How to Write the Perfect College Essay for the Common Application–Transition to Adulthood
We have been exploring the new essay prompts for the 2013-2014 Common Application. Students will have to craft their college applications around these relatively narrow prompts. The advantage of narrowness in this instance, however, is that the prompts can help you be much more focused in the subject matter and the construction of your essay.
Here is how the prompt reads:
Discuss an accomplishment or event, formal or informal, that marked your transition from childhood to adulthood within your culture, community, or family.
Once again, let’s dissect the vocabulary of this prompt to help guide you in your writing. We’ll look at the words in the order of their importance, rather than in the order of their appearance.
Transition. This is the pivot. The prompt is asking you to talk about a change from one state of being to another. Thus like most of the other prompts, you are fixing your essay in time. You are identifying something that marks the moment in which that change occurred.
Childhood to adulthood. The entire process of going off to college marks your entry to adulthood, in some sense. But colleges are not looking to admit emotional toddlers. They want to populate their campus with young adults. Thus they are assuming that you already have made the transition to adulthood, at least in many important respects. So in what ways are you now an adult? Conversely, in what ways are you no longer a child?
Accomplishment or event. In some ways these two words go together, but in some ways they are quite different. An accomplishment is some feat that you performed that would mark the transition. An event might be something that just happened to you, without any particular action or agency on your part. Either way, you are being asked to describe and discuss the “thing” that marked your transition. What was the catalyst that moved you from one state of being to the other?
Culture, community, or family. This part of the prompt asks you to further elaborate on the ways in which others now consider you to be an adult. In whose eyes are you now no longer a child? Who expects more from you, now that you have made this transition to adulthood? The reality is that some people probably still see you as a child. Heck, you might also still see yourself as a child sometimes. But in the context of this prompt, we assume that you have made strides toward adulthood. Who now regards you as and adult, and why?
Because it is it fixed on a transition that takes place in time, you are being asked to relate a story. You want to recount this accomplishment or event that marks the transition, so you must construct a compelling narrative with a beginning, middle, and end.
However, it is not enough to tell the story. This prompt (like all the rest) asks you to analyze and evaluate that experience, that event, that accomplishment in light of the definitions of childhood and adulthood.
As the writer, you have the opportunity to provide your reader with your own definitions. And as a young adult, you have the opportunity to demonstrate your maturity, and to show your reader how you arrived at it.
VIEW THE COMPLETE SERIES OF POSTS ANALYZING THE COMMON APPLICATION PROMPTS