It is important to understand your options when it comes to the Common Application essays. Below is a discussion of the six essay options.
Option#1: Evaluate a significant experience, achievement, risk you have taken, or ethical dilemma you have faced and its impact on you.
The key word here is evaluate. You aren’t just describing something, the best essays will explore the complexity of the issue. When you examine the “impact on you” you need to show the depth of your critical thinking skills. Introspection, self-awareness and self-analysis are all important here.
Option #2: Discuss some issue of personal, local, national or international concern and its importance to you.
Be careful to keep the “importance to you” at the heart of the essay. It is easy to get off track and start ranting about global warming, abortion, starving children in Somalia. The admission folks want to discover your character, passions and abilities in the essay, not a political lecture.
Option #3: Indicate a person who has had a significant influence on you, and describe that influence.
A good essay on this topic does more than describe. Dig deep and analyze. Remember, a “hero” essay has been used many times before by other students. Realize the “influence” of this person does not have to be positive.
Option #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.
Be careful with the word describe. You should really be “analyzing” this character or creative work. What makes it so powerful and influential?
Option #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 this diversity in a college community, or an encounter that demonstrated the importance of diversity to you.
Realize that this question defines “diversity” in very broad terms. It’s not specifically about race or ethnicity (although it can be). How do you contribute to the richness and breadth of the diversity of the campus community?
Option #6: Topic of your choice.
Sometimes you have a story to share that doesn’t quite fit into any of the options above. However, the first five topics are quite broad with a lot of flexibility, so make certain your topic really can’t be identified with any of them. Do not use this to write a comedy routine or poem. Essays written for this prompt still need to have substance and tell the reader something about you. You can submit other interesting writing pieces under “additional info” in the application.
Excerpted from About.com, written by Allen Grove