Tackling the Common App – Prompt #3

Ivy & Quill - Tackling the Common App - Prompt #3

Common App Prompt #3: Reflect on a time when you challenged a belief or idea. What prompted you to act? Would you make the same decision again?

This prompt is very broad, as there are a plethora beliefs or ideas to be questioned. Was the idea you questioned your own, your family’s, or your school’s? Or was it even broader than that, such as a socially accepted or cultural norm? Was this idea something new to you, that you took the initiative to better understand? Whatever belief or idea you choose to discuss, make sure it was significant to you.

Examples of beliefs or ideas that could be questioned include: challenging your school administration over a policy you don’t agree with such as mandatory “volunteer work” for National Honor Society students or even something as seemingly trivial as a dress code; challenging the faith you grew up indoctrinated with; challenging the status quo regarding racism, women’s rights, and societal gender roles/expectations (these are popular ones).

The first two parts of the prompt ask you to address why you challenged the belief in the first place. What motivated you to act? You’re being asked to show a facet of yourself that is highly personal, as it takes courage to stand up for something you believe in, especially when doing so means defying the majority. When describing your circumstance, it is your job to explain why you have taken this position or developed this point of view.

The last question asks about the outcome of your decision. Here is your chance to be not only honest with the admissions officer, but also with yourself. Think of this last question as a way that either lets you free your conscience or that serves as a wonderful learning moment that you’ve experienced in your life. Was your decision or action worth the consequences? Is it something you still stand by? If not, that’s okay—college is all about questioning beliefs and testing out ideas. The bottom line is that you’re being open, sincere, and staying true to who you are as a person, in good times and in bad.