common app eassay

Prompt: Describe a problem you’ve solved or a problem you’d like to solve. It can be an intellectual challenge, a research query, an ethical dilemma—anything that is of personal importance, no matter the scale. Explain its significance to you and what steps you took or could be taken to identify a solution.

What is the prompt asking?

The prompt has two parts: how have you or would you solve a problem and what is the significance of that problem to you? You generally face a lot of problems in your life. You solve many, but sometimes you may attach a lot of importance to a problem and solution for it. The prompt wants you to talk about one of such problems from your past or the problems that are currently prevailing. However, you need to be strong on the point why you chose to explain the problem in the prompt. 

What do the colleges want to know through the prompt?

The prompt helps the admissions officers know about what kind of things are in your priority. The matters of your priority can be generalized from the problem you mention. Another thing about you that the colleges want to check is how you perceive problems, how you look for solutions, that is, in short, how you learn. Explanation of simple life events can also help you in this prompt. Even if you pick something seemingly minor to talk about, like fixing a tap on your own, explaining why you wanted to do it yourself and how you did so will show admissions officers a lot about what you value and how you think.

Colleges will look for your maturity and perseverance needed to face challenges of colleges in this prompt. Admissions officers want to make sure that you can tackle both the academic and personal problems in four years that you will spend in the college. 

What kind of topics can be included?

Any problem regardless of scale which you feel is important to you can be the content for this prompt.

It is best for you to be specific about the problem. You can write about something funny, like how you figured out how to be clearer on your jokes, or something more serious, like how you resolved a conflict among your friends.

It is a more challenging to write about a problem than about a problem that you have solved. This is because you will get more abstract rather than specific and can also be misled while writing about a problem you want to solve. However, it is not impossible to write about problems you want to solve. You certainly can do it. Have a convincing and concrete explanation for why the problem’s solution is important to you and how you concluded the solution you are proposing.

What should you avoid?

Avoid problems that are above your current level. For example, “How I plan to make all countries developed” is probably not going work. As I mentioned above, you want to stick to concrete ideas and solutions that clearly relate to your own experiences.

Do not just write down your ideas. Listing problems without the focus on solutions can make you nothing more than a complainer. Avoid pessimism in your essay.  


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