Below you'll find one metric ton of college application essay prompts - I've sorted them between in-state and out-of-state schools.
If you're not one for scrolling, use the ctrl-f function to search for a particular college/university.
Oh, and a couple caveats: if you've noticed an obvious omission - like, say, UNC-Charlotte - it's likely because that school doesn't require an essay as part of its application. But you should double check just in case. Also, if I haven't posted a word/character count, it's probable that I couldn't find one after doing a cursory (Membean lvl. 3) search. Dig a little deeper.
In-State Colleges & Universities
The Common Application
[Schools using the Common Application may have different expectations regarding which/how many of these you must complete. For example, in addition to their own school-specific essay, UNC-Chapel Hill has applicants write just one Common App essay, and stipulates that they should be 250-650 words. Before you just dive in, do some research to see what a college you may be applying to requires from the Common App. -Stapleton]
1. 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. [No change]
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? [Revised]
3. Reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea. What prompted your thinking? What was the outcome? [Revised]
4. Describe a problem you've solved or a problem you'd like to solve. It can be an intellectual challenge, a research query, an ethical dilemma - anything that is of personal importance, no matter the scale. Explain its significance to you and what steps you took or could be taken to identify a solution. [No change]
5. Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others. [Revised]
6. 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? [New]
7. 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. [New]
Please choose two of the prompts below and respond to each in an essay of 200-250 words.
- Tell us about a peer who has made a difference in your life.
- What do you hope will change about the place where you live?
- What is one thing that we don’t know about you that you want us to know?
- What about your background, or what perspective, belief, or experience, will help you contribute to the education of your classmates at UNC?
UNC-Greensboro (optional for scholarship consideration)
Please submit an original essay of 250-500 words on ONE of the topics listed below:
- Describe a meaningful event, experience, or accomplishment in your life and how it will impact your college experience and your contribution to the UNCG community. Consider reflecting on your ideas about student responsibility, academic integrity, campus citizenship, or a call to service.
- Explain your choice of academic major and how you plan to use your degree to meet your career goals.
- UNCG is embarking on a campus-wide undertaking to increase global awareness and engagement of our students. What might it mean to you to be more globally engaged, and how might this benefit you as a student and in your career?
Please respond to the following prompt thoughtfully. Your response should be approximately 250 words.
Please describe why you are interested in attending UNC Wilmington.
Appalachian State University
(Not sure about the length or how many of these you'd have to knock out... Look it up.)
- What are your educational and career goals and how will Appalachian (if you are admitted) further those goals?
- What qualities or characteristics do you feel you would contribute to the Appalachian Community?
- What do you think has been your most impactful leadership, community service or other experience outside of the classroom?
- 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.
(Not sure about the specific length here either (you know what to do), but I do remember them giving you a criminally small character count to write these.)
- Discuss your reasons for pursuing the Major/Academic Program selected above.
- Discuss any obstacles and/or hardships you have encountered and how you dealt with them.
- NC State is a community that is strong because of the diversity of our perspectives and experiences. Please describe how you could contribute to or benefit from campus diversity.
(Optional) Duke University seeks a talented, engaged student body that embodies the wide range of human experience; we believe that the diversity of our students makes our community stronger. If you'd like to share a perspective you bring or experiences you've had to help us understand you better-perhaps related to a community you belong to, your sexual orientation or gender identity, or your family or cultural background-we encourage you to do so. Real people are reading your application, and we want to do our best to understand and appreciate the real people applying to Duke. (250 word limit)
EAST CAROLINA UNIVERSITy
1. East Carolina University prides itself on providing an outstanding academic experience for its students. What have you learned from your past educational experience that will prepare you to be a successful member of this community?
2. Provide any other information concerning your application of which the university should be aware.
WESTERN CAROLINA UNIVERSITY (HONORS COLLEGE ONLY)
An essay that describes (1) your academic interests and long-term academic goals, (2) your leadership and/or service experiences, and (3) your interests in service and/or leadership at the collegiate level as a member of the WCU Honors College.
There are three options, and only one essay required at approximately 500 words.
- Grit has been identified as a significant predictor of success. Describe a situation in your life that truly demonstrated a unique degree of grit. Why were you so motivated? What did you learn from the experience?
- "Nature vs Nurture" is one of the most debated arguments in history. Reflect on your identity and describe how concepts described in the "Nature vs. Nurture" debate have influenced who you are today?
- Social media provides immediate access to a wealth of news, ideas and opinions. Given all of the information you consume, tell us one particular issue you really care about and why? How do you see yourself as an agent for change?
The following two-part writing sample is an important component of your application.
Please submit your thoughtful response to the following questions (maximum combined length should be no longer than 500 words)
A. Describe the attributes of a Meredith education that make it a good fit for your future.
B. Provide a personal example that demonstrates your commitment to planning, pursuing, and reaching your goals in the face of challenge.
Wake Forest University
In Brief: Help us get to know you better by responding briefly to these questions. No need for research, just be creative and enjoy the process.
1a. List five books (title and author) you have read that piqued your curiosity. [You have to include the title, author, and whether or not it was required reading. - Stapleton]
1b. Discuss a work of fiction you read on your own, and tell us why it should have been required.
2. What have you done to challenge or change that which outrages you?
3. 58% of Wake Forest’s Class of 2015 received academic credit for faculty-directed research across academic disciplines. Describe a specific high school assignment that sparked an academic curiosity you hope to explore further in college
4. Increased globalization and enhanced digitization is bringing people from different backgrounds and parts of the world much closer. Please describe what you have learned as a result of meaningfully engaging with someone different from you.
5. Give us your top ten list.
6. Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Broadway musical Hamilton has become a cultural phenomenon. It weaves together history with rap and hip hop through the often overlooked story of Alexander Hamilton. Choose an unsung historical figure who deserves the “Hamilton” treatment.
7. Imagine it is May 2021, your ideal Wake Forest University commencement speaker is:
8. Title your autobiography.
Essay: On separate page, use the following essay to give the Admissions Committee insight into your character and intellect. In 2017, Transcending Boundaries will be a defining theme at Wake Forest. What boundaries have played a role in shaping the individual you are today? How will you engage the Wake Forest community to expand your view of the world?
Out-Of-State Colleges & Universities
Harvard University (because why not?)
Please write an essay (650 words or fewer) that demonstrates your ability to develop and communicate your thoughts. Some ideas include: a person you admire; a life changing experience; or your viewpoint on a particular current event. Please attach your response to the end of your application.
Optional essays for possible inclusion: "You may wish to include an additional essay if you feel that the college application forms do not provide sufficient opportunity to convey important information about yourself or your accomplishments. You may write on a topic of your choice, or you may choose from one of the following topics."
- Unusual Circumstances In Your Life
- Travel Or Living Experiences In Other Countries
- What You Would Want Your Future College Roommate To Know About You
- An Intellectual Experience (Course, Project, Book, Discussion, Paper, Poetry, Or Research Topic In Engineering, Mathematics, Science Or Other Modes Of Inquiry) That Has Meant The Most To You
- How You Hope To Use Your College Education
- A List Of Books You Have Read During The Past Twelve Months
- The Harvard College Honor Code Declares That We ‘Hold Honesty As The Foundation Of Our Community.’ As You Consider Entering This Community That Is Committed To Honesty, Please Reflect On A Time When You Or Someone You Observed Had To Make A Choice About Whether To Act With Integrity And Honesty.
- The Mission Of Harvard College Is To Educate Our Students To Be Citizens And Citizen-Leaders For Society. What Would You Do To Contribute To The Lives Of Your Classmates In Advancing This Mission?
- You May Write On A Topic Of Your Choice.
The University of South Carolina
Tell us something that you have not already told us in this application that will help us to better understand your potential for academic success as a college student.
Statement limit is 2000 characters, which is approximately 250 words.
Your undergraduate experience is often said to be the most formative of your life. Why is Furman the right community for you to become the truest version of yourself? (Word Count of 350 or fewer words.)
University of Virginia
- What work of art, music, science, mathematics, or literature has surprised, unsettled, or challenged you, and in what way? (Word Count: 250 words)
- Student self-governance, which encourages student investment and initiative, is a hallmark of the U.Va. culture. In her fourth year at U.Va., Laura Nelson was inspired to create Flash Seminars, one-time classes which facilitate high-energy discussion about thought-provoking topics outside of traditional coursework. If you created a Flash Seminar, what idea would you explore and why? (Word Count: 250 words)
The University of Richmond
Please select one of the following prompts to address (650 words or less). [I suspect one of the two choices is a trap, but I'm not sure which. - Stapleton]
- Prompt 1 Sometimes asking the right question makes all the difference. If you were a college admission counselor, what essay question would you ask? Please craft and answer your own essay prompt – in your response, reflect on what your chosen question reveals about you.
- Prompt 2 Tell us about Spiders.
The University of Florida
1. Tell a story from your life, describing an experience that either demonstrates your character or eloped to shape it.
2. Describe a time when you made a meaningful contribution to others in which the greater good was your focus. Discuss the challenges and rewards of making your contribution.
3. Has there been a time when you've had a long-cherished or accepted belief challenged? How did you respond? How did the challenge affect your beliefs?
4. What is the hardest part of being a teenager now? What's the best part? What advice would you give a younger sibling or friend? (Assuming they would listen to you)?
5. Submit an essay on a topic of your choice.
Core values define the norms and belief system that are utilized to implement University's vision. Our core values are excellence, leadership, truth and service. Please describe how you can contribute to the vision and legacy of Howard University through our core values. (250 - 500 words)
Georgia-George Mason University
Why do YOU want to go to college? We know it is an excellent path to a career, but we want to hear more specifically about what you are hoping to gain from your time in college. Tell us about yourself and your experiences that have led to this decision. (250 words)
Johns Hopkins University
Johns Hopkins University was founded in 1876 on a spirit of exploration and discovery. As a result, students can pursue a multi-dimensional undergraduate experience both in and outside of the classroom. Given the opportunities at Hopkins, please discuss your current interests—academic or extracurricular pursuits, personal passions, summer experiences, etc.—and how you will build upon them here.
The Pratt Institute
Describe when and how you became interested in art, design, writing, architecture, or the particular major to which you are applying. Describe how this interest has manifested itself in your daily life. The essay must should be 250–500 words.
College of William and Mary
Beyond your impressive academic credentials and extracurricular accomplishments, what else makes you unique and colorful? We know nobody fits neatly into 500 words or less, but you can provide us with some suggestion of the type of person you are. Anything goes! Inspire us, impress us, or just make us laugh. Think of this optional opportunity as show and tell by proxy and with an attitude. (Suggested Word Count: 500 words)
New York University
NYU would like to know more about your interest in NYU. We are particularly interested in knowing what motivated you to apply to NYU and more specifically, why you have applied or expressed interest in a particular campus, school, college, program, and/or area of study? If you have applied to more than one, please tell us why you are interested in each of the campuses, schools, colleges, or programs to which you have applied. You may be focused or undecided, or simply open to the options within NYU's global network; regardless, we want to understand - Why NYU?