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12/22/2020 at 06:44PM

Are the essay prompts the same each year?

So I was planning on writing a few college essays earlier on (11th grade) but I’m not sure if the college essays are the same or if they will change each year. Also, when do people usually write college essays? Thanks.

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2 answers

12/22/2020 at 07:16PM

Not particularly, No. However, the criteria seems to always remain the same: express the best YOU that you can through a personal statement. The goal of these prompts is to derive your personality through your writing so that the admissions offices understand “who” they are getting.

While the criteria remains very much the same, the prompts are different from time to time. Though, this year the prompts DID remain the same from last admissions cycle (so I’d suspect that they may change next year). But that doesn’t necessarily mean that these current prompts have any less value in terms of preparation, instead it means you will have to find a new “story” as the vessel to describe yourself personally under a brand of light.

For the common app in general, I suggest getting used to prompt #5, which is the KEY prompt in which your response to any college personal statement should follow: Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others.” This is a very universal prompt that attempts to derive a sense of GROWTH and PERSONALITY from the writer. As long as these two elements are etched within your “story”, then your personal essay writing should be fine—if you intend to practice.

For college supplement essays—the writing that is directed to individual colleges—while they may also change from time to time, their central goal is also very much the same. Whether it be a “why this college?” or a “community” or a “additional information” -type essay, the criteria seems to be the same from college to college and year to year. I strongly advise that you get to know the college fully when writing the “why this college?” essay. Some helpful sources are (, ( and this very site.

Finally, you had asked: “when do people usually write college essays?” The answer: whenever they feel it’s the right time to get it done “on time.” The deadline for college applications will largely mandate this decision and your writing process. Keep in mind that most EA and ED deadlines happen to be about Nov. 1 and most RD deadlines happen occur in January (1-15 most likely). But when earliest do the most dedicated students begin? Many competitive applicants can practice writing throughout their entire Junior year and will practice responding to their prompts in early spring and throughout the summer. The common app and your desired college will post their admissions prompts sometime during the year of applications (this will vary from time to time and college to college). Be sure to search the web for your college’s post on this, it’ll help you stay ahead of the game.

Hope this helped!! Good luck!

Accepted Answer
@OFHanson12/22/2020 at 07:21PM

Note: for many, the largest struggle throughout your writing will be the ability to write personally. You’ll find it hard to write about yourself in an almost “bragging” type of way (but not too much, don’t come across a “cocky”). Essentially, the fault of most essays is the ability to establish a consistent writing style, inputting too much detail about many events rather than one, or failing to communicate a positive TONE. The tone is perhaps the most critical component of your writing style

[🎤 AUTHOR]@cybertrex12/22/2020 at 07:58PM

@OFHanson thanks for the detailed answer. I was also wondering when most colleges release their essay prompts. Would it be during the summer? Sorry for the questions, I’m just kinda scared that i won’t finish all my essays in time.

@OFHanson12/22/2020 at 08:20PM [edited]

“You can expect all supplements to be released by September 1st, but most will come out in July and August. Once you have finalized your college list, you should check the application websites weekly to see if supplemental prompts have been published.” ( The common app will usually open at around August 1st; also, don’t stress, as long as you are “planned-out”, completing the essays will be easy!

[🎤 AUTHOR]@cybertrex12/22/2020 at 08:43PM

Thanks a lot!

12/22/2020 at 06:54PM

The prompts can change or not change. No one really knows. For me, I started all the way back in March of my 11th grade but I never really finished until this December in 12th grade because I made so many drafts that never worked and my creative writing was horrible. Start your writing early. I really regret procrastinating my supplements because now I am under pressure lol

@OFHanson12/22/2020 at 07:18PM

Lol, I’m a senior this year too and I feel the pressure 😂 I’ve completed most of my essays but the “pressure” of whether this will work or that will work is getting to me. It definitely takes a lot of planning to devise the “perfect” or near-perfect college essay that is both competitive and compelling as well as personal