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How to Successfully Answer Common App Prompt #6

Continuing our exploration of the Common App essay prompts, we’ll turn our attention today to the sixth, which reads as follows:

“Describe a topic, idea, or concept you find so engaging 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?”

If you’re the kind of student who has poured all of your intellectual curiosity into one main focus, you might enjoy writing on this topic. It gives you the space to dive deeply into the reasons behind your focus and illuminate how you’ve gone above and beyond your peers to further that knowledge. This prompt is not about an average pursuit or fascination. It is about showing the admissions officer exactly who you are as a thinker.

Does this sound like a story you want to tell? Keep our tips in mind as you shape your essay.

Go Beyond the Classroom

Perhaps you learned something in class that really piqued your curiosity in a particular field. Maybe your teacher introduced you to the exact idea that led you to your desired college major or future career. That’s wonderful!

However, if you want your essay to stand out, you’ll have to demonstrate how that concept evolved from a classroom idea to a real-world pursuit. Truly committed students will find ways to pursue their thirst for knowledge as far as possible.

What can you learn on your own to supplement your classroom experience? Through programs like Coursera and EdX or by enrolling in a course at your local community college, students are not limited by their high school offerings. You can access very specific disciplines and study them at an advanced level.

Additionally, you might pursue an independent research project to further explore your topic of interest. Research, for the record, is not limited to STEM-related fields. Students interested in humanities, the arts, or social sciences can also dedicate significant time and methodical inquiry to furthering their knowledge on a topic. Finding specific and also fun ways to pour yourself into your idea is the key to building mastery. If you’re unsure where to begin, working with an admissions expert is a great way to generate ideas and grow your support network.

The “Why” is More Important than the “What”

Whether or not students choose to answer this question, admissions officers expect that there is some issue or idea that matters a great deal to you. If asked, you should be able to articulate what has captured your intellectual interests even if you’re unsure about what you intend to pursue. Your willingness to be curious and to engage in the world around you matters to them quite a bit.

However, because this is an expectation, you must move beyond the “what” in your essay to demonstrate why this particular topic has made you lose track of time in thinking about it.  Illuminate your personal connection to the topic at hand. How has it come to resonate with you?

While it’s common for students to want to pursue medicine, your reason for being interested in the way a particular part of the bran works is unique to you and your life experience. Although you likely will not be the only story about someone who finds philosophy fascinating, the way you discovered your connection to a particular philosopher after a life event is a one-of-a-kind story.

Make it easy for your reader to distinguish you by tapping into the unique factors that have drawn you toward your pursuit. Be clear about why it matters to you and, in turn, why your pursuit matters to the world.

Who Do You Turn To?

Though your curiosity may cause you to lose track of time as you burrow further into the intellectual rabbit hole, it’s important to not allow your journey to become an isolated pursuit. Connect with others who share your interests, especially those whose knowledge is more advanced than your own.

Perhaps there’s a professor doing research on a similar topic that keeps you up at night. Maybe someone in a division of the company where one of your parents works is specializing in a field that greatly interests you. Reach out and make these connections. Find someone who can help shepherd your learning and investigate how you can help further their own pursuits in return.

Never think that you’ve learned all there is about a topic, even one where you are the foremost expert among your peers. Colleges are interested in open-minded students whose minds might be changed by conversations with professors and other engaged peers. The greater you can demonstrate that you are a critical yet malleable thinker whose quest for knowledge extends outside of the classroom (and often outside of the box), the more desirable an applicant you will be.

The expert admissions consultants at Wise World Prep have helped hundreds of students maximize their potential of being admitted to their top choice colleges and universities. Over 20 years, we have successfully guided students through each stage of the application process – from choosing competitive high school courses to building an appropriate college list to drafting winning essays to writing persuasive update and appeals letters. We would be happy to answer your questions and partner with you to create a successful admissions roadmap.

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