You and the Common Application Essay (Part 3)

Onward we go, readers, in our quest to examine, understand, and conquer the five new essay prompts associated with the 2013-2014 Common Application.  Prompts 1 and 2 are behind us, so we forge ahead this week to Prompt 3.  If you’ve been reading along so far, you know that I’m going to specifically focus on how equestrian students can fulfill the parameters of the prompt while simultaneously sharing their passion for horses and the sport of riding.  (Also, you must do so in 650 words or less.)  So, without further ado, here we go:

Prompt #3 for 2013-2014:  Reflect on a time when you challenged a belief or idea. What prompted you to act? Would you make the same decision again?

This particular prompt doesn’t automatically suit itself to equestrianism the way that the first two do – and that’s okay.  There are a host of topics that students can utilize to address the questions asked here and there is certainly no law that requires equestrian students to write an essay about their sport, so the first thing I’m going to say is that, if you’re a rider who would prefer to write about something other than your sport, than this may well be the prompt for you.  If, however, you can think of a time in your riding career (or horse-owing career – also applicable) that fits the prompt, then by all means, use it here!

Let me be more specific:

There are two distinctive and related questions asked of you here.  Each one must be completely addressed in order to fulfill the requirements of this essay.  So as you begin to outline the topic you’ve chosen to write about for this assignment, think about the ideas of cause and effect; the situation or person or even personality trait that is unique to you that caused you to take a stand must be addressed, as well as the effect that your stand had and your reflection on the outcome.

Let’s say that you were part of a Pony Club mounted games team in middle school and your best friend really wanted to be a part of the team that was going to the big jamboree but she and here pony weren’t the fastest and were on the verge of being left home.  Your sense of right and wrong wouldn’t allow you to leave her benched at home so you gave up your spot in one of the games so she could participate.  Maybe she came through in a pinch and the team won or maybe her slowness caused the team to finish last; the actual outcome isn’t the point of the essay in this case.  Instead, your writing should focus on the cause (you have a very inclusive mindset and you want everyone to have a chance to participate) and the effect (the outcome and – more importantly! – your view of it).  So what do the cause and effect of this situation tell your prospective college or university about you?  The whole point of the essay is to share insight into your personality – the details are really just contextual.

Certainly there are a variety of other equine-related topics that can fulfill this prompt – maybe you believed in a horse than no one else did or perhaps you changed barns based on a problem with a trainer.  Again, the situation is merely window dressing for the heart and soul of the essay itself – which is you.  Telling a college or university what you believe in and why it’s important to you is at the core of every good admission essay – and this prompt asks you to hand it to them on a silver platter.

(Need help polishing that platter?  Contact me and let’s get started!)

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