Personal Statement Prompts 2023-2024

August 3, 2023
June 20, 2023
Kate Sliunkova, Product at Dr. Ivy, MBA & MA in Education

Ready to step onto the launchpad of your academic journey and jet off towards the tantalizing unknown of higher education? Fasten your seatbelts because navigating through the labyrinth of personal statement prompts across different college applications is a ride in itself! Fear not - this article is your trusty roadmap, slicing through the fog of the most popular prompts for the 2023-2024 application year. Let's light up the way through the twisting turns of the Common App, zoom across the dynamic terrain of the University of California (UC) system, and finally touch down on the unique landscape of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) prompts. Let's blast off!

Common App Prompts 2023-2024

The Common Application, commonly referred to as the Common App, has revolutionized the college application process by providing a unified platform used by over 900 colleges worldwide, including the prestigious Ivy League schools. More than one million students use the Common App each year, navigating its seven prompts to craft a personal statement limited to 650 words:

  1. Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.
  2. The lessons we take from obstacles we encounter can be fundamental to later success. Recount a time when you faced a challenge, setback, or failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience?
  3. Reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea. What prompted your thinking? What was the outcome?
  4. Reflect on something that someone has done for you that has made you happy or thankful in a surprising way. How has this gratitude affected or motivated you?
  5. Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others.
  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?
  7. Share an essay on any topic of your choice. It can be one you've already written, one that responds to a different prompt, or one of your own design.

UC Prompts 2023-2024

The University of California system, with its ten campuses including renowned institutions like UC Berkeley and UCLA, operates under a different set of prompts. UC applications reached record-breaking numbers in 2023, with over 200,000 freshman applications. As part of the application, prospective students are asked to respond to four out of eight personal insight questions, each with a maximum word count of 350:

  1. Describe an example of your leadership experience in which you have positively influenced others, helped resolve disputes or contributed to group efforts over time.
  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?
  4. Describe how you have taken advantage of a significant educational opportunity or worked to overcome an educational barrier you have faced.
  5. Describe the most significant challenge you have faced and the steps you have taken to overcome this challenge. How has this challenge affected your academic achievement?
  6. Think about an academic subject that inspires you. Describe how you have furthered this interest inside and/or outside of the classroom.
  7. What have you done to make your school or your community a better place?
  8. Beyond what has already been shared in your application, what do you believe makes you a strong candidate for admissions to the University of California?

We recommend visiting the UC portal for comprehensive information to better understand each prompt.

MIT Prompts

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), one of the world's leading research universities, provides a separate set of prompts. MIT's acceptance rate is notably competitive; for the class of 2025, it was just 4%. As part of their application, students are required to answer the following prompts, each approximately 200 words in length:

  1. We know you lead a busy life, full of activities, many of which are required of you. Tell us about something you do simply for the pleasure of it.
  2. Describe the world you come from (for example, your family, school, community, city, or town). How has that world shaped your dreams and aspirations?
  3. MIT brings people with diverse backgrounds and experiences together to better the lives of others. Our students work to improve their communities in different ways, from tackling the world’s biggest challenges to being a good friend. Describe one way you have collaborated with people who are different from you to contribute to your community.
  4. Tell us about a significant challenge you’ve faced (that you feel comfortable sharing) or something that didn’t go according to plan. How did you manage the situation?

In addition, MIT provides an open-ended text box for applicants to share anything else they believe the admissions committee ought to know.

Now that you've got a handle on the common prompts for the 2023-2024 application year, remember - each question is a unique opportunity to showcase who you are.

Don't be daunted; Dr. Ivy and her team are on standby, ready to help you create compelling personal statements that make you shine. Whether it's the first draft or the final touch, we're here to assist.

Good luck with your college applications. Remember, the world needs your talents, so let them shine brightly. Onwards to your future!