COMMON APPLICATION PROMPT 6: 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?

The major pitfall in Common Application Prompt 6 is the tendency to write a whole paper on a topic, idea or concept that you find engaging, resulting in us learning perhaps more about a topic, idea or concept, but essentially nothing about you. Just because you find it interesting does not tell us enough about who you are and how you work.

So I don’t have to keep repeating “topic, idea or concept,” let’s say you want to write about the migration path of polar bears. (Incidentally, for a list of interesting world topics, click here.)

Once again, the importance here is to rely on story (even though Prompt 6 allows you to demonstrate your intellectual curiosity). As such, it’s important that you make a concerted effort to describe what specific circumstances birthed your interest. Where were you? How old were you? Who was talking about polar bears? What about this subject appealed to what part of you?

The second part is to talk about what you did to pursue your interest. If all you did was research the heck out of the migration patterns of polar bears on the Internet, for example, you need a different topic. You need to showcase your drive here. Did you contact experts? Hit some dead ends? Pursue your interest anyway? Were you finally able to make contact with an expert in Churchill, Manitoba, who, though intimidating, linked you up with a live feed of polar bears? How did seeing that affect you? 

After you’ve established your opening story, showing what you did to pursue your interest is the meat of what your personal statement should consist of.

Finally in Prompt 6, address what this interest has taught you about yourself. And, because you’re not solely concerned with yourself, write about what you learned applies to the world at large.

Head back here to read tips for other Common Application prompts.