Tips for Common App Essay Prompt #3

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 #3!

Common App Essay Prompt #3

“Reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea. What prompted your thinking? What was the outcome?”

What to Cover

This prompt encourages you to think about your values and beliefs, and how they may change or evolve over time. Here are some ideas to help you brainstorm more about this topic.

Consider your values

Some questions to think about: What is important to you? Where do you stand right now? Do you have any passions that immediately come to mind? Pick a topic that means a lot to you, and that passion will carry over into your writing.

Ask yourself why

Why do you have the beliefs that you do? Perhaps there was a time when you believed one thing, and changed your mind once presented with new information. Or consider the moments in your life when a light bulb has gone off in your head, and you understood something you hadn’t before. These are the moments you want to write about!

Describe the results

What steps did you take to challenge yourself and your ideas? What was the outcome of those actions? How did you make a difference? The outcome is an important piece of this prompt. If you have shown leadership in a situation that caused change at your school or in your community, write about that. Or maybe the changes you’ve made are more understated, and have impacted the way you approach the world. You can write about anything as long as it shows you are capable of thinking differently and taking action. 


If you’re still having trouble thinking of some ideas, here are some examples of topics you can write about: Bringing an unconventional teaching idea to the classroom and how the new teaching method helped you and your classmates. A time someone discriminated against you because of your religion and how you used the values in your religion to treat that person. How did your treatment of that person affect them? Being a part of a political organization that actively seeks a specific change. How did your participation in the organization result in change within the community?

What to Avoid

Don’t spend too much time explaining your beliefs, your thoughts about an idea, or why you hold a certain opinion. The majority of your essay should be about action and results! The admissions office will be looking for leadership, creative thought, and results. It’s okay if you haven’t sparked huge changes in your school or community. The point of this essay is to display your ability of being a thought leader.