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The 3 Types of College Essay Questions

Over 500 colleges and universities have become members of the Common Application with the intention of using a holistic selection process. With a list of participating schools this large, you will most likely cross paths with this system at some point during your application process. One of the highlights of the Common App is its that you only have to fill out an application once then send it to as many schools as you desire. Although this is a benefit for most of the repetitive application process, do not breeze through its essay portion without a few features in mind. The Common Application offers five essay prompts, which are evaluated annually to make sure they are serving colleges and students well. You can find the essay prompts on the Common Application website well ahead of time. The summer before your senior year, check on each individual school’s website for the required number and types of essays. Most colleges require at least one supplemental essay in addition to the one required on the Common App. The top schools will all undoubtedly require an almost alarming amount of additional essays. For example, USC has 2 required essays, 10 short-take essays and 33 program-specific essays. Although it may seem impossible to write 45 worthy essays to send in, don’t let this intimidate you. Each type of required essay has its advantages so look at this as 45 chances for you to convince the admissions office that you’re worthy of acceptance. There are three types of supplemental essay questions that colleges ask:

  1. Tell us about yourself: These types of essays are required because the admissions office wants to get to know you better beyond the limitations of the Common App. This question gives you an opportunity to reveal something about yourself other than just your academics.
  2. Why us: Schools don’t ask these questions for their own ego, so don’t use this prompt as a way to suck up to the admissions office. They want to find out more about your life goals through your major choice and why you want to commit to their school.
  3. Creative: Most of the top schools ask these kinds of questions to evaluate prospective students’ ability to think and write creatively. UNC Chapel Hill consistently asks brilliantly creative questions, such as: “What do you hope to find over the rainbow?” These questions are purposefully undirected and open-ended so use this as an opportunity to convey your personality and share insightful views.

You can submit all of your required essays through the Common App but keep its version limits in mind. The essay section of the application only allows three versions per essay. This means you can customize your essays, up to three times each, before the most current version is locked and sent out to the rest of your schools. You might be applying to one of the schools that requires an abundance of essays, so check with your schools ahead of time and begin preparing early!

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