How to Write the Common App Essay Prompt #6, 2019-2020

We’re nearing the end! We’re running through each and every prompt option listed in the Common App 2019-2020 writing section. We’re on prompt #6 out of 7 prompts, which means you might have a good idea of which prompt you’re going to choose, or you might not have a clue and feel ravenously eager for more content. We get that. Let us present prompt #6 for your consideration, with some key suggestions. It’s a fun one.  

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?

If reading this prompt makes your mouth turn into a bit of a mischievous smile, then we’re on the same page. This prompt is asking you to get weird and that’s why we love it. Should you choose to answer this prompt, there are three rules that we have to encourage you to abide by:

  • Whatever you choose needs to be absolutely nowhere else on your application.

We’re serious. It should feel a little out of the blue for the reader and a bit like a personality mic-drop. This is your chance to reveal your most frequented and excavated Wikipedia rabbit hole. It doesn’t need to perfectly and magically align with your academic interests. In fact, it probably shouldn’t.

  • Show, don’t tell.

A lot of students read the prompts very literally. While reading the question in full is crucial and a huge part of the application process (you’d be shocked by how many students don’t read carefully), the “why” here strikes us as a bit odd. Why something captivates you should be inherent and obvious in your response and the context that you provide to the reader. Let’s say you choose to write about theme parks. Joy. Funnel cake. Rollercoasters. You can’t get enough, and you’ve been working your way through the top 25 biggest rollercoasters in the world since you were tall enough to ride (48” for most U.S. coasters). You’ve checked eight off your list so far. So, why does your stomach flip when you’re about to go down that huge rollercoaster drop? We’re not interested in the science behind why your stomach flips or the adrenaline rush—we want to know how it makes you feel and the importance of that feeling.  Explaining that to the reader in a way so complete that they can basically smell your anxiety sweat (not really, gross), should encapsulate the “why” of it all.  

  • Have fun.

While the topic itself may not be funny or explicitly humorous, your tone should reflect what this particular topic gives you the opportunity to do: escape. No one loses track of time reading about insurance (although if you do, please send us an email, we’re dying to chat with you). The best way to answer this question is by employing the most powerful quality you have: radical genuineness.

As for the last part of this question…don’t worry that much about answering it explicitly. “What or who do you turn to when you want to learn more?” What does that even mean? It should be pretty obvious throughout your response who or what you look to in an effort to expand your understanding of the topic at hand. We can say with confidence that an admissions reader would rather read a pleasing story that flows through a beginning, middle, and end as opposed to a disjointed essay that *technically* answers each section of this prompt, piece-by-piece.


If you want to run your idea by us, we’re all ears (or eyes). We’d love to learn more about how you think.