Directions for Common App Essay Assignment

English IV and AP are at different points in the writing process, but the end goal is this: on FRIDAY of this week, ALL seniors will hand in a TYPED, DOUBLE-SPACED essay of 250-500 words (usually about 2 pages) based on your choice of the Common App prompts (I’ve posted them word-for-word below in case you need to see them again).

English IV, this will be your FIRST of TWO drafts. The first is worth 20 points and the second is worth 40.

AP, while you’re of course encouraged to write multiple drafts of your essay, you only need to turn in ONE. It’s worth 30 points.

Prompts From The Common App (
 1.) Evaluate a significant experience, achievement, risk you have taken, or ethical dilemma you have faced and its impact on you.
  2.) Discuss some issue of personal, local, national, or international concern and its importance to you.
  3.) Indicate a person who has had a significant influence on you, and describe that influence.
  4.) Describe a character in fiction, a historical figure, or a creative work (as in art, music, science, etc.) that has had an influence on you, and explain that influence.
  5.) A range of academic interests, personal perspectives, and life experiences adds much to the educational mix. Given your personal background, describe an experience that illustrates what you would bring to the diversity in a college community or an encounter that demonstrated the importance of diversity to you.
  6.) Topic of your choice.

Additional Directions from the Common App:

Please write an essay of 250 – 500 words on a topic of your choice or on one of the options listed [above], and attach it to your application before submission. Please indicate your topic by checking the appropriate box. This personal essay helps us become acquainted with you as a person and student, apart from courses,grades, test scores, and other objective data. It will also demonstrate your ability to organize your thoughts and express yourself. NOTE: Your Common Application essay should be the same for all colleges. Do not customize it in any way for individual colleges. Colleges that want customized essay responses will ask for them on a supplement form.

Now THIS is an interesting resource…

Sometimes when you’re engaged in creative writing, one of the best things you can do is generate a list of words associated with your topic. This allows you to free-associate words and concepts without immediately working them into your writing, and hence avoids deadly writer’s block at the beginning of the writing process.

Once you have your word list and a basic idea of what you want to write about, THEN you can proceed to try to incorporate as many of the words from your list into a piece of writing. It’s amazing to see how a list of loosely related words can help shape a poem, essay, song, or story — if you don’t believe me, just look at some of the cool things you’ve generated through out vocabulary creative writing assignments!

While helping a student with an entry to the GeneratioNext writing contest, I stumbled across a website called Wordnik. Not only does it function as a dictionary, but it also allows users to comment on uses of words, identify regional pronunciations of words, and (my favorite) create lists of associated words. Here is a perfect example: WORDS RELATED TO ZOMBIE ATTACKS. You’ll notice that the words aren’t synonyms of each other, but rather are words that are frequently used when discussing the same topic. I haven’t had enough time to fully explore the site, but since I know some of you are hard at work on various writing ventures I thought I should introduce it as a possible source of inspiration.

Seniors, remember when we examined different adjectives to describe your strengths with during a job interview without being redundant? This could be a good resource to continue that exploration. Pre-AP students, need to spruce up your Reader’s Journal entries? Try searching for lists of words associated with the topic you’re investigating. It looks like it’s worth a shot.