends or family members) can be a great way to show that you are a considerate and deep thinker.



Tips To Answer Prompt 6 Of The 2024-25 Common App Essay Prompts


The prompt:

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?


Examples of answers:

  • Do you have a hobby (playing an instrument, a sport, drawing) that makes you lose track of time?

  • If you spend significant time outside of school studying something, what is it and how does it make you feel?

  • Is there an inspiration (vlog, mentor, book series, you tube channel) that feeds your interest in this topic when you want to dig deeper?


Key takeaways of this answer:

Be careful with this prompt that it does not turn into a ‘why this major’ essay, which is common to many individual colleges. Instead, focus on something that may be barely mentioned in your activities list. Instead, turn your essay into something else that causes you to enter that state of flow. This can be something as simple as practicing yoga or meditation, but again, take care. If it is highlighted on your activities list, no need to reiterate it here.



Tips To Answer Prompt 7 Of The 2023-24 Common App Essay Prompts


The prompt:

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.


Examples of answers:

All of the above, and more!

This prompt is the go-to of Main Essay prompts, because it can be anything you choose to share with the admissions committee. All previous advice applies here, and anything you will contribute to campus, be it a perspective, skill, strength or background, is fair game! To be honest, this is the prompt that is usually most enticing to students, since any of the aforementioned advice applies!


Key takeaways of this answer:

Since this prompt is all inclusive, it would be wise for applicants to remember that the main essay should always present new information that is not found elsewhere in the application. There is no need to reiterate the activities list or the courses you took, as the admissions committee will learn these things elsewhere in the application. Often, it is the quirks, the special skills or the fascinating perspectives that will enhance the application overall. Parties are best when a diverse, fun group of folks get together. What will you bring to the party that is the freshman class? This is the focus of this and all other main essay prompts.



Which topics should be avoided when writing your application essay?


Now that we've explored the 2023-24 Common App essay prompts and provided examples of how to approach them, it's important to discuss which topics you should steer clear of when writing your application essay. While it's crucial to be authentic and true to yourself, there are certain subjects that may not be well-suited for your college essay. Here are some topics to avoid:


  • Overused themes: While writing about a mission trip, athletic achievement, or a grandparent's influence may seem like a heartfelt and inspiring choice, these topics can be overused and might not set you apart from other applicants. Instead, dig deeper into your experiences to find unique stories that showcase your personal growth and character.


  • Controversial topics: It's best to avoid highly controversial subjects, such as politics, religion, or contentious social issues, as they may evoke strong reactions from admissions officers and detract from the focus on you and your personal journey.


  • Trivial or superficial topics: Your college essay is an opportunity to demonstrate your intellectual curiosity and passion for learning. Avoid writing about trivial or superficial subjects that don't provide a window into your values, interests, or aspirations.


  • Excessive humor or sarcasm: While humor can be an effective way to engage your reader, be cautious not to overdo it or rely on sarcasm. The tone of your essay should be genuine and thoughtful, so use humor sparingly and appropriately.


  • Negativity or self-pity: Your essay should highlight your strengths, resilience, and personal growth. Avoid dwelling on negative experiences or adopting a tone of self-pity, as this may leave a less-than-favorable impression on admissions officers.


  • Listing accomplishments: Your college essay is an opportunity to delve into your personal experiences and provide context for your achievements. It's not a place to simply list your accomplishments or rehash your resume, as this information can be found elsewhere in your application.


By being mindful of these potential pitfalls, you can focus on crafting a powerful and memorable essay that highlights your unique story and showcases your individual strengths. Remember, the key is to remain authentic, reflective, and engaging throughout your writing.



A college application coach might be of help


Starting to practice your essay-writing skills early on is a smart strategy for success in the college application process. The more comfortable you become with expressing your thoughts and experiences, the better prepared you'll be to craft a compelling essay that captures your unique story. And having a coach to support you during this journey can make all the difference, particularly if they've been by your side throughout your high school years.


A knowledgeable and experienced coach can provide invaluable guidance, helping you to refine your writing style, identify your most compelling stories, and ensure that your essay aligns with your overall application. By working closely with a coach who understands your background, strengths, and aspirations, you'll be well-positioned to create an essay that leaves a lasting impression on admissions officers and sets you apart from the competition.


At Access College America, we're committed to working with scholars from various backgrounds and guiding them through the complexities of the college application process. Our personalized approach ensures that each student receives the attention and support they need to truly shine in their applications.


From early high school years through senior year, we provide expert advice, assistance with essay writing, and insights into the ever-changing college admissions landscape. Our goal is to help students uncover their unique strengths, showcase their talents, and ultimately find the best-fit college that aligns with their aspirations.


By partnering with Access College America, you'll gain the confidence and resources needed to navigate this exciting journey with ease. Together, we can make your dreams of attending the perfect college a reality. Let's get started! 🎓


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