Admission News

How to Write to the Fifth Common Application College Essay Prompt

Written by CB Experts

The last, or fifth prompt, on the Common Application you can choose to write to for your personal college essay is below:

Discuss an accomplishment or event, formal or informal, that marked your transition from childhood to adulthood within your culture, community, or family.


The first step in preparing to write for this prompt is to choose the event or accomplishment. What you must think about is an event, or accomplishment, that has helped you grow as a person. Growth is usually about change, mostly for the good, so you must identify what caused that growth. What is a transition between childhood and adulthood? A high school graduate is not really an adult, nor does childhood end at any specific age. This prompt is really asking you to identify a cause of your maturing, especially maturing in a way that prepares you better for college admission. What are some qualities that help someone move into a college experience? — the ability to live away from home, to set goals, to manage time, to be both responsible and dependable, to work toward your goals with purpose, to be self-disciplined.


No one event catapults you into adulthood, but a single event or accomplishment can be significant enough to start the process. This is what you need to focus on. Here are some things to think about when choosing what to write about for this prompt:

• Accomplishing something you have never done before or find particularly hard to do (traveling alone, climbing a mountain for the first time)

• Accomplishing something independently (applying for your first job, volunteering away from home) • Being recognized for something you have done (becoming an Eagle Scout, being name Most Valuable Player)

• Getting out of a bad circumstance (bringing up bad grades, bouncing back from a failure)

• Experiencing a major life event (9-11, school shooting) • Experiencing loss (death in family or of a friend, accident that causes you disability)

• Receiving a gift from family or community that marks a milestone (Bar Mitzvah, getting the family’s car keys)

• Interacting with someone close or someone you don’t know that changes your perception of the world around you


These events do not have to be huge or grandiose. Sometimes every-day events and accomplishments can hit you in a significant way, which is why the prompt makes a point of stipulating the event or accomplishment can be informal or formal.


You should take time to choose the event or accomplishment you discuss, but do not take too much time describing that event. The time you must take writing is explaining how the event affected and changed you. You will want to write about things like

• How failure made you feel stronger,

• Realizing from failure that you don’t always have to win to prove yourself,

• How being independent or accomplishing something you have never done before helps you see yourself as confident and responsible,

• How recognition or receiving a gift that signifies a rite of passage helps you identify the values you will live your life by,

• How interacting with people you have prejudged or don’t know helps you find the deeper layers of people and makes you more tolerant and broader minded.


All of the above might help you write about how you have matured and why. In this way you show college admission officers why they might want you on their campus.

If you would like to read more about how to write to the other prompts for the personal college essay on the Common Application, go to College Basics.


About the author

CB Experts

Content created by retired College Admissions consultants.