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Updated: May 27, 2023

I love "prompts." You know, the ones on college applications. Formerly called "questions," they are designed, I think, to afford students the opportunity to share some part of their identity, in turn helping colleges assess a student's "fit" for a particular school.

With Luke in the thick of the college application process, I recently had the opportunity to read a few prompts, reminding me of how much I like them. I like to think of how I would answer them if I were applying to college. But more than that, I answer the questions in the here and now since so many of the prompts can apply to all of life's stages. So I vectored off to my own independent study (o.k.-- rat hole) to explore the world of prompts!

I envision sitting outside having coffee with friends, discussing our answers at this stage of our lives. That would give me joy. (Preview: "What gives you joy?")

Here are some of my favorites. To provide some mystery, I have removed the name of the school, and included a letter or two for those of you who'd like to guess. What's your favorite?


"The University of ****o* values difference, and we take pride in our diverse community. Please explain how you will share your experiences, values and interests with our community. In what ways can you imagine offering your support to others?

(Favorite!) Please write an essay that responds to one of the three quotations below. Reflect on how the quotation relates to your own experience, beliefs, and attitudes.

  • Hannah Arendt: "Education is the point at which we decide whether we love the world enough to assume responsibility for it, and by the same token save it from the ruin which except for renewal, except for the coming of the new and the young, would be inevitable."

  • Maya Angelou: "Prejudice is a burden that confuses the past, threatens the future, and renders the present inaccessible."

  • Mary Oliver: "Instructions for living a life." 1. Pay Attention. 2. Be astonished. 3. Tell about it."


Please tell us why you want to attend ***** *******


In addition to the essay you provided with your Common Application, *l** would like to learn more about you and your interests. So don’t think hard, think fast. (Max two sentences per question, 30 words).

- What brings you joy?

- We’re in your hometown. Where should we eat and what should we order?

- Name three songs from your perfect playlist

(Favorite) As you look into the future, what gives you hope?


(Favorite) Generation Z is arguably the most technologically savvy cohort in history. They find answers to questions, discover troves of new music, or even start the next global social movement, all within seconds. How has this seemingly limitless connectivity influenced the person you have become?

In addition, the Admission Committee would like to know why you want to call ***l***** your new home and become part of our community?


(Favorite) A ***** *a** education is not just for you, but also for those who will benefit from the impact you make. Who do you aspire to serve after you graduate?

(Favorite) The founder of the Congregation of Holy Cross, Blessed Basil Moreau, wrote, “We shall always place education side by side with instruction; the mind will not be cultivated at the expense of the heart.” How do you hope a *o*** **** education and experience will transform your mind and heart?


This part is all about you. Tell us about something you’ve done—academically or personally—and what you’ve learned from it. Was it a success or a challenge? Did it represent a turning point in your life? How did this particular moment in your life influence you, and how will it continue to influence you as you pursue your college education? (substitute "as you live the rest of your life!")

Please respond to the following: How will your life experiences, commitments, and/or characteristics enrich the University of ***c*****–** ****** campus community? Tell us why you are interested in attending **–L* ****** and what aspects of the campus are especially important to you?


At F******, we expect students to care for and engage with their communities. Please share a specific instance in which you challenged yourself or stepped out of your comfort zone in order to impact your community (for example, your family, friend group, high school, or town). Or, share a way you hope to do so at **r****.

We want you to think of the most meaningful compliment and critique you’ve received in recent memory. They might come from a friend, parent, teacher, coach, or advisor. They might be personal, professional, or academic. What was the context for each, and why are they so meaningful to you?


D******t* College

A. The Hawaiian word mo'olelo is often translated as "story" but it can also refer to history, legend, genealogy, and tradition. Use one of these translations to introduce yourself.

B. What excites you?

C. In The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind, William Kamkwamba, Class of 2014, reflects on constructing a windmill from recycled materials to power the electrical appliances in his family's Malawian house: "If you want to make it, all you have to do is try." What drives you to create and what do you hope to make or have you already made?

D. (Favorite) Curiosity is a guiding element of Toni Morrison's talent as a writer. "I feel totally curious and alive and in control. And almost...magnificent, when I write," she says. Celebrate your curiosity.  

E. (Favorite) "Everything changes, everything moves, everything revolves, everything flies and goes away," observed Frida Kahlo. Apply Kahlo's perspective to your own life.



Respond to one of the following quotations in an essay of not more than 300 words. It is not necessary to research, read, or refer to the texts from which these quotations are taken; we are looking for original, personal responses to these short excerpts. Remember that your essay should be personal in nature and not simply an argumentative essay.

“Creating an environment that allows students to build lasting friendships, including those that cut across seemingly entrenched societal and political boundaries...requires candor about the inevitable tensions, as well as about the wonderful opportunities, that diversity and inclusiveness create." Carolyn "Biddy" Martin, 19th President of *****s* College, from Letter to ******t College Alumni and Families, December 28, 2015. 



******r*’s community is an essential part of the undergraduate experience. We come from all walks of life, share our own traditions, take care of one another, and think of ourselves as family. How do you define family and what contributions have you made to yours?

Tell us about something that is meaningful to you, and why?



In order to complete your B****** application, you should answer the following prompt:

Generations of students have found connection and meaning in ******n's “The Offer of the College,” written in 1906 by ******n President William DeWitt Hyde.

"To be at home in all lands and all ages;

to count Nature a familiar acquaintance,

and Art an intimate friend;

to gain a standard for the appreciation of others' work

and the criticism of your own;

to carry the keys of the world's library in your pocket,

and feel its resources behind you in whatever task you undertake;

to make hosts of friends...who are to be leaders in all walks of life;

to lose yourself in generous enthusiasms and cooperate with others for common ends –

this is the offer of the college for the best four years of your life."

- Which line from the Offer resonates most with you?

- The Offer represents *o*****’s values. Please reflect on the line you selected and how it has meaning to you.



Diversity, Inclusion, and Democracy is a class on campus that encourages conversation with people from different perspectives. There are several spaces on campus where this class posts questions to the *C community, and dialogue forms from there. One of the questions this class posted recently was “Name a time where you’ve felt empowered or represented by an educator.” What question would you like to pose to the *C community and why?


If you could have a theme song, what would it be and why?



Communities and organizations are stronger when they value diversity of thought. How do you create meaningful connections or conversations with others when they express opinions that differ from your own?


UC**; choose 4 of 8

2. Every person has a creative side, and it can be expressed in many ways: problem solving, original and innovative thinking, and artistically, to name a few. Describe how you express your creative side. 3. What would you say is your greatest talent or skill? How have you developed and demonstrated that talent over time?   7. What have you done to make your school or your community a better place?  


B*** *a**

As you prepare to join a new college community, reflect on your role as a community member throughout the past four years. What legacy do you hope to leave behind? (pq...What legacy do you hope to leave behind in life!?)


***** ** **i*

The Code of Love and Honor is a personalized pledge derived from our Values Statement. Its first line is "I am *i***," signifying that each and every one of us, through our choices, and supporting and caring for each other, contributes to who we are and what we aspire to be — individually, yes, but also collectively — as *******ns. Please explain what this aspirational statement means to you. Then, by using examples from your own experience, please share the ways you plan to contribute as a M****** that embody the ideals of Love and Honor. Your essay should be 500-1,000 words long.

Code of Love and Honor

I Am **a**.

I believe... that a liberal education is grounded in qualities of character and intellect.

I stand...  for honesty, integrity, and the importance of moral conduct.

I respect... the dignity, rights, and property of others and their right to hold and express disparate beliefs.

I defend... the freedom of inquiry that is the heart of learning.

I exercise... good judgment and believe in personal responsibility.

I welcome... a diversity of people, ideas, and experiences.

I embrace... the spirit, academic rigor, opportunities, and challenges of a ***** Experience, preparing me to make the world a better place.

I demonstrate... Love and Honor by supporting and caring for my fellow ******ns.

And because I Am *****,

I act... through my words and deeds in ways that reflect these values and beliefs.

With a deep sense of accomplishment and gratitude,

I will... Love, Honor, and make proud those who help me earn the joy and privilege of saying,

"To think that in such a place, I led such a life."


And my contribution: "Who, exactly, are you?!" (exclamation point optional)




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3 commenti

26 nov 2020

Provocative, probing, personal, revealing, and enlightening. Glad I read it today; Thanksgiving Day.

Mi piace

23 nov 2020

Thanks Nichole! You're right on. The adjectives you employ about prompt writers are ones I would use to describe you! And what I would give for the setting you describe, or just to be able to see you at Peets as you artfully craft the next great novel. Simple pleasures are a luxury, I've learned. Thank you again for inspiring me; know that I feel your support every day and know that the kids you work with are SO lucky!

To questions and connections,


Mi piace

21 nov 2020

I love this so much, and am not surprised that you as an always introspective and curious person enjoy the prompts. Think about it -- they're written by people in higher ed/liberal arts who are probably by nature thoughtful and expansive and eloquent. They love framing these questions, because they know they're great openers for someone to show what stuff they're made of. For people like them (and you), these would be perfectly placed in a deck of cards on a candlelit dining room table for friends, family, or even strangers, with two hours to play with. I work with students on college essays, and they all dread these so much -- even the thoughtful ones. I'd like to think…

Mi piace
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