Your college admissions essay is a way to open a conversation with your admissions officers. In 650 words, you have the opportunity to share details about yourself as if you were fellow passengers on a long plane ride. A strong personal statement can quickly win over admissions officers because they find you likable, thoughtful, intelligent, and self-aware.
One way to demonstrate these qualities is through the Common App essay prompt #5, which focuses on personal growth and maturity. Through sharing a poignant moment in your life, you can show them how critically you assess your goals and character. By explaining what you value and how you aim to develop yourself, colleges and universities can gain a good sense of whether you have what it takes to thrive as an independent person in the challenging diverse environment they have to offer.
To help you craft the best essay to highlight who you are, we’ve prepared a series of guides on addressing each of the Common App essay prompts. Our cheat sheets, including the one below for prompt #5, will give you the tools you need to write a compelling story about you.
For additional resources regarding other Common App essay prompts and the college admissions process, feel free to visit our Resources Page and our College Admissions Editing Page.
This question is about recent growth and maturity. Admissions officers are interested to know how you digest the experiences you encounter and use them to improve your viewpoints on life and how you set future goals. What did you realize about yourself during the process? How did the experience affect your behavior and plans? Be careful about using this space to brag about an accomplishment. Rather than focusing on the actual achievement, explain why the moment was meaningful to you and how you used that experience to mature. Avoid talking about grades and test scores unless you’re trying to show how you significantly improved or managed to do well despite some personal obstacles. The accomplishment also doesn’t have to be remarkable. It could be as simple as shopping at a grocery store in a foreign country for the first time or learning a new skill. In your first paragraph, you should (1) introduce the accomplishment, event or realization and (2) briefly explain why this moment was meaningful to you in terms of self-reflection and personal growth. In the next paragraphs, elaborate on the resulting intellectual and emotional journey. What did you learn about yourself? Why do you think you’re a better person because of the experience? Would you change anything about the experience? If so, how and why? Make sure you spend the time to critically think about the significance of the event or accomplishment you highlight. Rather than describe the gritty details of the moment itself, explore how you’ve changed. In what ways do you still need improvement? What do you intend to do with this new understanding of who you are? Have or will you change your approach to newer experiences? Has your growth prepared you for the challenges you may face in college (academically and socially)? If so, how? In other words, how do you plan on growing further in college and beyond? Show your ability to critically assess who you are and who you want to become. Identify the college experience you hope will help you in this endeavor and how your growth will benefit your future community. Remember that this is YOUR story. Each word should focus on your personal development. Are you mature enough to make informed decisions and control your situation? If so, prove it!