common app eassay

Prompt: Reflect on a time when you questioned a belief or idea. What prompted your thinking? What was the outcome?

What is the prompt asking?

You can answer this prompt in two ways. The first way is to talk about a time when you questioned a person or a group on idea of theirs. The second way is to talk about a time you question a long-existing belief in your mind.

Since questions do not arise without a reason, you need to explain what triggered you to question the belief in either of the cases above. You also need to be clear on what change did the question bring in you, or the other person or group. You may get tempted to write on how someone gave you a new piece of information which changed your mind, but that is a bad idea. Your story should be explaining your actions and your feelings about those actions.   

What do the colleges want to know through this prompt?

This prompt is designed to know what beliefs, values, and ideas you have and how conscious you are about them. Whether you’ve reconsidered your own beliefs or asked others to reconsider theirs, it shows that you are genuinely conscious about what your belief is and why you have the belief.

Empathy is an important character colleges look for in their students. This prompt checks empathy since it wants you to tell how open minded, fair, and kind you are towards opinions and beliefs that are different from yours. They also want to know how receptive you are of reasons: it is good to change your opinions when reasons support them. In other words, the colleges want to know about your intellectual flexibility. If you answer the prompt with a situation of challenging other’s beliefs, colleges will looks for your approach towards others: how humble you were to them.

What kind of topics can be included?

Everybody might not have a story fitting in this prompt. If there’s a belief or idea that’s particularly important to you which you have strengthened through your critical thinking, this might be a good question for you to deal with. Political, social, economic, or personal beliefs can be the contents of this prompt. However, you need to be careful on whether they really fit there or not.  

What should you avoid?

The main problem with this prompt is that the answers can be very abstract. Judge your topic well before including it in the prompt. It’s not very interesting to read about how you used to believe apples are always red but then you changed your mind when you understood that raw apples are green in color. It means that you should not write on very light instances of realization that you have almost daily in your life. It is better to write on topics that have instances of clear conflict alongside agreement or persuasion.

Do not write on a highly divisible issue unless you are clear about it and have a compelling story to tell.  Also do not write on sensitive topics which can attack someone’s culture or custom because people feel very strongly about them and often have a hard time accepting the opposite viewpoint. You admissions officer may completely disagree with you in such things. You might also be unknowingly harming the sentiments of the admissions officer. In such cases, the only thing to ruin is your impression in the officer’s mind. Also keep in mind that most people who work at colleges are liberal, so if you have a conservative viewpoint you’ll need to tread more carefully. Don’t assume that the reader has same views and beliefs as yours.

You also want to avoid coming off as petty or inflexible, especially if you’re writing about a controversial topic. If you are really answering this prompt, do not present yourself as a person firm in his beliefs or attacking on others


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