2016-17 Common Application Essay Prompts

By IvyWise on Tuesday, April 26, 2016

2016-17 College Application Essay PromptsThe Common Application and the New Coalition Application Have Already Announced 2016-17 Application Prompts


The college admissions process is just wrapping up for current high school seniors, but for juniors preparing for the admissions process this fall there’s a chance to get a head start on their essays. The Common Application, the pending Coalition Application, and various colleges are already releasing their essay prompts for the 2016-17 application season.

 The essay and other school-specific writing questions are very important elements of the college application, and often very time consuming. With students applying to 10-12 colleges, they can be expected to write anywhere from 20-30 essays that will need to be completed by the application deadline. Coupled with a challenging senior year course load and that can be a lot of work to keep up with. This is why we always advise rising seniors to get a head start on brainstorming, drafting, and editing their essays during the summer if possible.

Over the past few years, more and more colleges have begun releasing their essay prompts for the next application cycle in the late spring or early summer. For those colleges that use the Common Application, it helps to let students know of the prompts in advance so they can prepare for the school-specific supplement in addition to the Common Application essay.

While the Coalition application isn’t expected to launch until this summer, the Common App competitor has already announced the essay prompts that will be used with the first version application this fall. At IvyWise, we’re advising rising seniors to plan on applying through the Common Application as it still remains to be seen how functional the Coalition application platform will be and which colleges will be using the Coalition application in its first year. However, it’s still helpful for students to know what to expect should they end up applying to a college that will use only the Coalition application this year.

Here are the Common Application and Coalition application prompts for the college class of 2021 and some additional essay requirements that have already been announced by specific colleges.

Common Application

  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.
  2. The lessons we take from failure can be fundamental to later success. Recount an incident or time when you experienced failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience?
  3. Reflect on a time when you challenged a belief or idea. What prompted you to act? Would you make the same decision again?
  4. 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.
  5. Discuss an accomplishment or event, formal or informal, that marked your transition from childhood to adulthood within your culture, community, or family.

Coalition Application

  1. Tell a story from your life, describing an experience that either demonstrates your character or helped to shape it.
  2. Describe a time when you made a meaningful contribution to others in which the greater good was your focus. Discuss the challenges and rewards of making your contribution.
  3. Has there been a time when you’ve had a long-cherished or accepted belief challenged? How did you respond? How did the challenge affect your beliefs?
  4. What is the hardest part of being a teenager now? What’s the best part? What advice would you give a younger sibling or friend (assuming they would listen to you)?
  5. Submit an essay on a topic of your choice.

University of California

This year, instead of a personal statement essay, applicants will be asked to complete “personal insight questions.” Freshman applicants must respond to four of the eight questions, with each response at 350 words or less.

  1. Describe an example of your leadership experience in which you have positively influenced others, helped resolve disputes, or contributed to group efforts over time.  
  2. Every person has a creative side, and it can be expressed in many ways: problem solving, original and innovative thinking, and artistically, to name a few. Describe how you express your creative side.  
  3. What would you say is your greatest talent or skill? How have you developed and demonstrated that talent over time?  
  4. Describe how you have taken advantage of a significant educational opportunity or worked to overcome an educational barrier you have faced.
  5. Describe the most significant challenge you have faced and the steps you have taken to overcome this challenge. How has this challenge affected your academic achievement?
  6. Describe your favorite academic subject and explain how it has influenced you.
  7. What have you done to make your school or your community a better place?  
  8. What is the one thing that you think sets you apart from other candidates applying to the University of California?

We’re keeping an eye out for more college application essay prompts and will share them as soon as colleges make them available! Be sure to follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and subscribe to our mailing listto stay informed on that latest college admissions news, trends, and be the first to know when colleges release new essay prompts for the 2016-17 application cycle!

Related Topics
College Application Tips, College Essays
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