She wrote it on the five-hour trip to visit my in-laws last week. As we pulled into my husband's hometown, I gingerly asked her if I could see it. Her laptop had just run out of battery so she offered to read it aloud. I braced myself, unsure of how I would react.
Her words were beautiful. The message was beyond powerful. Sophie—my writer, my oldest, my rising high school senior—wrote her college essay. Hallelujah. Or in the words of my Yiddish-speaking grandmother, I felt nachas. I was on top of the world (and so was she).
After Sophie made a few edits this past week, she was ready to put her finalized essay in her Common App, and that's when she came to a complete stop.
"Wait, what? I can't just paste it in, Mom?"
"Nope. You need to pick the prompt."
And this is when most students freeze. They spend so much time crafting the most extraordinary personal statement that they don't realize they have to select an essay prompt before they can add their essay to their Common App.
But this is when I come in to reassure everyone of a few key things:
- It doesn't matter which prompt you choose; it matters how good your topic and essay are.
- Common App offers seven very open-ended prompts to choose from. In fact, if your essay doesn't fit any of the prompts (which has never happened to me in nearly 25 years in this industry), the student can choose the 7th option which is to "share an essay of your choice."
- Oftentimes, the student's essay will fit multiple prompts. Sophie's essay fits three out of the seven prompts!
- Just pick the prompt that makes the most sense with your essay and the message it sends.
- College admissions officers have absolutely no preference for which prompt you choose.
When Sophie and I reviewed the prompts last night, one stood out to her: #3. "Reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea. What prompted your thinking? What was the outcome?" Ahh, yes. Perfect.
And just like that, Sophie selected #3, pasted her college essay in the space provided, and got one step closer to submitting her first application. Hallelujah. Nachas. Or whatever beautiful word from your family or native language fits the bill!