Common App Essay Prompts for 2023-2024

Here are the 2017-18 Common App essay prompts.

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The Common App is used by over 900 colleges across the United States. This app allows you to stay organized by tracking deadlines and what materials you need, with the ease of submitting everything necessary online. While not every college that uses the application requires an essay, many do. The App has recently updated the essay questions for the 2023-24 season, allowing students to show admissions committees that they are able to tell a story that expresses who they are within a particular prompt. The updated Common App essay prompts can be seen below.

Common App Essay Prompts for 2023-2024

The essay prompts for the Common App can change from year to year, but they often remain the same. If you are reading this after the 2023-2024 application cycle, you can see the updated essay prompts on the Common App website.

In the 2023-2024 application cycle, the Common App essay prompts are:

  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 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.

Which Common App Essay Prompt Should You Write About?

Which Common App essay prompt you choose to write about is completely up to you! With seven available prompts, you might feel spoiled for choice, so if you’re having trouble narrowing it down, here are some tips.


Your first step when it comes to writing a college application essay is to brainstorm. Consider the prompts listed above – are there any topics that ring out to you? Write down what you’re thinking as you consider each of the seven. You can then return to this list to determine which of the prompts is best for you and your college application.

Ask Others

If you can’t decide what to write about or which to select from your brainstorming list, you can always ask others their opinions. Teachers, your parents, friends, mentors, and relatives are examples of who to talk to. You might want to ask them for ideas, have them choose their favorite topic from your list, or ask them for their perspective on a topic you’re considering writing about. They may even come up with something or an angle you hadn’t previously considered!

Think About What Makes You Unique

When writing your college essay, from the Common App or another school, it’s important to remember what makes you unique. What sets you apart from other students and applicants? Is there something special you experienced, or a challenge you overcame that isn’t common? These topics make excellent subjects. College admissions officers don’t want to read about the same experiences over and over, so giving them something new to read is definitely a way to attract their attention.

A tip when thinking about this: sports is an all too common subject for college applications, and admission officers are tired of reading about them. They all tend to be the same concerns, challenges, achievements, etc. While athletics may be a central part of your life, you might not have a story that’s unique to you. There are exceptions to this, of course, but it would benefit you to think beyond sports, too.

The Common App allows you to write a single essay to all the colleges you’re applying to that use the application service. It’s a great way to cut down on time and effort and pour all that energy into writing the best piece you can. While you definitely have quite a few prompts to choose from, you’ll want to think about how you can gain the attention of all those schools’ admission departments. So which prompt will you go with?

Curious about what schools use the Common App? And which is a good fit for you? Before you sit down to write that essay, make sure to use College Raptor’s free College Match to uncover the colleges and universities that fit your goals, interests, dreams, needs, wants, and more!

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