Tips for Writing the 2022-2023 College App Essays

By Eric Eng

By Eric Eng

a male student sitting and smiling

Tips for Writing the 2022-2023 College App Essays

Whether writing comes easy to you or you struggle to string sentences together, the 2022-2023 college app essay prompts will ask you to think deeply and creatively about yourself and your goals for attending college. The essay prompts may change little from year to year or be completely different from previous years.

The goal is to pick the right 2022-2023 college app essay prompts and to produce a written piece that accurately and authentically reflects who you are as a student and learner, but also as a person and potential member of a school’s student body.

Students taking a SAT exam in a room with a long table.

Use our essay writing tips to write your college application essays and make it the strongest it can possibly be. Depending on which essay prompts you select, you’ll be able to showcase aspects of yourself that aren’t already clear in other materials in your application. The 2022-2023 college app essay prompts are simply an additional avenue to show schools why you belong at their school over other students.

Common Application Essay Prompts

Over 800 schools use the Common App, including all eight Ivy League schools. The prompts are carefully selected to give students different options to express themselves.

Each prompt asks you to share something different about yourself, so you’ll want to understand what the question is asking and what life experiences you have that will be a great story to tell. Here’s are the prompts for this year’s college application essays:

  1. Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.
  2. The lessons we take from obstacles we encounter can be fundamental to later success. Recount a time when you faced a challenge, setback, or failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience?
  3. Reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea. What prompted your thinking? What was the outcome?
  4. Reflect on something that someone has done for you that has made you happy or thankful in a surprising way. How has this gratitude affected or motivated you?
  5. Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others.
  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?
  7. Share an essay on any topic of your choice. It can be one you’ve already written, one that responds to a different prompt, or one of your own design.

Now that you’ve got a sense of each of the prompts, these essay writing tips will be helpful in getting started and completing your drafts.

Tip 1: Start early.

Writing your essay and getting it ready for submission will take time. Depending on your writing skills, it may take you anywhere from a few days to several weeks to draft, revise, and proofread. Check out each school’s deadlines for early action and regular decision.

a female student looking at the camera smiling

You’ll want to give yourself enough time to make sure you are meeting the deadlines. By the end of high school, you have a good idea of how long it takes you to write a certain amount of words. Give yourself enough time to write based on the length of time you know you’ll need.

 Tip 2: Read over the prompts and pick 2 to 3 favorites.

Before you begin writing, read over each essay prompt and make sure you understand what each prompt is asking. Does a story or experience immediately come to mind? That can be a good sign that you’ve found the prompt for you to write about.

Try to pick at least two or three prompts for which you can immediately think of experiences to share. If something comes to mind as you’re reading the prompt, even better! Having options to choose from will help you with drafting your college application essays.

Tip 3: Brainstorm multiple prompts.

Brainstorming is the very first step of the writing process. It will be hard to write anything if you haven’t done any thinking about the topics. For each prompt you selected as a favorite, spend 5 to 10 minutes free writing or even drawing everything you can think of about that topic.

There are other ways to brainstorm, but this is the simplest and most straightforward. Once you’ve done a free write for the prompt, you’ll have a sense of what ideas you have and whether they excite you enough to fill 650 words.

Tip 4: Pick the strongest idea that is interesting, representative, and unique.

After you’ve brainstormed in response to several prompts, review your initial thoughts and think about which idea has the strongest story. Which idea sparks the most desire to begin writing right away?

a male student reading a book

Whatever is exciting and enjoyable for you to write will allow you to translate your passion and interests. Engaging essays will be interesting, reflect your personality and experiences authentically, and be unlike any other essay admissions officers may read.

Tip 5: Address all parts of the prompt.

Many of the 2022-2023 college app essay prompts contain multiple parts. You’ll need to be sure you address all parts of the prompt within your essay. That doesn’t mean spending the same amount of time on each question though.

You may find that some parts of the prompt are more important than others. Try to balance out your essay, so the majority of your sentences are spent on the more important parts of the prompt.

Tip 6: Tell the truth.

Avoid lying about anything in your college application essays. You might think it enhances your essay and adds to your appeal, but admissions officers may double check anything you submit. Some admissions officers have been known to investigate anonymous tips to fact check claims.

Make sure every detail you include in your essay is truthful and honest to the best of your knowledge. You will make more of an impression with honest facts than with any lie you could fabricate.

Tip 7: Remember the word count!

Regardless of which prompt you choose, you will have just 650 words to craft your answer. You’ll need to be succinct and get straight to the point. You may want to elaborate on background information or spend paragraphs setting the scene.

The word count means you have about a page and a half double-spaced to convey an impression strong enough to secure your admission. It might be helpful to write a longer draft to give yourself room during revising to cut and rearrange what you come up with. Your final draft should be at or less than 650 words.

Tip 8: Get specific.

Your life and personal experiences will be the bricks you use to build your essay. Use as many sensory details as you can to bring the admissions officers into your experiences. Think about how you can incorporate sensorial language that is concrete more than abstract.

Instead of discussing intelligence, describe the emotions you felt studying a new subject. Rather than abstractly describing compassion, you can show it through describing your volunteer work. Ground your essay in facts and details based on the five senses to invite the admissions officers into your experiences in a specific way.

Tip 9: Stay on topic.

Refer back to your essay prompt after drafting. Make sure your essay sticks to the topic of the prompt. Eliminate any tangential, unnecessary information that wastes space or distracts from your major topic. Staying specific will help you stay on topic.

a boarding school student writing on a paper while looking at the camera smiling

Pick just one experience to highlight and focus on. There won’t be time to go over too many different experiences, so make sure the example you pick addresses the topic enough to not need any other examples to fill the space.

Tip 10: Get an editor.

After you’ve done the work of writing a draft and revising it, you’ll want to have someone else look over it for you. Be careful to pick someone who knows what admissions officers are looking for and who has significant writing skills themselves. AdmissionSight admission consultants are experts who can help with every aspect of the application process, including with the 2022-2023 college app essay prompts.

For each prompt, here are a few ideas to think about and excerpts from the previous year’s common application essay.

Prompt #1

The first prompt is flexible and provides you with infinite options on what to write about. As you write, focus the details on your background, the specifics of your identity, your interests, or your unique talents.

Pick something that is meaningful to you and be sure to identify which part. Think about how your life has been shaped and what life experiences, interests, or achievements have been most important in shaping it. Consider what has shaped your career interests. Every detail should convey something essential about who you are.

Similar to prompt #7, this prompt can be used to discuss life experiences, family dynamics, or unique talents. For example, maybe you attended a Beck concert and felt inspired to teach yourself three different instruments.

Maybe you learned to appreciate your culture by visiting your grandmother to make your family’s favorite cultural food. Think about how your experiences have helped you to learn and grow as a result. Show how your personal story relates to the themes of your background, identity, interests, and talents.

Prompt #2

The second essay prompt has three parts. You’ll want to pick an experience that conveys a challenge, setback, or failure. Your essay should describe how the experience impacted you and what you learned.

Think of how you changed as a result of the experience and discuss it as a positive example. Whatever the experience is that challenged you or caused you to fail, always think of how it can be illustrated in a way that shows your positive qualities. Use the essay to show that you can respond well to challenges and persevere.

Growing up poor with a single parent or having a disability are great topics, but try to avoid using a frivolous or overdone topic. Never describe anything illegal, illicit, or immoral. This prompt is also not the time to provide too much background information. Focus on how the experience caused you to change and grow as a person. It is also a good idea to describe how your change in values could contribute to a college campus.

Prompt #3

The third prompt is a chance for you to show how passionate you are about your ideas, values, and beliefs. Try to do this in a way that doesn’t come off as preachy or sentimental. Avoid overly polarizing topics that might be offensive to admissions officers. You’ll also want to shy away from biting off too large of a value that doesn’t easily parse down into smaller topics.

Admissions officers want to see how you can convey your insights and stand up for your beliefs while being respectful of the ideas of others. Being able to stand up for an unpopular belief or one that deeply matters to you can be used to show your personality and aspirations.

Make sure to pick something you are truly passionate about. The essay is more about showing you can express your opinions and ideas while staying open minded rather than only being right and proving others wrong.

Prompt #4

The fourth essay prompt asks you to show examples of your thinking and problem solving skills along with how you respond to problems. Think of a problem you have solved or a problem you want to solve.

You might focus on a problem you’ve solved in the past or challenges you expect in the future. Describe how you have addressed them or how you will address them later. If describing a future challenge, discuss how you have solved similar problems in the past.

Your drive to change the world should be discussed in specific ways that show what you value and how you think about the issue. Be sure to express why the problem matters to you. It should be relevant for you on a personal level.

If you’ve already taken steps to solve a problem, you can list them out or prescribe a hypothetical sequence of steps you’d take to solve the problem. A past or future focus would be both great ways to address this prompt.

Prompt #5

The fifth prompt invites you to explain an accomplishment, event, or realization you’ve had. This essay should focus on results you were able to achieve. This can be a big event or small event. Small events can be just as unique and inspiring as bigger ones.

You might describe the time you met an important person, had a mind-bending volunteer experience, or traveling somewhere new. Describe how the experience changed, being sure to emphasize the specific change that happened. What you learned and how you grew or how you might grow in the future can be central to your essay. If you treat people differently or approach situations from a new perspective, this is what you should emphasize.

Prompt #6

The sixth prompt asks you to discuss any talent you’ve had for self-directed learning and teaching yourself. Think about what has intrigued you or been important to you. This should be something exciting, and your passion should clearly seep through as you describe it. You can start with something you love and that excites you. Let the admissions officers know clearly why it is something you feel strongly about.

A female student taking a test and wearing a face mask

If you’ve learned how to code or how to knit sweaters, discuss the process you underwent to learn it. Discuss how satisfied you were and how much time you devoted. Highlight the specific passion or idea that intrigued you to learn more about it. Maybe you have a love for fantastical literature or learning about birds.

Make sure it is something you have taught yourself independently instead of something a teacher or tutor has taught you. Use the experience to show your work ethic and determination.

Prompt #7

The final essay prompt is the most expansive of all the prompts. You can literally write about anything you want. This makes the prompt both easy and difficult. It’s also a little risky. You’ll want to choose this prompt if you already have a pressing topic in mind that doesn’t fit with any of the other prompts.

If there’s something else about you that the admissions officers need to know that they can’t glean from other application materials, this essay would be the place to include it. If there are any experiences you’ve had that are key to understanding you as a person, then this essay is where you can discuss.

It should describe something you have that other student’s won’t have. Make sure it is a specific experience, and it should relate to who you are as a person and a learner. This prompt is very risky because there is not enough guidance and students can get carried away, appear scatterbrained, and easily get off topic.

Essay Writing Tips At AdmissionSight

When you sign up to work with us at AdmissionSight, we help you with the 2022-2023 college app essay prompts. Our admissions experts will consult with you to identify experiences you’ve had and discuss how they might fit with each of the prompts. If you choose not to apply by the deadline of this year, we can help you with your essay prompts next year, too. Consult with AdmissionSight today to get started with your college application essays.




Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Sign up now to receive insights on
how to navigate the college admissions process.