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This question is similar to Prompt #2 in that it is meant to tease out a student’s problem-solving skills and provide a glimpse into an applicant’s frame of mind when dealing with challenges.It also provides a few bonus opportunities for creative expression, leaving both the scale and the time frame for setting up a problem/solution wide open.
This is a process we call the Backwards Brainstorm, and you can learn more about it here.
For now, the main point we want you to take away is this: The prompts don’t really matter. (And that you floss at least every other day—trust us, it will pay off in the long run.) We are as sure as ever that every single one of you has a valuable story (or two or twelve! All it takes is ample time for reflection and a little writerly elbow grease to find it.
Focus on the key words, “background,” “identity,” “interest,” and “talent,” and use them as launch points for your brainstorming.
What about your history, personality, hobbies, or accomplishments might be worth highlighting for an admissions officer?
Remember, these essays are not contemplative musings on your toughest times or reflections on the hiccups that populate everyday life (though these things can certainly be touched upon); they are about overcoming obstacles and refusing to submit to life’s greatest challenges. This prompt requires a student to speak passionately about beliefs and ideology, which are often onerous subjects that can be difficult to mold into compact stories.
It can be one of the hardest questions to steer in a positive, productive direction without traveling into preachy, overly didactic territory.
The most important thing to consider for this prompt is that your subject and/or perspective is dynamic and specific to you and who you are and no one else.
Some questions to ask yourself as you brainstorm: Overall, this prompt is what we at College Essay Advisors call a “choose-your-own-adventure” prompt.
Students’ personal stories and feats of insight will again be relegated to 650 words, which equates to a little more than a single-spaced page.
We happen to believe this is the perfect amount of space in which to make a quick and powerful impression with admissions (or write a comprehensive fan letter to Beyoncé), so as far as we’re concerned, you’re golden.