How To Answer Vague College Essay Prompts

young annoyed female freelancer using laptop at home

There are many questions on a college application that may seem like they’re not straight forward and meant to trick you. But really, these questions are designed to give the you the opportunity to express your creativity and your passions.

Many colleges ask you to “give us your top 10” or “a list of your favorites” and many students are left saying “Top 10 of what? Favorite what?!?” It can be easy to stress over these questions and try to tailor your answer to what you think that specific college wants to hear but there are better ways to go about it. 


 1. There is no wrong answer.

Just because you are applying to become a Chemistry major doesn’t mean you have to list your top 10 favorite elements on the periodic table. You can just as easily list your favorite songs, NBA players, types of dogs, or movie characters. There is no designed direction for you to take and with this question the college is giving you an opportunity to be as creative and original as possible.

2. Respond in ways that reflect who you are.

Whatever your answer may be, you should make sure that it is reflective of your interests, skills and/or passions. It should be another aspect of your application that helps tell your story. For my application to Wake Forest I provided a list of the top 10 places that were most meaningful to me. In the interview I was actually asked about my list and to explain it in more detail. I was able to go through each location I listed and describe how it shaped me as a person. I was able to explain my three week home-stay in Salamanca, Spain and how it reflected my passion for travel as well as my interest in learning about new cultures. This gives the college insight to who you are and what you value.

3. Try to differentiate yourself.

Most questions on college applications are straightforward and the format of the student’s answers varies only slightly. When colleges add a vague question on their application you should take advantage of the opportunity to separate yourself from the other candidates. Rather than spending time thinking about what the college wants you to say, you should spend that time trying to be as original as possible while still making your answer relevant to your interests. This shows the college that you are an outside-of-the-box thinker while still adding to your own personal story.

 If you need more help in the college application process, schedule a free consult below.

Questions? Let us know!