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.
Recount a time when you faced a challenge, setback, or failure.
How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience?
The best essays focus on self-analysis, rather than spending a disproportionate amount of time merely describing a place or event.
Analysis, not description, will reveal the critical thinking skills that are the hallmark of a promising college student.At the same time, you'll impress the college admissions folks greatly if you can show your ability to learn from your failures and mistakes.Be sure to devote significant space to the second half of the question—how did you learn and grow from the experience?According to the folks at the Common Application, in the 2018-19 admissions cycle, Option #7 (topic of your choice) was the most popular and was used by 24.1% of applicants.Second most popular was Option #5 (discuss an accomplishment) with 23.7% of applicants.In third place was Option #2 on a setback or failure. Always keep in mind why colleges are asking for an essay: they want to get to know you better.Nearly all selective colleges and universities (as well as many that aren't overly selective) have holistic admissions, and they consider many factors in addition to numerical measures such as grades and standardized test scores.Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. The prompt gives you a lot of latitude for answering the question since you can write a story about your "background, identity, interest, or talent." Your "background" can be a broad environmental factor that contributed to your development such as growing up in a military family, living in an interesting place, or dealing with an unusual family situation.If this sounds like you, then please share your story. You could write about an event or series of events that had a profound impact on your identity.This prompt may seem to go against everything that you've learned on your path to college.It's far more comfortable in an application to celebrate successes and accomplishments than it is to discuss setbacks and failure.