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4 min read

Comparing the Coalition and Common App Essay Prompts

Comparing the Coalition and Common App Essay Prompts

As part of your college application process, many colleges will require an admissions essay. This is your opportunity to highlight your strengths, academic achievements, and overall personality. Your personal statement will help admission officers (yes–real people read your essay!) to make their final decisions. 

In this post, we'll cover:

  1. The Importance of College Essays
  2. Understanding the Kinds of College Essays
  3. Essay Strategy
  4. Coalition Essay Prompts 2023-24
  5. Common App Essay Prompts 2023-24
  6. A Visual Comparison of Prompts
  7. The Point of Essays
  8. When to Start Writing Your Essays

The Importance of College Essays

Your GPA, transcript, test scores, college interview, and other concrete items are undeniably important parts of your college application; but, your essay is a critical component because it gives you the opportunity to reveal a part of you that won’t shine through anywhere else.

Simply put, it's your chance to stand out. So, let’s dive in and talk about essay prompts.


Understanding the Kinds of College Essays

Both the Coalition for College and the Common App provide you with essay prompts to choose from. Typically, you'll select one prompt to respond to, but depending on the school(s) you're applying to, you might need to submit additional essays (supplemental essays) or short answers in addition to your main essay.


Let's Talk About College Essay Strategy

Before we get into the nitty-gritty, let's take a step back. The first thing you should do before you begin your essay is to complete a nearly finalized list of schools you'll be applying to in the fall. Take some time to browse the website of each institution to which you are applying. That way, you'll have a better understanding of application and essay requirements.

As noted in the last section, some schools may ask you to respond to just one prompt, while others ask for a supplemental essay. Still other schools might have word count limits that vary slightly. 

Depending on the schools you're applying to, you might have choices to make in terms of how you apply, and therefore, the essays you submit. By the end of this article, we hope you'll feel confident in creating an application strategy of your own backed up by some stellar essays.    


The Coalition for College Essay Prompts

You can apply to Coalition colleges with Scoir! The following essay prompts will be reflected in Scoir as you complete the application process. Coalition's website details that there’s no perfect length, but you should aim for your essay to be between 500-650 words.

What is the Coalition for College, you ask? One of the distinguishing characteristics of Coalition member schools is their mission. The Coalition is made up of more than 150 top colleges and universities committed to making college more affordable and ensuring you graduate on time. 

Coalition essay prompts 2023-2024

  1. Tell a story from your life, describing an experience that either demonstrates your character or helped to shape it.
  2. What interests or excites you? How does it shape who you are now or who you might become in the future?
  3. Describe a time when you had a positive impact on others. What were the challenges? What were the rewards?
  4. Has there been a time when an idea or belief of yours was questioned? How did you respond? What did you learn?
  5. What success have you achieved or obstacle have you faced? What advice would you give a sibling or friend going through a similar experience?
  6. Submit an essay on a topic of your choice.

The Common App Essay Prompts

If you apply using Common App, you'll use one of the following essay prompts. The 2023-2024 Common App essay prompts remain the same as the year prior. Similarly to Coalition, you have a maximum limit of 650 words and a minimum of 250 words.

The Common App essay prompts 2023-2024

  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.

We encourage students to choose whichever application method best serves them. If you decide to apply via Common App, instead of Scoir, you'll complete your application in Common App and manually update your college list in Scoir. Here's how.

Need a visual summary of the essay prompts?

We get it! Sometimes it helps to see all of the prompts together, so you can get a broader sense of what these prompts are trying to bring out of you. We created this visual, which includes the Coalition and Common App essay prompts, with you in mind. 

Comparing Essay Prompts 2023-2024 image


The Point of Essay Prompts

As you read through these prompts, you might’ve noticed that they’re pretty similar in nature. In fact, some of them line up nearly perfectly! The big thing to take away from this article is that essay prompts are meant to invite reflective writing.

Decide on the story you want to tell first. Then, pick an essay prompt that aligns with your story, instead of the other way around!


A Note on College Essay Length

It's important to remember that your space is limited. Stay focused, and don't take too long to make your point. Remember, Coalition essays should be 500-650 words long, and Common App essays should be no more than 650, and no less than 250. 


Timeline Tips (AKA: When to Start)

May is a great time to begin outlining your essay. Nothing super formal is needed–maybe open a note on your phone!

By the end of June, you should aim to have a full first draft prepared of at least one essay (depending on how many you might need). Put that draft aside for now and consider starting on a draft of a second, entirely different essay topic. 

Use July to finalize the first draft of your second essay. Now is also the time to decide whether you'll be applying early. This will help you understand how much work you have to finish before those early deadlines. 

Use August to gain feedback on your essay drafts from people you trust. Decide which one you'd like to move forward with, make those final edits, and consider your personal statement complete as you head into your senior year! This leaves you with plenty of time to write those supplemental essays if you need them. 

Looking for more resources to support your college essay writing? Our partner College Essay Guy holds an incredible video course on How to Write the College Application + Supplemental Essays that may help.

This article was originally published on May 11, 2022. It was updated on July 13, 2023 for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

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