2022-2023 Common App Essay Prompts

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.

Some things to keep in mind:

  • Some of these topics are broad, allowing a chance for you to showcase your creativity and share a memorable story. This is a chance to make an impression without overloading the details. This is an opportunity to showcase your writing skills!
  • Think about your passions, skills and hobbies when writing your essays. This is a chance to show off how amazing you really are!
  • Some colleges will publish essay examples on their website, so feel free to use those as inspiration! This will help get a feel for the ways each college celebrates and exemplifies good work. PRO TIP: DON’T PLAGIARIZE.
  • Always ask for someone to proofread your content. Be sure to look out for grammatical errors, spelling mistakes, and tone of voice to ensure you’re conveying the right message.

Below is the full set of essay prompts for 2022-2023.

  • Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.
  • 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?
  • Reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea. What prompted your thinking? What was the outcome?
  • Reflect on something that someone has done for you that has made you happy or thankful in a surprising way. How has this gratitude affected or motivated you?
  • Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others.
  • Describe a topic, idea, or concept you find so engaging that it makes you lose all track of time. Why does it captivate you? What or who do you turn to when you want to learn more?
  • Share an essay on any topic of your choice. It can be one you’ve already written, one that responds to a different prompt, or one of your own design.

Don’t forget to stay true to who you are and bring the best version of yourself into these essays! We’re cheering you on!

Be Ready for College Application Season

Chances are, when you’re starting your college applications, you may feel overwhelmed by the list of tasks required for admission. To relieve this pressure, be sure to take this process one step at a time. Here, we’ll cover some crucial steps to take to avoid burnout and imposter syndrome as you apply.

1. Stay organized

We cannot stress this enough. Some things to keep track of for person information are things like your Social Security Number, high school code, transcripts, important contacts, and logins for websites/applications. From there, you need to gather all the information about the schools you’re applying to. Are they featured on the Common App? Is there a separate link for financial aid? How about FAFSA? All good things to keep in mind when sorting through the details.

2. Create a realistic timeline

Grab a planner, notepad, ipad, or whatever helps you list out priorities and put in all your deadlines for college apps. ACT/SAT test dates, registrations, and letter of recommendation deadlines are good to track as well. By sticking to a dedicated timeline, you’ll ease the anxiety or the unknown, keeping things cool during the admissions process.

3. Character counts!

This is your time to shoot your shot and show them what you’re made of! Colleges care about more than GPAs and test score. You’ll want to jot down a list of your passions, extracurriculars, and accomplishments. These other activities and interests will give admissions a better idea of who you are as a person!

4. Pop in to see your school counselor

Your counselor is your biggest fan! Be sure to keep them in the loop about your admissions experience and don’t be afraid to ask questions and feedback on your progress. They may even be the perfect person to serve as a recommendation!

5. Ask questions

There’s a ton to think about when applying to college, and you won’t possibly know ALL the answers! Meet with family members, counselors, your favorite teachers and other support when you’re feeling lost or confused. Share your aspirations and allow them to give you some guidance – they live for that!

6. Take care of yourself!

Self-care is NON-NEGOTIABLE when going through this process. Make time for things that spark joy and boost your serotonin. Just finished an essay? Treat yourself to some coffee! Crushed the ACT? Celebrate with a visit with friends.

Breathe, recharge, and grind. The success is yours!

College Applications: Tips and Tricks

If there’s one thing you shouldn’t drop the ball on in the application process, it’s your admissions essay. Your essays are a raw reflection of your unique abilities to contribute to the institution and allows a space to tell your story. This is an opportunity to display your passions and your writing skills all in one shot.

Some colleges will have specific prompts that they want you to answer, while others will lean toward a more open prompt to tell your personal story. Either way, just be you! This isn’t a word count oriented email, so forget the fluff, ditch the thesaurus, and write from the heart!

Here are some tips for drafting up an undeniably good essay:

1. Start early

Make a map of your essay topics and jot down some ideas and deadlines. We recommend starting this process around spring of junior year or summer prior to senior year. This gives you plenty of time to craft up some good stuff!

2. Create an outline

Next, you’ll want to identify your prompts and start breaking it down into parts. Think about why the admissions team may be asking these questions and what they’re hoping to gain from your response. At this point, you’ll want to pair some personal stories with these ideas and brainstorm all the potential points you’ll want to discuss. One way to organize your thought: write a thesis and make bullet points for a beginning, middle, and end. The rest will easily fall into place.

3. Read some solid examples

Some colleges will publish essay examples on their website, so feel free to use those as inspiration! This will help get a feel for the ways each college celebrates and exemplifies good work. PRO TIP: DON’T PLAGIARIZE.

4. Brainstorm beyond the transcript

When you’re crafting your essay, imagine you’re having dinner with the admissions counselors. They’re holding your transcript and resume, so they have all the nitty gritty details of your application. This is your chance to expand on the topics that are unseen from those documents! No shame in boasting all the amazing things you’ve accomplished!

5. Stick to detailed examples

For your examples, focus on specific details that really tell your story the way you want to convey it. There’s not enough room to write your autobiography, but rather the highlights of your accomplishments. It’s okay if you feel like your topic isn’t anything revolutionary – many schools love taking simple examples and turning them into lessons! Remember, the key isn’t to wow them with your topic, but rather to showcase your writing skills in a way that paints a picture of who you really are.

6. Have people review it

If you’ve taken anything away from this article, it’s to make sure you have some trusted people read your work thoroughly and provide feedback. A good person could be your parent, counselor, or teacher. Be sure to check for grammatical and spelling errors and limit the number of people who review it to around 2 so you don’t get lost in the sauce.

With these tips, there’s no doubt you’ll crush your admissions essays. Feel proud of yourself through this process and take breaks when you’re feeling writer’s block!

Financial 101: Scholarships Explained

Financial aid is money lent or given to you to you help you pay for school. Scholarships are often referred to as “gift aid” because they do not need to be repaid upon graduation.  

Scholarships can be awarded by private organizations, governments, and colleges or universities. They are often merit based. This means that they are awarded on qualities, like academic merit or athletic ability.  

Sources of Scholarships 

Colleges and Universities 

Many colleges and universities offer scholarships to their students. They can be merit-based, need-based, or a combination of the two! Scholarships offered by colleges and universities may also have certain requirements to continue scholarship for your entire time on campus. These terms and conditions are outlined when you are awarded the scholarship.  

Governments 

Some state governments may fund scholarships for residents attending college in their state. Your high school counselor will have more information regarding the kinds of scholarships your state may award.  

Private Organizations 

May companies, foundations, community organizations, and clubs sponsor scholarships. Scholars from these private organizations are called outside, or private, scholarships. Possible sources of outside scholarships include:  

  • Your parent/guardians’ employers or labor unions 
  • Your family’s religious center 
  • Organizations like 4-H, Girl Scouts, or Key Club.  

How to Find Scholarships 

To apply for scholarships, you will mostly likely start by filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and the CSS Profile, if the schools you are applying to require it.  

Outside scholarships typically have their own application forms and processes. Start by talking with your school counselor about how to find outside scholarships. Be sure to also use online tools from reputable places, like the Encourage App! Outside scholarships typically have their own application forms and processes.  

Finding and applying to scholarships may take some time and effort, but we promise it will be worth it in the end! 

Learn the Lingo: Financial Aid Vocabulary

When you’re new to the financial aid process, some terms may sound like a different language. Here we define a list of terms to help you through this process. The terms listed below are universal among colleges in the USA, but there may be terms specific to each college. Don’t be afraid to ask your admissions counselor or financial aid counselor to explain certain terms to you:  

Award Letter: The document you receive from a college that outlines the term of the financial aid being awarded to you. The letter includes the types and amounts of financial aid offered, what you’re expected to do to keep the award and a deadline for accepting the award.  

Cost of Attendance (COA): COA is more than just your tuition. It includes the cost of tuition, room and board, books, laptop, transportation, and other personal costs.  

CSS Profile: Some schools require a CSS (College Scholarship Service) Profile for scholarship consideration. Check your schools of interest to see if they require a CSS Profile from you.  

Expected Family Contribution (EFC): The EFC is the total out-of-pocket amount that your family can contribute towards your college expenses. This amount considers factors such as your family size, the number of family members already enrolled in college (if any), and taxable and non-taxable family income or assets. The EFC uses the information you include on your FAFSA. 

Financial Aid: Money given or loaned to you to help pay for college. Financial aid can come from federal and state governments, colleges, and other organizations.  

Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA): Each year in college you will fill out the FAFSA for need-based aid. You will also need fill out the FAFSA if you wish to take out federal student loans to fund your education. The FAFSA typically opens October 1st for the following school year. If you’re unmarried and under the age of 24, be sure to have your and your parents’ tax info from two years ago. More about the FAFSA here. 

Grant: A kind of “gift aid” – financial aid that doesn’t have to be paid back. Grants are typically awarded based on financial need.  

Loan: Money you borrow from the government, a bank, or another source. Loans needs to be paid back, typically over an agreed period.  

Merit Aid: Financial aid given to students based on their personal achievements. Most scholarships are considered merit aid and can be awarded for success in a variety of areas including the arts, athletics, or academics.  

Need-Blind Admission: The practice of making college admission decisions without looking at students’ financial circumstances.  

Need-Based Financial Aid: Need aware is the opposite of need-blind. Colleges that are need-aware will take students’ ability to pay tuition into consideration when they are making admissions decisions. 

Net Price: Net price is the actual amount a student will pay for college. Typically, this means the published full cost of attendance (tuition, fees, room and board, supplies, and other expenses that are billed by the college/university) minus the amount of gift aid a student receives.  

Net Price Calculator: An online tool that gives you a personalized estimate of what it will cost to attend a specific college. Most colleges are required by law to post a net price calculator on their websites.  

Pell Grants: Pell Grants are federally funded, need-based grants for students who submit their FAFSA application. You do not need to pay back Pell Grants.  

Parent Loans for Undergraduate Study (PLUS Loans): Parents can apply for a PLUS loan up to the Cost of Attendance minus any other aid. To qualify for this loan, parents must have a positive credit history. PLUS loans begin accruing interest and require repayment as soon as they disburse. 

Scholarship: Another kind of “gift aid” – financial aid that doesn’t have to be paid back. Scholarships can be awarded by private organizations, governments, and colleges or universities. They are often based on academic merit, talent, particular areas of study, athletic ability, or other criteria.  

Student Aid Report (SAR): You’ll receive this report via email after submitting the FAFSA that details your expected family contribution (EFC). The SAR is your opportunity to review the information you have submitted and make sure it is accurate. 

Subsidized Loans: Subsidized loans are offered by the federal government and DO NOT accrue interest while you are still enrolled in college. Repayment begins 6 months after either graduation or dropping below half-time status. 

Unsubsidized Loans: Unsubsidized student loans from the government begin accruing interest immediately upon disbursement. Repayment will begin 6 months after graduation or after dropping below half-time status. If you have the ability, consider making interest-only payments while you are in school so that interest won’t capitalize.  

Work-Study: Work-study provides the opportunity to earn money for school by applying for on-campus jobs. Your work-study program will provide you with a certain amount that you are eligible to earn, and you will receive those funds in the form of a paycheck as you would with any other type of job. You can use these funds to help you pay for other costs associated with attending college, like transportation, food, social activities, and other living expenses. 

We hope that familiarizing with financial aid vocabulary will ease any anxieties you may feel about the process. Good luck! 

Applying to College 101

Applying to college? LOOK AT YOU! So proud. The college application process can be confusing and overwhelming, especially if you’ve never been through it before. But have NO fear, as always, we’ve got your back by gathering some common questions that students have about the process. By the end of this article, we’re hoping for solid confidence moving into the application process!

Some Common Questions

1. When should I start applying for college?

The timeline of college applications typically requires planning, due to the nature of how early the portals open for applicants! Most applications open about a year before you attend school.

Here’s a simple example: If you hope to go to college in the fall after your high school graduation, your application will open in the summer before your senior year or in the fall of your senior year. What can you do to best prepare for application season? Decide what schools you want to apply to, take the ACT/SAT, read some stellar examples for college admissions essays, and ask for some letters of recommendation from your favorite teachers and counselors. Oh, and breathe – you’ve got this.

2. Where do I find application(s)?

Straight up, you’ll want to hit up the website of the college you’re applying to. Great place to start your search. From there, you’ll either be directed to a common application software or apply directly on their website. When you discover this info, you’ll also see the other requirements for getting into the program you want. This typically will highlight essay topics, application fees, test score range requirements, and how many letters of recommendation you may need.

3. Which semester should I apply for?

Typically, you’ll find yourself so excited that you’ll jump into fall semester applications without even thinking. PLOT TWIST: You have some other options! Let’s say you want to take some time to yourself to work before going to save up some cash; Spring may be a more viable option for you. Keep in mind that some colleges require a mandatory summer session so you can kick things off sooner! There are SO many perks to starting during the summer semester so you can have a sneak peek of what campus has to offer before the whole squad unpacks for fall.

4. What do I need to apply, though?

A short, but necessary list of things you’ll need:

  • Essays
  • Letters of Recommendation
  • Application Fee/Fee Waiver (Ask your school counselor about these!)
  • High School Transcripts
  • Vibes, Just Vibes

5. I’m done with my application, now what?

Now’s the time to tap into other parts of your to-do list:

  • Have you scheduled a chat with your counselor? Now’s the best time to remind them just how cool they are for giving you their lifehacks.
  • Filling out your FAFSA information sooner than later is the move, so be sure to create a login sooner rather than later.
  • Submit those updated ACT/SAT scores, it’ll only take a quick sec.

Types of Applications

Early Decision

Some pros, some cons. This gives you a chance to apply early (typically around November) to your first-choice school. You’ll receive your admission decision in advance of the regular notification date (usually December).

! Heads up: Be mindful that with early decision, you can only apply to one school under early decision. If you’re accepted, you must agree to attend if you’re given an adequate financial aid package. You can submit regular decision applications but must be withdrawn once accepted.

Early Action

Like Early Decision, Early Action allows you to submit your application earlier than the regular deadline and receive an admission decision early in the admissions cycle. Unlike Early Decision, Early Action is not binding. You still have the opportunity to apply elsewhere and weigh all of your options before making a final choice.

Test-Optional

When colleges are test-optional, they are waiving the requirement of ACT or SAT test scores. This gives you the choice to submit testing scores or not. If you’re not sure if you should apply test-optional, read these tips.

Deferred Admission

When you receive your admission letter, there’s a possibility you will see the word “deferred.” The word “defer” means to delay. You’ll usually see this if you apply early to a school. If you’re deferred, your application will be deferred into the regular decision pool. As an applicant, you can be deferred for many reasons, so don’t be discouraged.

Rolling Admission

Colleges with rolling admission keep applications open for a large window of time. They also process applications as they are received, rather than after a hard deadline. This usually means the earlier you submit, the earlier you know your admission decision.

Display Your Awesome with a College Brag Sheet

College applications are a lot like dating. You have to make a good first impression, and you have to do it fast. That’s why you need to create a brag sheet! It’s basically like a resume, but it includes all of your achievements in one spot.

What is a College Brag Sheet?

A brag sheet is basically like a resume. It’s an easy way to put all your achievements in one spot and make them easy for admissions officers to see. A brag sheet is a great way to organize all the parts of your application that tell the college what makes you awesome.

Why Create a College Brag Sheet?

Why create one? Putting all your achievements in one spot is key when you have a short time to make a first impression. Your teachers writing letters of recommendation will also appreciate your brag sheet. Oftentimes, teachers will have numerous letters to write. In passing along your resume, you’re giving an outline of all your cool qualities with specific examples. This makes the writing process easier on your teachers and boosts the quality of your letter of recommendation. When your teachers have a better idea of who you are, it’s easier to praise you for all your achievements!

What to Include

Your brag sheet should be concise and professional, and no more than one page long. Also, avoid fonts that are difficult to read. You should include the following information: 

  • Your name and contact information
  • Expected graduation date
  • GPA and standardized test scores
  • Extracurricular activity participation
  • Volunteer work
  • Work experience
  • Any awards or recognitions
  • Any leadership roles 
  • Goals for the future related to college

College brag sheets are useful during the college application process and should be the “IG Feed” of your academic and professional experience! (Only the best stuff gets put on the feed) Don’t forget to include goals that you’re working toward in the future, too. You want this document to reflect who YOU are, so don’t be afraid to be creative!

7 Ways Your Counselor Can Help

You already know how important it is to make your school counselor your BFF, but you may not recognize just how much of a useful resource for you and your family during your time in high school. Their whole intention is to provide support and help you plan and succeed in your future, beyond academics. It’s highly encouraged to visit your high school counselor early and visit them often! Need some motivation to make an appointment? Here are a few reasons why you should consider making some time on your schedule to meet up with your new bestie.

1. Selecting courses and fulfilling graduation requirements

Have questions about class schedules, your transcripts, graduation status, or really… anything? Your counselor has your back. They can help balance your schedule and align you with challenging coursework and electives based on goals to get you right on track.

2. Helping you talk through the tough stuff

Sometimes the stress comes from beyond the books. This looks different for everyone, and if you find it to be a struggle, your counselor is equipped to make sure they’re supporting you through it all. It could be some challenges at home, troubles with interpersonal relationships, or a mental health funk – whatever it is, they’re certified and trained to help guide you through best practices to manage emotions, relationships, and hardships in time of need.

3. Striking a balance

You’ve got a lot going on, and we commend you for all the awesome things that keep you going through the week. A high school schedule is highly underrated! It can be difficult to maintain a balance between schoolwork, meetings, sports, part-time work, volunteering, and social commitments. Your counselor is the ideal coach to guide you as you work out a healthy balance to keep you from burning out.

4. Planning for YOUR future

Everyone’s future is different, and your school counselor is no stranger to the different paths students take post-graduation. Want to join the military? They likely have details for a recruiter to get you in contact with. Need a job right after high school? They can assist with some resume building. Want to attend college or trade school? Guaranteed, they have some insight on how to best get you there. No matter your path, your school counselor may have opportunities for you to explore your options. At the very least, they can ensure that you are progressing towards graduation! 

5. You need a reference, right?

Need we say more? In all seriousness, you need someone to vouch for your excellence. This could be used as a recommendation letter for college or acting as a reference for a job interview. Either way, it’s vital to have an adult in your corner who can attest for your character, work ethic, and overall will to grind.

6. Making big decisions

You’ll have a lot of major decisions to make while in high school, big or small. No matter what, the decisions are in your hands, but your counselor can walk you through some decision-making tips so you can feel confident in making an informed decision.

7. Encouraging you

Most importantly, keep in mind that your school counselor is your biggest fan and cheerleader. It takes some patience, kindness, and a whole lot of love to be a counselor after all. These leaders on campus will always empathize with you through difficult times and clap for you when you win.

Like most things in life, the more effort you put into something, the more you will get out. Your school counselor has so much to give you, all you need to do is communicate what you need. As you build your relationship with your school counselor, don’t forget to thank them for all their help and hard work!