Tackling the Common App – Prompt # 5

Ivy & Quill - Tackling the Common App - Prompt # 5

Common App Prompt #5: It is rare that one accomplishment, event, or realization will instantaneously transform you, so take some time to reflect on your past experiences and think of a moment that could be seen as a turning point in your life. If this is tricky to do, try backtracking: find a personality-trait or skill that you’re proud of, and then try to identify its origins.

If you’re writing about an accomplishment, be sure not to come off as a braggart—rather than boast about the accomplishment, mention it humbly while focusing more on an analysis of your personal growth. There are so many types of accomplishments you can write about here. Did you reach a personal goal, whether academic, musical, or sports-related? To achieve this goal, did you step out of your comfort zone? Did you do something alone for the first time, such as travel to a new country or take care of your baby sister for a whole day? Did you start your own organization or charity? Did you grow from a moment of failure (see Option 2) and then finally achieve success? Maybe you’re very proud of your ability to remain laser-like focused on the tasks you’re completing and your ability to give everything you do 100% of your efforts. What was the root of this behavior? Were you always like this, or did practicing every day for a competition provide you with this self-discipline?

If you’re writing about an event, be sure to describe the background and setting of the event, as well as your role in it. Maybe you’re very proud of an event that you organized or attended, the preparation for or content of which transformed you. Did organizing junior prom enlighten you as to your administrative and organizational capabilities? Did leading the lacrosse team to victory against your archrivals in the championships instill in you a desire to continue inspiring and guiding others?

If you’re writing about a realization, think about something you’re glad you know (about yourself, about others, or about the world) and what sparked such a realization. Did you have an epiphany, or sudden realization, that led to a change in your behavior or thoughts? What led to this realization? Did this realization change your perspective on an important issue or clarify an element of how the world works? Did it teach you a truth about yourself or others? Not all realizations happen in a moment, like Newton’s fallen apple leading to the theory of gravity. More often than not, realizations happen gradually, as one lives and learns. Maybe studying for the SATs led you to realize that short-term pain can lead to long-term pleasure, or maybe you learned that the Sunk Cost theory of economics can apply to any area of your life, even your love life! No matter what you choose to write about, make sure that the realization has significantly changed you for the better and/or taught you something meaningful.