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Writing Your Common Application Essay: How to Answer Prompt #6

Thinking about tackling one of the Common Application essay prompts? Go for it!

Admissions committees are keeping an eye out for college prospects who aren’t afraid to try one of the application’s newest essay topics. While some options are new, but the fundamentals are the same. Grab the committee’s attention, write well and finish strong. These prompts have multiple directions and parts. Review each topic closely and reflect on the intention of each question.

In this installment of our series on Writing the New Common Application Essay, we’ll look at prompt #6 (if you’re not a fan of this prompt, check out our thoughts on prompt #1, prompt #2, prompt #3, prompt #4, prompt #5, and prompt #7):


Describe a topic, idea, or concept you find so engaging that it makes you lose all track of time. Why does it captivate you? What or who do you turn to when you want to learn more?

We are delighted that the Common Application presents a question that appeals to applicants at any stage in their decision-making process. Often college prospects feel pressure to decide on a potential major or pre-professional track. Prompt #6 asks applicants to write in the now and describe a topic of choice that most interests them. What better way to show your most unique qualities to the committee than to write about your truest passions?

This summer we have all enjoyed the recent resurgence of superhero movies in theaters. The timing can’t be any more perfect—superheroes and essay writers have one unique thing in common…vehemence. Vehemence is a fearless pursuit of your passions. It’s intense and drives you to action.

Let the superhero qualities below guide you toward fulfilling the common app’s prompt #6 mission.

Most superheroes are known for their extraordinary strength. This gives them an edge they can use for the good. What are you good at? We tend to like the things that we do well and it’s your time to let the committee know what makes you the strongest candidate for a spot in their incoming class. While it might be easy to list out your talents, the prompt wants to know what captivates you. For inspiration, take a look at your schedule, activities and how you spend most of your time both inside and outside the classroom. The way to become stronger at anything is to practice it a lot, and whether it’s frisbee team, writing poetry or caring for a loved-one, don’t shy away from writing how these experiences make you feel and view the world. These perspectives can help you discover the ideas and concepts that are behind what you do each day.

Start thinking about what or who pushes you forward in life. What motivates you? Write down everything from words like peace and success, to names of people who encourage and inspire you. This will help you answer the second portion of the prompt, where you define “who or what you turn to when you want to learn more.” Once you discover what motivates you, it will be easy to figure out how those things (or people) are part of what makes you tick.

Don’t forget to also think about what is motivating you to apply to your select college. Many applicants lose sight of the finish line, which is to ultimately land at the college that is right for them. Admissions committees relish essays that can clearly and vividly communicate what has driven a student to apply to their institution.

Some responsibilities are given to us by others. Think about responsibilities you have taken on by yourself. Have you ever felt an innate sense of ownership over the outcome of a certain cause or activity? After reviewing your voluntarily responsibilities, describe them and draw connections between each instance. For example, during a Veritas Prep college-essay brainstorming session, an applicant realized that her love for animals (and work at the local animal shelter) revealed her passion for helping those in need. Once you take an inventory of your self-driven responsibilities, you’ll be a step closer to writing about how these duties reflect your innermost values.

Prompt #6 does something different than many of the other essay prompt options—it challenges you to write about someone or something that furthers your engagement with a certain topic, idea or concept. While this might seem abstract, the admissions committee wants to know how you think, pursue knowledge and interact with others to learn more. Superheroes are more powerful when they have a force behind them. There’s no better way to show the committee that you are committed to knowledge than to provide rich examples of the actions you take to explore your values, beliefs and motivations. Some turn to scholarly research, faith communities or fellow enthusiasts. Examine your greatest quests for knowledge and describe how this helped build and grow your understanding of these strengths, motivations and responsibilities.

A top institution’s alumni interviewer once asked, “If you could be a superhero, which one would you be?” No matter which hero or super power you favor, each character has their own personality and style that has captured hearts for generations. Write about a hobby you’ll never get tired of, a book you can’t put down or what you can’t imagine life without. Let the admissions committee into this world of joy and excitement and your essay will shine.

The best application essays are the stories that fly off the page and leave lasting impressions on the committee. The consultants at Veritas Prep have the skills and knowledge to prepare you for writing your best application essay…

Rather than focusing on the competition, the best writers compete with themselves. Make it a point to improve and out-write yourself each day. The power is all yours.