Personal Growth Experience Essay Ideas

Great news!

The Common Applicationpersonal statement essay prompts are out for 2017-2018. They’re new and improved: There are now 7 questions instead of 5. Best of all, there are more possibilities for writing an essay that has impact and lets your personality shine through.

Juniors: This absolutely doesn’t mean you have to amp up the stress and start writing in February. But do read the Common App prompts and give yourself time to think. Write stuff down. Take photos. Brainstorm ideas. Then, when it’s time to start writing, you’ll have you’ll have exciting places to begin.

Common App essay requirements:

  • You answer one of seven prompts.
  • The maximum essay length is 650 words.

Here arethe 2017-2018 Common Application Essay Prompts:

Instructions: What do you want the readers of your application to know about you apart from courses, grades, and test scores? Choose the option that best helps you answer that question and write an essay of no more than 650 words, using the prompt to inspire and structure your response.

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. Describe a problem you’ve solved or a problem you’d like to solve. It can be an intellectual challenge, a research query, an ethical dilemma – anything that is of personal importance, no matter the scale. Explain its significance to you and what steps you took or could be taken to identify a solution.

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. 

Tip: Check out this article on the Common Application prompts by Scott Anderson, Senior Director at The Common Application. He provides excellent insight into how to think about these questions.

Interesting Stats from 2015-2016 Applications:

  • More than 800,000 applicants submitted a Common Application
  • 47 percent chose to write about their background, identity, interest, or talent – making it the most frequently selected prompt
  • 22 percent wrote about an accomplishment
  • 10 percent wrote about a problem solved

For more information, go to the Common Application websiteor The Common App’s Facebook page.

In the coming weeks, I’ll be sharing insights, question by question, to help students understand, think about, and write outstanding college application essays.

Find your story.Sharon Epstein is owner ofFirst Impressions College Consulting in Redding, Connecticut. She’s a Writers Guild Award-winner and two-time Emmy Award nominee who teaches students how to master interview skills, write killer resumes, and transform their goals, dreams and experiences into memorable college application essays. I work with students everywhere: in-person, by phone, Skype, Facetime and email. Visit my website for more info. Connect onGoogle+, PinterestandTwitter.

















Categories: College Admission Information, College Essay - Planning, College Essay - Writing, Common Application Essay Prompts | Tags: 2017-2018 Common Application Essay Prompts, Describe a problem you've solved or a problem you'd like to solve. It can be an intellectual challenge a research query an ethical dilemma - anything that is of personal importance no matter the scale, 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?, Discuss an accomplishment event or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others., Reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea. What prompted your thinking? What was the outcome?, 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., Some students have a background identity interest or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it | Permalink.

Like this:


The personal essay or personal statement, often requested by many educational institutions, is a unique piece of writing that allows students to involve themselves in self-disclosure as well as a deep analysis of life events and occurrences. Though the personal essay is only a portion of any admissions package, its the one component that people often experience difficulty with. And often times the biggest obstacle is the question - What to write about?

When thinking about your life events, whether graduation, moving, or marriage, many of them can easily be put into a few basic categories. The first and probably the most popular of them being; personal triumphs and victories.

*Please note that the categories mentioned can easily be applied to any personal essay, whether college-related or not.

Personal triumphs & victories

Happy endings are simply enjoyable to read and write. Many students decide to share personal triumphs in their essays or statements as an example of some of the praiseworthy qualities they possess; such as courage, wit, drive, or commitment. Triumph stories provide genuine experiences that are key to helping students or writers 'stand out from all the rest.' They also look good on paper and are great for highlighting those special and unique characteristics of each person.

Different types of success

Below are a few examples of some personal triumphs worth writing about.

  1. Academic success: This may include receiving a writing or math award; a consistently high GPA for a certain period or being on the principal or dean's list.
  2. Leadership success: An example of this could be a time in which you were (a) the leader on a particular project that went well or (b) when you stepped up to take over a particular task and the outcome was positive and so on.
  3. Career or employment success: This can include any type of raise at your job or advancement in your career; self-employment ventures may also be included as well.
  4. Marriage or another type of personal success: Along with marriage, other examples of personal success may include the birth of a child or losing a large amount of weight etc.

Personal triumphs are not complete without a bit of adversity. So the next category, which is very closely connected to triumph is 'overcoming the odds' or 'getting pass troubled times.' By definition a triumph is to be victorious over a particular challenge or obstacle; so sharing some personal challenges and how you overcame them would also be ideal for a personal essay. Though in some cases you may find that a writer will write about a troubled situation that they are still experiencing, rather than one that they overcame-this is fine too.

Consider poverty for instance; a writer may share information about their particular impoverished situation even if things have not changed for them. This type of information may be beneficial as it also provides a context for certain events and may help the reviewer get a better idea of the candidate's overall background.

Overcoming the odds - Getting pass troubled times

Whenever sharing negative news, especially for academic purposes, be careful to not allow it to consume your paper (for ex. avoid the 'pity plea' syndrome). Likewise try not to share information that is too graphic, personal, or could possibly be offensive to the reviewer. Difficult circumstances or life events should be placed tastefully in the context of the essay and show a clear connection to the overall theme as well as some benefit that has been obtained from the situation.

Staying with the example of poverty, a writer, for instance, can explore the many lessons learned and valuable qualities obtained from having restricted finances (for example, patience, creativity and ingenuity, gratitude and fairness).

Examples of overcoming the odds

  • Experiencing poverty or restricted financial resources
  • Experiencing any type of abuse
  • Overcoming racial discrimination
  • Enduring a mental or physical disability
  • Experiencing a strenuous or unusually difficult family situation
  • Living through a natural disaster or casualty

These, along with many other situations, may be suitable to include in a personal essay to illustrate to the reader a unique characteristic that you developed by experiencing whatever it is that you experienced. For someone that may have dyslexia for example, how they got through school with the disability and the many hardships they faced may work well into a personal statement by reflecting on a person's determination to succeed.

Along with the first two categories, another intriguing topic for a personal statement would be to analyze one or two meaningful relationships that have greatly affected the writer's life.

Meaningful relationships/influential people

We all have that one teacher, friend, relative or parent that really made a great impact on the way we see things or on how we choose engage in certain activities. For instance, you may have had a teacher that greatly discouraged cheating and strove hard to teach you the value of an honest word-until this day your honesty and integrity distinguishes you from your fellow classmates.

Examples of meaningful relationships

  • One of your parents that had a great impact on your academic or personal development
  • A family member or friend that assisted you and believed in you when you failed to believe in yourself
  • Someone that taught you a very valuable life lesson
  • A person that consistently encouraged you with good and gave you positive reinforcements
  • Someone that you admired and carefully observed even if they never knew it

When writing about meaningful relationships sometimes negative ones may also come to surface. There may be certain people that negatively impacted your life such as a neglectful parent or bully. These types of stories may be better categorized under the second category of overcoming the odds as you may address how you dealt with that particular relationship and what you learnt from it etc.

Additionally all of the categories mentioned entail some form of personal growth. In some cases the personal growth an individual experiences is small compared to other events but in other cases it may be quite significant. In situations such as this you may choose to focus your essay primarily on the personal growth that you experienced; which is one of the other important categories you may choose to focus on.

Other important categories

Personal growth generally involves some form of betterment whether it is in a person's talents, qualities, or realization of self. Personal growth stories are excellent to share in such formats because they allow for a combination of several different themes. For instance, you may showcase a theme of self-discovery along with triumph and tragedy; which can all seamlessly be crafted under the umbrella of personal growth.

And lastly major decisions may also be an important category to expand upon in a personal essay. Examples of major life decisions may be choosing a particular field or school to satisfy certain goals or choosing to leave one's family, relocate, or to sacrifice something dear and special. Ultimately this category and the others mentioned can be combined in a multitude of ways to produce a well-rounded and suitable personal essay.


Leave a Reply

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