College Essay Prompts

The college admissions process can be stressful. In addition to worrying about your ACT or SAT scores, maintaining a high GPA, and seeking out letters of recommendation, you also have to worry about writing a college admissions essay.

It can be even more stressful when you don’t know what college essay prompts to expect from the colleges and universities that you plan on applying to.

Top 7 Most Common College Essay Prompts

Below I’ll provide you with 7 common college essay prompts. You should expect to see at least one or more of these college essay prompts during the college application process.

1. Tell us about your life story.

If this exact question is one of your college essay prompts or an essay question similar to this one appears on one of your college applications, the admissions committee is expecting you to tell them what’s special, unique, and/or distinctive about your life. They are basically just trying to get to know you a little better, so take this time to give them some insight into your life and how you became the person you are today.

2. What aspects of your life set you apart from the other applicants?

As I’ve stated many times before, college admissions committee members read tons of college essays every single day…so you must find a way to set yourself apart from the crowd. If you receive college essay prompts similar to this one, now is your time to discuss all of those high school accomplishments that you’re proud of.

3. Why are you applying to this particular program? When did you become interested in this field of study?

If you are applying to a specific college program at a large university (i.e. engineering, nursing, business, etc.), then you should know why you chose this particular field of study. Universities want to admit students who have a genuine interest in the program that the applicant has expressed interest in. They are looking for you to thoroughly explain your interests and goals if this is one of your college essay prompts.

4. What are your career goals?

This is typically a follow-up question to #3. As I mentioned above, if you are applying to the college of nursing or the college of business, then you should know why you chose those particular programs and you should have some idea about your future career goals. If you haven’t thought about your career goals yet, now is a great time to start…just in case you run into one of these college essay prompts during the application process.

5. Is there anything in your academic record that needs further clarification? For example, an increase or decrease in GPA or mediocre standardized test scores.

For all my students who write comments on my post: how to get into college with a low GPA…these types of college essay prompts are for you. This is where you tell the admissions committee about any medical conditions, family illnesses, or other life challenges that may have prevented you from performing at your best in the classroom.

6. Have you overcome any unusual obstacles or hardships in your life?

This is your time to show the admissions committee that you have drive and determination! If you overcame an unusual hardship or obstacle and you’re still filling out college applications, then consider that an accomplishment in itself. Use college essay prompts like these to prove to the admissions committee that you have the will to overcome any obstacle, no matter how tough it might be.

7. What leadership skills do you possess?

As I have said many times before, colleges like to admit students who exhibit leadership skills. These are the students who they believe will add value and actively participate on campus. If you come across college essay prompts like this on your college application, take some time to reflect on those leadership positions that you held in high school and make a list of what leadership skills you brought to that role. This should help you successfully answer this question.

I hope these college essay prompts were useful. Good luck!

The following two tabs change content below.


Lauren Anderson is a certified school counselor who's passionate about helping students all over the world successfully transition from high school to college! After spending 6 years as a business professional, she obtained her Master’s degree in School Counseling and now spends her spare time helping students.

Latest posts by TheCollegeHelper (see all)