College Essays

Common Application

Prompt (Common Application) 

Reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea. What prompted your thinking? What was the outcome?


My mom is either a magician or a superhero. People walk into her office distraught, sit down and talk to her, and leave with hope. Apparently, I am immune to her powers because whenever I sit down and ask to get ice cream, I, without fail, leave distraught. It took me a few years to notice my mom’s impact on her patients, where I found a startling contrast to mental health “awareness” campaigns. Just knowing a problem exists does not solve it. I have seen firsthand trained professionals go beyond knowing and offer tangible solutions. This realization kickstarted my journey to reveal solutions concealed by the distracting pretense of awareness.

I found a summer internship at Brain Health Bootcamp, a nonprofit that created an AI-powered mental health literacy-teaching software. As an intern, I would distribute their software in my community and research access to mental health resources. It seemed like a good opportunity to complete an interesting volunteer activity. 

As I brainstormed ideas for bringing suicide prevention training to my community, I encountered a constant roadblock: money. How do I pay for the training? The software that Brain Health Bootcamp created for teaching the Columbia Protocol for suicide prevention cost money to create and to deploy. Simply making people aware of a problem does not generate funds. Having participated in a few 5K runs in the past, I decided to create a race that would raise money through registration fees and small business sponsorships. Every turn in my plan required more money: park permits, security deposits, t-shirts. I began to understand that financial capital is the driving force behind any lasting change, and that fundraising was just as important as the software itself. 

After bringing in some donations, I then realized that the real impact comes from how the funds are utilized. I reached this same conclusion after researching the marginalized minority populations experiencing gentrification in Auburn, Alabama through my group project as part of the internship. We focused on Auburn because out of all of the places our group members were from, we felt Auburn would provide the most to learn from. The community’s biggest problem was that the well-funded mental health clinics only operated in specific clusters in the area. A simple lack of resource accessibility barred underserved groups from getting the help they needed. I was pained to witness how critical social capital is to the quality and dignity of life. Having never tried enacting actual change until this internship, my perspective evolved as I realized how hard it is to make a real-world impact. After seeing the problems in Auburn, I understood that both financial and social capital are crucial for enacting change, with drastic consequences when either one is neglected.

Having normal activities turn into unexpected interests is not uncommon for me. Earlier in high school, I was stifled by pursuing traditional STEM activities. As soon as I removed this mental obstacle, I transitioned into letting the activities I do currently pave the way for new interests and actions. Exploring robotics and leading my school’s Amnesty International club led to building suicide prevention teaching plans for my school and reading Russian literature. Overall, I have found that my job is to connect the dots in any life experience. When I was fundraising for Ukraine Relief efforts through Amnesty International, I found myself captivated by Russian and Slavic culture through immersing myself in the history and literature behind the invasion of Ukraine. Who knew I’d end up reading Russian literature? I hope to continue following these threads in my undergraduate education and let one experience lead to the next. 

As I look at my own future intersecting with the implications of new technologies leaving underserved communities and demographics behind, I am determined to further explore how the power structures of social and economic capital perpetuate social inequality.

Tips for Writing

  • Brainstorm events or experiences that are important and unique to you
  • Focus on a trait that you want to convey through the essay that colleges will be able to easily identify when reading
  • Make it a trait that admissions officers will see as beneficial to their college community
  • Describe how the event or story impacted you rather than simply what happened
  • Write lots of drafts and make revisions
  • Give yourself a long time by starting early since writing these essays takes awhile to perfect

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