Some students have a background, identity, interest common app essay prompt

In this post, we will discuss about that first prompt on the common application that asks you to share a background, identity, interest, or talent.

So what is the first prompt on the common application?

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.

So let's start backwards, let's start with the end of this prompt. Let's start with the last word, story. Updated 

Like every other prompt in the common application you're being asked to tell a story.

Tell me a story. Why? Because you need to show your background. Show your identity or interest or your talent.

And how do you do that? Well you tell a story. You give an anecdote from your life that illustrates, that proves, that demonstrates this phenomenon.

That illustrates who you are. You can give a declarative sentence. You can say, you know I am this, my background is that, but unless you illustrate it with a story it just doesn't come alive.

And your teachers, I hope, at some point in your life, either in elementary or middle school or, please, in high school, have said to you don't just tell me something, show it. Give me the proof. Give me the evidence.

And in this particular essay, like all the rest, you need to tell a personal story and anecdote with a beginning, a middle, and an end that illustrates your point.

So what are these four things? Background, identity, interest, and talent.

Background: it's your circumstances. It's the context in which you live. It's your city, it's your state, it's your school, it's the family that you grew up in.

And we all have a background that's different. Each one of us is slightly different in terms of our background.

So you have the opportunity here to describe, explain your background and to share that with the admissions officer.

Your identity is a little bit different. Your identity is how you define yourself. It's not necessarily how others and how your context defines you.

It's how you view yourself in the world. So there may be something about yourself that maybe other people don't know that much, or isn't readily apparent when they look at your application.

That's going to be something that you might want to share.

Then there are the interest in the talents. And every student has interests, every human being has talents of some sort.

So you might be interested in something. You might have something that that you enjoy spending your time doing. It might be totally unrelated to school.

It might even be unrelated to your extracurricular activities. For example if you're the football player and you're the captain of your team, maybe you actually have this abiding interest in collecting butterflies.

Don't tell anyone, but that's really what I love, butterflies. So share that with the admissions office.

And then there are talents. Everybody has a talent of some sort. I mean you could talk about the talent you have for wiggling your ears.

So maybe you have this talent for wiggling your ears that you just need to share because it makes everyone laugh and it's fun to do at parties.

So if this is something that's important to you, share a story about you wiggling your ears at that party or making people laugh.

But how do we know if you're going to actually use this interest, this background, this talent, this identity in whichever order you want to put those four things?

How are you going to know whether or not you should actually share this on your application?

Well the prompt tells you. It gives you a measure to make sure that if it doesn't meet this criterion, you're probably not going to put it on your application and that is that it's so meaningful to you that your application would be incomplete without it.

So let's look at those two different things. First is meaningful. You know, wiggling my ears, it doesn't really mean much to me. I don't--that's not a big deal. I don't really care. That's not that meaningful.

It doesn't identify who I am as a person and actually it doesn't make anybody laugh. It just--I find it kind of annoying when somehow will just start wiggling.

I'm making all this up as you can tell. But you know it's maybe not meaningful to you that you can wiggle your ears. So it's probably not going on your application.

On the other hand, if it's something that is extraordinarily meaningful like that butterfly collection. I've spent a lot of time on that butterfly collection. Yes I've been the captain of the football team, but in my spare time, especially during the spring and summer off-season, I am collecting butterflies.

So share that. It's meaningful to you. But then there's this other criterion and that is your application would be incomplete without it.

So think about this. Think about the football player. If you're the football player and you're the captain of your team and you have led your team to the state championships and you're an Academic All-American, you know your application is going to be just lousy with football.

You're going to have it all over your activities list. You're going to have it probably in the recommendation letter that your school counselor is going to write for you for your application.

That information about you being a leader and being a star contributor to the football team and helping to raise school spirit and you know, kids all around the school have great respect for you, well that's going to be in the letter of recommendation.

So if this bit of information about your interests--and probably your talents, if that is all over your application already, then you can hardly say that my application would be incomplete if I didn't share with you Mr. or Mrs. admissions officer.

If I didn't share with you my interest and my talent for football. Because it's already on the application. It would be better to focus on that butterfly collection because that's something that's not readily apparent on the application unless you tell your reader about it.

So go ahead, share that interesting, different information about yourself. That's kind of what the essay is all about.

It's an opportunity for you to share something that's maybe hidden, maybe relatively unknown, or something that wouldn't otherwise show up on your application.

It can be a background, it can be an identity, it can be an interest, or a talent. But you need to make sure that it's really meaningful to you.

Something really important to who you are as a person, and at the same time it's not something that's already on your application.

There's a lot you can do with this. It's really wide open, but make sure you're focusing on what the prompt asks you to do.