Jul 30, 2023

How to Write Common App Prompt #5: Showing Personal Growth

Your college admissions essay is a way to open a conversation with your admissions officers. In 650 words, you have the opportunity to share details about yourself as if you were fellow passengers on a long plane ride. A strong personal statement can quickly win over admissions officers because they find you likable, thoughtful, intelligent, and self-aware.

Among all the Common App Essay Prompts this year, the best one to highlight these qualities is Prompt #5, which focuses on personal growth and maturity. Through sharing a poignant moment in your life, you can show them how critically you assess your goals and character. Explain what you value and how you aim to develop yourself so that colleges and universities can gain a good sense of whether you have what it takes to thrive as an independent person in the challenging diverse environment they have to offer.

Common App Essay Prompt #5

PROMPT #5: Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others.

In Common App Essay Prompt #5, the words “accomplishment” and “event” are somewhat open to interpretation. Therefore, an essay inspired by this question could address anything from a minor event to a major occurrence in your life. An event accomplishment might include birthdays or weddings, or perhaps big achievements like winning a competition or earning an esteemed award. 

Informal examples could include meeting a person in your life who ended up being special; taking a fateful bus or train ride; or participating in a meal or social event that opened up your mind to other realities you hadn’t considered. Events that are smaller or less formal can actually lead to more surprising and memorable essays, but these must also be written with originality and add a personal or unique twist. The art of storytelling is important in this essay prompt.

Some other things to consider:

  • How do periods of transition impact you in general? Are there actions or events that have inspired a change of heart or thought in your mind?
  • Have you ever had a “eureka” moment that has fundamentally shifted how you view the world in some way?
  • Did you ever learn a fact or hear a viewpoint that made you feel more capable or confident in voicing your own opinion and position?

Some example topics for this prompt:

  • Did your expansion of a lemonade stand into a successful small business motivate you into raising funds for a friend or relative’s illness or encourage you to pay off a debt?
  • Do you love sports playback video that forces you to examine your mistakes and take criticism that leads to self-improvement?
  • How did serving soup each week at a homeless shelter for half a year help ground your views of social opportunity and giving? How did this impact how you connect with and serve other people?

Keep in the front of your mind the central elements of growth, understanding, and transformation. The realization or activity you write about should be something that helped you mature in your understanding of the world and other people.

And don’t forget to receive professional proofreading services, including essay editing services for your Common App essay, before submitting it to your target schools.

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