Tackling the Common App Essay Prompts: Part 3

Welcome again to our 7-part blog series. Make sure to check out our previous blog on this link (**insert link**) where we have discussed the first and second essay prompts. We will be unpacking the third prompt in this blog.

Prompt :- Reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea. What prompted your thinking? What was the outcome?

The third prompt is possibly one of the most challenging one as it asks you to speak about your opinions, beliefs and ideology. The temptation while exploring your belief could be to make value-judgments. If you’re not careful, there is also a high possibility of the essay getting centered around controversial political debates.

These topics that are trending in current events and that may provoke a strong response in the reader are best avoided. However, if the belief or idea you’ve challenged is related to important social and political issues, you can explore these, as a long as the story that you tell is unique and centred around your own experiences. The aim of this essay is not to judge your views as an individual, rather the focus is to demonstrate your critical thinking skills, and how you, as an individual, perceive the world around you critically, which has resulted in learning outcomes for you.

Your story should display your ability to think through complex grey areas. An essay that displays your willingness to consider other perspectives while thinking about your beliefs would definitely make you stand out. A story that only shows your own perspective and does not show your willingness to consider conflicting opinions should be avoided, as it will only hamper your application.

Your story should be divided into three parts. The first part should focus on building the foundation, i.e., it should clearly introduce the larger idea or belief that you challenged. The second part should focus on the reasons or incidents that led you to question those beliefs. The final part should be dedicated to the outcome and the shift in your thinking. The final part of the essay will be the most important, as it will display your critical thinking abilities to the admissions committee.

Some of the question that you can consider as you begin your process of brainstorming are:-

What ethical and moral values are important to you that you are willing to stand up for?

What is one of your beliefs that you think is unpopular or that most other people may not agree with?

When was a strong belief that you held about something challenged?

These open-ended questions will help you think about a specific story relevant to the prompt, and that led to life-long learning outcomes for you.

For instance, you could write about how your experience volunteering with a political party that you identified with changed the way you viewed their policies, or the party itself. How did that lead you to think about the complexity between ideology and on-ground reality? What opposing views did you consider while thinking critically about partisan politics? You’ll notice that in this essay, you are not choosing a particular policy and vehemently arguing for it. Instead, you are stepping back and critically reflecting on how your experiences have shaped and changed your beliefs and values over time.

Tackling the Common App Essay Prompts: Part 3

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