Tips for Common App Essay Prompt #2

As you begin your college application process, you may decide to apply through the Common Application. The Common Application (also known as the “Common App”) is an advanced college application platform that allows you to apply to multiple colleges at once. The Common App has seven essay prompts for you to choose from. Here are some tips to tackling Essay Prompt #2!

The Common App Essay Prompt #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?”

Things to Consider

The Common App Essay Prompt #2 encourages you to take a look at some of the challenges or adversity you have faced in your life. No matter the story you share, here are some ways to make sure your essay stands out from the crowd.

Go into detail

When you choose a challenge to write about, go into detail about the lesson you learned. For example, if your essay is about the time you “learned the importance of communication,” expand your writing further. Why does communication matter? How will that help you down the road? Better yet, how will your newfound communication skills help you in college? In other words, explain how this lesson contributed to your personal growth. Once you have a draft down on paper, ask yourself: Could this essay have been written by anyone? If the answer is “yes,” work on making it more personal.

Don’t worry if it’s simple

It’s okay if you can’t think of an incredibly challenging obstacle or a shocking story. Admissions counselors don’t expect you to have outrageous tales. They just want to understand you a little bit better and check out your writing skills. Worry less about the topic of your writing, and instead, focus on the writing itself. You could write about something simple like the challenge of your 9th grade English class. As long as your story has honest, thoughtful analysis, meaningful learnings, and an organized format, you can write about anything!

What to Avoid

Don’t spend too much time explaining the situation or events that took place. Rather, focus on what you learned from your setback. Taking this approach will demonstrate critical thinking. Rather than giving a summary of events, you will be discussing personal growth, which results in a compelling essay that gives a glimpse into your personality and character.