Essay Writing Prompts

Instructor: Adam Nystrom

Adam owns a Master's degree in Professional and Digital Media Writing. During his time as a graduate assistant, he developed lesson plans for upper-level English courses.

Maybe you want to practice writing your college admissions essay, or you're gearing up for the essay portion of a standardized test, like the GRE. Get the wheels turning with our selection of essay prompts, and see resources that can help improve your essay writing skills.

Five Practice Prompts

The following prompts are similar to those you might see on the Common Application or the GRE. Similar prompts are often part of independent college applications as well.

Go Against the Grain

Think about a time when your ideas or beliefs were questioned because they exist outside of the norm. How would you respond to being put on the spot? What strategies would you employ to back up your claims and strengthen your assertions? You can provide examples from your own life or those around you that share your beliefs. You'll have more material to work with than you might think at first.

Taking the Torch

Think about the moment you remember when your childhood transitioned into adulthood. What did it feel like? Was there one specific event that triggered it, or was it a culmination of events that still stick with you to this day? You can give details from all of your senses, including things you remember seeing at the time as well as minute facts, like a song playing in the background or the smell of the room you were in.

Your Happy Place

Consider a location where you feel the most 'at home.' It could be your bedroom, another space or even somewhere away from where you actually live. What makes it as comforting as it is? Describe the feelings it gives you, and what gives it that specific aura of comfort that always brings you back, no matter how often you return.

Pay for Performance

In light of the national debate regarding teacher pay, do you think teachers should be compensated based on the academic performance of their students? What kind of performance evaluation criteria would or would not work? You should also reflect on the consequences of your decision, both intended and unintended.

Pick a Winner

Is it better to pick a college major based on the salary in a particular field, or is it best to follow your heart? Is there a third way? Offer specific examples to support your claim.

Expand Your Arsenal

If you want to strengthen your essay writing skills, take a look at's College English Composition course. Our ACT Writing course and SAT Writing course are also great resources if you're preparing for either test.

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