Greetings Rising Seniors- Class of 2024


What are the 2023-24 Common App essay prompts?

They’re the same as last year!  In fact – 6 of the 7 prompts have been over a decade- that’s right.

If you’re a regular reader of my blogs or college admissions newsletter- you know I emphasize a few things in my approach to College Advising.


If you want to minimize the stress associated with both the undergraduate and graduate college application processes (and even your career search), create your Educational and College Admissions Plan as early as 8th grade! Doing so entails carefully selecting classes and extracurricular pursuits along with a plan that emphasizes ongoing hands-on activities to encourage academic and personal exploration, preparing students for success in high school and beyond.

Don’t follow the crowd nor march through middle and high school without a smile! BE INSPIRED!!

A typical college admissions consultant can provide you with “off-the-rack” answers to your questions about high-school curriculum planning (AP, AICE or IB courses?), financial aid eligiblity (and how to complete your FAFSA?), submitting your Common Application and writing your college essays. Applying her three decades of university experience, Professor Emeritus Bonnie R. Rabin, Ph.D. will provide expert personalized guidance.

Leveraging my extensive working knowledge of colleges and universities and their undergraduate and graduate curricula and degree requirements across all majors, let’s work together to  create your personalized educational and college admissions plan.



The “fit” between a student and a university is based upon three pillars:


The university you attend should provide an outstanding academic experience in your intended major/minor fields of study, along with appropriate internship and career placement opportunities. This is paramount to selecting where to attend.

There’s a major field of study to match the unique strengths and interests of every young adult! With nearly 4,000 colleges offering an impressive number of traditional and cutting edge majors and minors, it can indeed be overwhelming to navigate the maze of available degree options.

Your evaluation of academics should move beyond published lists of college rankings. The most important steps include learning how to navigate through the “Academics” and the “Research” tabs to fully explore the curriculum maps, degree requirements and the research projects faculty are conducting. As a former university professor with 30+ years of experience on curriculum planning committees, I’m able to help your family assess “academic fit” and effectively explore your academic options to balance each student’s current and emerging interests and strengths.


The social fit is important as each student is looking to find a “home-away-from-home” for their next four years. Is the campus inviting, inclusive and are there opportunities for ongoing social and emotional growth?

This is exactly why students visit university campuses before enrolling. Your Educational and College Admissions Assessment will help you hone in on the criteria that are important to you.  Let me help you understand how to have an informative and meaningful campus visit.


Every family faces unique financial circumstances and we factor those into the choices of where to apply and enroll. Additional details are noted on our financial aid page. If you’re ineligible for financial aid, merit aid remains an important option to explore.

THERE ARE MANY CAMPUSES PROVIDING an EXCELLENT EDUCATION offering deep discounts on tuition given your “admissions profile”.

Please see my early posts on the top – YES YOU CAN AFFORD COLLEGE!

student with his miami acceptance letter


Personalized attention and expert knowledge: academic advising and college application strategies to empower every student for success!

With over thirty years of experience, Professor Emeritus, Bonnie R. Rabin, Ph.D. provides each of her clients with comprehensive one-on-one educational counseling as well as expert guidance with their college applications at both the undergraduate and graduate levels.  College Admissions Assistance – create your unique plan to realize your goals.SCHEDULE YOUR ASSESSMENT

There are many factors considered in evaluating your college application, including your college application essay(s).  While students don’t need to be worrying about writing their college essay in 8th or even 10th grades, I encourage everyone to begin implementing a student-led p ath of exploration of both personal and academic pursuits  throughout middle and high school.
Experiences both within and outside the classroom are transformative and help to shape a young adult’s unique academic and personal identity.  Experiences involve connections with family and members of “communities” that help our young adults become more introspective to learn how they will leverage their strength to find their place in the world.  These same experiences are also the basis for the essay(s) students will write at the end of their junior year providing readers of thecollege application with information that reveals who each student has become -and, in particular– the potential impact each young adult may have on a college campus and as a potential alum!
But most important, pre-college experiences build confidence, motivation and better prepare each student for a seamless transition to the undergraduate experience – academic and personal success throughout high school and beyond.
Does your student have an Educational & College Admissions Plan? Are you on target?


Two of the most important ways in which you’ll distinguish yourself on your college application from your equally qualified peers are your extracurricular activities (including honors and awards earned) and the content of your essay(s). Essays should reveal your strengths, passions and how you connect to others by sharing experiences in a heartfelt and authentic essay.
Recognize that for each college, there are more applicants than there are available spaces in the freshman class.  A very large percentage of students have equivalent academic credentials including the appropriate/recommended high school G.P.A., completion of challenging and relevant honors, AP and AICE classes, strong teacher recommendations and solid test scores.
With acceptance rates in the single digits in the most competitive undergraduate degree programs and your chances of acceptance at state flagship schools hovering at less than 50%, how do you make a difference and receive an acceptance letter?!
As a former University Professor and admissions committee member and current Cornell University Alumni interviewer, I have thirty years of experience reviewing undergraduate and graduate admissions applications.  I know what it takes to get noticed!   Let me guide you to making the most clear and effective presentation of your strengths and unique accomplishments to stand out!
If you reside in South Florida, consider attending my  WRITERS BLOCK COLLEGE ESSAY WORKSHOP  in June.  For students throughout the US, work on your college essay brainstorming, polishing and editing is conducted remotely during numerous personal appointments. You can also join our workshop remotely- ask me how- call : 833-MY-ESSAY
Your college applications are submitted via portals– including the Common Application, Coalition Application or in the case of several public state universities- a college-specific admissions portal.
Nearly all applications require a college essay- a ‘core’ essay prompt allowing the reader of your application to get to know more about you – the person behind the transcript, test scores and resume. This one essay can be used across several college applications.
In addition to the core essay, several colleges require college specific essays or “Supplementals (SUPs)” with some variation of the prompt:  “Why did you select your major and “Why Us”? “
You should expect that a more “competitively ranked” university will ask you to respond to more challenging essay prompts and that your response greatly impacts the likelihood of admissions success.  This is an opportunity to showcase your strengths and demonstrate “informed interest”.  EARLY COLLEGE PLANNING IS ESSENTIAL to have experiences to ANSWER THESE PROMPTS!
Your experiences are unique and so too is your message.  Readers of your application truly want to get to know you and hear your authentic voice. There’s no “right” answer-tell your story- the story you share is a clear reflection of your values, unique identity and how you connect with others within your “community”.
Your admissions essay allows you to distinguish yourself from other students–your competitors –and to introduce yourself.  A well conceived essay highlights your unique strengths and experiences in a way that your transcript and test scores cannot fully illuminate.

I tell my clients to begin by thinking of experiences that may have brought humor, happiness or even sadness into their lives.  The things you remember most are those that shape you – they make you laugh, cry, they are worth sharing because they tell a story that defines you and provides insights about where you want to go with an emphasis on what you hope to achieve during your collegiate experience.

The core essay is time for introspection and reflection about experiences that have truly been defining moments. I’ve enjoyed helping students tell their story-some of my favorite essays have been revealing and intriguing tales of childhood memories of Halloween, learning to ski, fishing with grandparents, multi-generational family celebrations, rummy-cube tournaments, emigrating to the US, observing a bucket of KFC at a family funeral in India, finding a personal voice through tutoring abroad, gardening that led to a hot-sauce venture and working in the customer service department of a local supermarket chain.
If you’ve convinced yourself that you’re not a great writer- don’t let that thought overwhelm you. Simply talk about yourself – to your close friends, a trusted family member (sibling, cousin, parent) or into the voice recorder on your cellphone- and you’ll have the start of your essay. You don’t need clichés, quotations, or vocabulary that wouldn’t normally be used in conversation. You DO need details, examples and passionate authenticity. Be yourself!
Inspiration might come from identifying a happy or sad memory, a treasured keepsake, a mistake you can’t forget, something you admire about a parent or teacher’s tenacity, moral compass or kindness. Think about the stories your own parents and grandparents share with you about their youth-imagine yourself twenty years in the future sharing your personal stories with a young adult- what would you likely share?
Students in STEM , business and creative & performing arts students need to demonstrate “informed interest” through a clear understanding of the chosen field of study and a “vision” or “problem” of interest.   This is another reason why guided early college planning is essential- allowing every student to nurture emerging interests through formative experiences both within and outside high school. This may include a variety of student organizations, community organizations or competitive collegiate summer research programs.
STEM and business students will be expected to define a clear “question” or interest– showing a deep understanding and appreciation for the chosen field. Creative and visual arts students submit a portfolio of work- and part of that process requires a statement of vision – explaining the selected pieces shared.
While you will want to demonstrate “informed interest” (see my earlier blog on “Admissions Trends “), you will want to aim to “recycle” your responses wherever possible.  For example, writing a college specific supplemental essay focused on discussing what motivated you to pursue engineering or business you’ll likely discuss your inspirational experience at FIRST robotics or DECA.  Equally important, you’ll want to include college specific information that elaborates and demonstrates your informed interest in attending a specific institution by referring to genuine thoughts about the undergraduate research opportunities, a specific research institute or some unique aspect of the undergraduate curriculum that inspires you.
Colleges are unique and it’s up to you to have a very solid reason for why you want to attend a specific institution.  Do you research as this will increase the likelihood of admissions success and also finding a college that is your best personalized fit. This information needs to be included in your essay and woven into your discussion of the shared experiences noted on the activities portion of your common application.

Below is the full set of Common App essay prompts for 2023-24.

  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.

We will also retain the optional COVID-19 question within the Additional Information section.



Will you be joining us at our WRITERS BLOCK WORKSHOP?  Enrollment is now open – space limited    Small Group & Inclusive setting with one-on-one writing conferences with College Advisor Bonnie Rabin, PhD Last year we delivered our workshop online and very likely will be doing so again- each day includes a presentation, working time and detailed one-on-one feedback on tasks in progress.

Learn More –  Give me a call to discuss your unique situation.

Contact Me – LET’S GET STARTED!! Have a wonderful day!


Bonnie R. Rabin, Ph.D.

Best wishes,


Bonnie R. Rabin, Ph.D. Educational & College Admissions Consultant

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