The essay: It’s one of the most important parts of your college application, and it can be the hardest. But it doesn’t have to be. Take a look at some of the most commonly asked essay questions and use them to prepare for your applications. Brainstorm ideas, do some research or create your own “stock” of application essays from the commonly used questions below.
Current Events and Social Issues
To test your skills at problem-solving and check how up-to-date you are on current issues, many applications include questions about problems and issues facing society.
- What do you consider to be the single most important societal problem? Why?
- Pick a controversial problem on college campuses and suggest a solution.
- What do you see as the greatest threat to the environment today?
Colleges are looking for students who have achieved in some area of their lives. So you shouldn’t be surprised to find essay topics that ask you to brag a little.
- Describe how you have demonstrated leadership ability both in and out of school.
- Discuss a special attribute or accomplishment that sets you apart.
- Describe your most meaningful achievements and how they relate to your future goals.
Background and Influences
Who you are is closely tied to where you’ve been and who you’ve known. To learn more about you, some admissions committees will ask you to write about your background and major influences.
- Pick an experience from your own life and explain how it has influenced your development.
- Who in your life has been your biggest influence and why?
- How has your family background affected the way you see the world?
- How has your education contributed to who you are today?
Future Plans and Goals
Colleges look for applicants with vision and motivation, so they might ask about your goals and aspirations.
- Briefly describe your long- and short-term goals.
- Where do you see yourself 10 years from now?
- Why do you want to get a college education?
Some essay questions don’t seem directly related to your education or life experience, but committees use them to test your creativity and get a better sense of your personality.
- Choose a person or persons you admire and explain why.
- Choose a book or books and that have affected you deeply and explain why.
While you can’t predict every essay question, knowing some of the most common ones can give you a leg up on applications.
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The directions below are representative of what students will encounter on test day.
The essay gives you an opportunity to show how effectively you can read and comprehend a passage and write an essay analyzing the passage. In your essay, you should demonstrate that you have read the passage carefully, present a clear and logical analysis, and use language precisely.
Your essay must be written on the lines provided in your answer booklet; except for the planning page of the answer booklet, you will receive no other paper on which to write. You will have enough space if you write on every line, avoid wide margins, and keep your handwriting to a reasonable size. Remember that people who are not familiar with your handwriting will read what you write. Try to write or print so that what you are writing is legible to those readers.
You have 50 minutes to read the passage and write an essay in response to the prompt provided inside this booklet.
- Do not write your essay in this booklet. Only what you write on the lined pages of your answer booklet will be evaluated.
- An off-topic essay will not be evaluated.
The student responses provided in the following set illustrate common score combinations earned on the redesigned SAT. Each response has received a separate score for each of the three domains assessed: Reading, Analysis, and Writing. The scores are presented in order by domain directly preceding each sample essay. Scores for the samples provided below were assigned on a 1-4 scale according to the redesigned SAT Essay Scoring Rubric. It is important to note that although these are representative samples of student ability at each score point, the set itself does not exhaustively illustrate the range of skills in Reading, Analysis, and Writing associated with each score point.
Although all of the sample essays were handwritten by students, they are shown typed here for ease of reading. The essays have been typed exactly as each student wrote his or her essay, without corrections to spelling, punctuation, or paragraph breaks.
Practice using sample essay 1.
Practice using sample essay 2.
Learn more about how the essay is scored.