How to Respond to Prompt Six of the Common Application

Common Application Prompt 6: Describe a topic, idea, or concept you find so engaging that it makes you lose all track of time. Why does it captivate you? What or who do you turn to when you want to learn more?

Where and when are you most in your element? Is there something you enjoy thinking about and engaging with that puts you into a state of flow, where you are so present and in sync with what is in front of you that time seems to fall away?

Prompt six of the Common Application is asking you to write into such experiences. Most people will find they have something that allows them to fall into this flow state — it is something that calls to you so intensely, that you are so invested in, that the rest of what is going on around you falls away. It is something that you are deeply passionate about and something that fully captivates your mind and attention. Responding to this topic will allow admission officers a view into your mind and what makes you most intellectually, emotionally, or creatively engaged.

To start to write into this prompt, consider when you find yourself in moments where your worries, other obligations, outside thoughts fall away because you are so focused on something. Often in these periods of “flow,” you might feel inspired, energized, and focused. It isn’t a state that you need to coax yourself into, but rather something that gets you genuinely, automatically excited when you think about pursuing it next. It will likely be some topic, idea, or concept that are you deeply passionate or curious about. You might already be talented in the subject or it might be something that you want to learn more about. Either way, it is something that your mind is attracted to that reveals what are you interested in and how you mind approaches it. This topic is exciting because it allows you to write into intellectual or conceptual ideas that have shaped who you are and who you would like to be.

To find your topic, consider:

When do you feel most inspired or stimulated?

Have you ever entered a state of flow when doing something or thinking about something? What was the experience like? How often does it happen?

What ideas are you most curious to learn about?

Is there something that is almost an obsession that you can’t wait to learn more about?

Why are you attracted to certain ideas or topics?

How does it feel when you are engaging with them — be it thinking, reading, writing, or otherwise?

If prompt six is a good prompt for you to respond to, you will likely be able to answer some of the above questions quite naturally. Some people might be very attracted to thinking about artistic compositions and how artists throughout history have created new movements by moving toward innovation and away from tradition. Other people might be attracted to modern feats of engineering, perhaps enamored by structures we take for granted like bridges or buildings, and thinking about how we have structured a world for humans to live in. Individuals might daydream about these topics, captivated as they see their potentials. They might go to museums or read books to learn more. They might go on walks and make sketches of the world they see. The topic you write into will be unique to you; the actual prompt itself is limitless in what it might welcome for the essay.

As with all the Common Application prompts, they word them to help guide you into an essay with more depth so they can learn not only what you are interested in, but why. The second part of the essay asks you to consider why these things captivate you. Perhaps with the artist topic, someone is interested in it because they are fascinated by how art changes overtime as individuals begin to question the aesthetics of the world around them, and how the human experience might be captured differently through realism, impressionism, surrealism, futurism, etc. With the engineering, someone might be moved by how we take for granted that certain features of our world are present and function, but someone’s mind was behind their design and construction. The “why” should be written from the heart of what continues to pull you to your topic.

Finally, the prompt asks you to whom or what do you turn when you want to learn more? This aspect of the prompt shows your self motivation, curiosity, and follow through with the topic. It is not even that you like something for a particular reason, but that you are actively trying to learn more and engage with it further. It is the mark of a mind in the making, someone who is a life learner, who want to expand their awareness around a particular topic. It is an insatiable passion. It shows them that you are taking your interest seriously (although it may not feel that way because of how naturally it comes!). Are there particular people you go to with your questions? Perhaps a teacher or someone in the disciple? Do you read books, watch documentaries, explore museums, travel, etc.?

Rounding out the prompt by responding to this final aspect will allow admissions officers to see the trajectory of what you find most fascinating from its initial topic to what draws you to it to how you continue to explore and expand upon that interest. Hopefully if you choose this prompt, you might even fall into the same state of flow reflecting upon your passion for your particular topic, idea, or concept!

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