Sample College Application Essay Questions
A good place to start — before you have your actual applications — is to review some sample essay prompts/questions.
College essay topics generally fall into one of three categories, and often you’ll have the option of which to write about.
1. Who are you?
Never quite worded in that way, but these questions are seeking to find something about you that is not reflected in your academic record — some sort of significant life event that made a major impact on who you are. These are probably the most common type of question asked of applicants.
- Relate a significant experience or achievement that has special meaning to you.
- Discuss a person who has had a significant influence on you, and describe that influence.
- Discuss some issue of personal, local, or national concern — and its importance to you.
- What is the most significant event in your family history that has made you the person you are today?
- Please elaborate on one of your activities (extracurricular, personal, summer, or work experience) and why you choose to engage in it.
- Using a favorite quotation as a jumping off point, tell us about an event or experience that helped you define one of your values.
- What is your most meaningful activity outside the classroom and why?
2. Why are you applying?
Also never quite worded like that, but the idea behind the question is to see how much the applicant has pictured him- or herself at the school. It’s also designed to see how committed you are to the school — and how well you really understand the culture and climate of the school.
- Who or what influenced you to apply to Syracuse University?
- “Rollins College educates students for global citizenship and responsible leadership, empowering graduates to pursue meaningful lives and productive careers.” What does this sentence from the Rollins mission statement mean to you in light of your life goals?
- Why is New York University a good college choice for you?
- Write a brief statement explaining your decision to apply to Wake Forest and what your academic and personal goals would be as a student.
3. What’s your opinion?
Sometimes colleges place questions related to current events or major societal occurrences and ask you to write about them. With these questions, the school’s are looking for your awareness, knowledge, creativity, and ability to put forth an argument. (Just make sure you understand the topic if you choose to respond to one of these types of questions!)
- Do you believe in global warming — and what impact, if any, do you think it will have on you?
- Your generation has been labeled as the “entitlement generation.” What does that label mean to you — and do you feel it’s accurate of your peers?
- What is the biggest cultural change you have witnessed in your lifetime?
- Consider the books, essays, poems, or journal articles you have read over the last year or two. Please discuss the way in which one of them has changed your understanding of the world, other people, or yourself.
Need help with any of the terms described on this page? If so, find the answers in our High School College-Bound and College Planning Glossary.
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