The short answer essay prompt on the Common Application typically states: "Briefly elaborate on one of your extracurricular activities or work experiences."
In this sample short answer response, Gwen writes about her passion for soccer:
Simply put, I love soccer. I love being part of a team of girls who go out there and give their all, heart and soul, in every game. We truly are a family in our team. I love being a part of that family and taking a leadership role, both on and off the field. Soccer has also helped me be a better leader in student organizations and class work, where I take a proactive role. Whether it is a good defensive block or scoring the winning goal, soccer is an empowering part of my life, and I would not be the person I am today without it.
Critique of Gwen's Short Answer Response
Gwen's short answer response is not terrible -- the language is easy to read and Gwen's love of soccer comes across forcefully.
However, Gwen's response does have several problems:
- The language is repetitive. Gwen says "I love" three times, and she repeats the ideas of family and leadership twice.
- The languge is vague. What does Gwen mean when she says she takes "a proactive role"? What is her "leadership role"? What exactly does she mean when she says soccer made her "the person I am today"?
- Some language is cliché. Phrases like "heart and soul" and "scoring the winning goal" appear in far too many essays about sports.
- The response is short and doesn't say much. The typical 150-word limit isn't much space in which to elaborate on an activity, yet Gwen's response is just 540 characters/108 words (and, as noted, those words are repetitive and vague). Gwen hasn't used the short answer to her advantage.
Gwen does sound like a perfectly pleasant and enthusiastic student who works well with a team, but her response could be so much stronger. We finish her short answer response without a clear sense of the type of leader she is or what leadership roles she has assumed. There's nothing concrete here to illustrate how soccer has made her a stronger person and better student.
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