It is absolutely critical that you nail the essay because the majority of your schools will see this essay.
ou’ll want to paint a portrait of yourself that is relatively accessible and has widespread appeal to many colleges (for example, if you are only applying to engineering programs at some of your schools, don’t focus your Common App on STEM at the expense of your other applications. You have several avenues through which you can tell colleges what matters to you, including but not limited to highlighting a central theme of your application that is tied to one or several of your extracurricular activities, focusing on a specific personality trait or strength, or highlighting a particular challenge that you had to overcome.
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.
You want to be careful to balance the severity of the failure with its recentness; in general, choose a failure from before high school so that it doesn’t color the admissions counselor’s view of your high school career.
Also, be sure that any failure you choose is within reason (so in general, avoid talking about any felonies you’ve left behind you). This prompt is a difficult one to answer because most high school students haven’t participated in the types of iconoclastic protests against societal ills that lend themselves to an excellent response.Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it.If this sounds like you, then please share your story.Another (perhaps more powerful) tactic with this essay is to write about a more foundational failure and then assess its impact on your development thereafter.This allows you to tackle more meaty questions about ethics (perhaps you cheated on a test and felt horrible about it), morality (maybe you stole something, your parents berated you for it, and now you hate theft to such a degree that if you find money on the street, you turn it in), or the human condition (perhaps you made an insensitive comment or were close-minded in a particular instance).However, a more tenable alternative here is to discuss a time that you went against social convention, whether it was becoming friends with someone who seemed like a social outcast and was ignored by most people but eventually became one of your best friends, by going against the popular opinion of your peers, or proudly showing off a geeky passion of yours.And if you ever participated in a situation in concert with adults and found some success (i.e., by blogging, starting a tutoring organization, or participating in political campaigns), you could discuss your experiences as a young person without a college degree in professional and adult circles.This prompt lends itself to consideration of what facets of your personality allow you to overcome adversity, as well as display your self-awareness.It’s okay to choose a relatively mundane “failure” such as failing to win an award at a Model United Nations conference despite putting in hours of research into the topics of your committee (and learning that you should focus on how you project yourself and interacting more cordially, even when debating and competing against your peers).The showcasing of your unique thought processes is just as, if not more, critical than the actual problem itself.Accordingly, stream-of-consciousness can be used to great effect here.