5 Interesting Ways to Approach the Application Essay Topic “Story Central to Your Identity”

June 23, 2016

“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.” - That’s Common App’s first and most popular prompt. Everyone has a story tell, but sometimes it’s hard to know where to start. 

We compiled 5 successful application essays that took an interesting approach to answer this prompt from students at USC, Yale, Princeton, Indiana and Stanford


USC ‘17

Being dropped into an unknown world can lead to unexpected possibilities. Being asked to discover one’s true self in a limited amount of time and make crucial decisions that could decide an entire future is not a simple task. Alice fell into Wonderland as a girl who had no idea who she was, where she was, or what she wanted. As she traveled through the alien land of Wonderland, she was faced with tasks that she never imagined she would have to face. The citizens of the land had told her that she had to slay a dangerous and formidable creature they called a jabberwocky. In order to slay this jabberwocky, Alice had to find the strength and courage within herself that she, and all of Wonderland, knew she had. Keep reading.


Yale ‘18

Throughout elementary and middle school, my life revolved around being invisible, because if I remained invisible, no one could make fun of me for having a terrible haircut, a ruddy face, and, worst of all, for being intelligent. Words such as nerd, freak, and dweeb were thrown at me on a daily basis by kids who simply didn’t understand the power of such phrases. In the beginning of high school, my goal remained the same, stay invisible and stay out of the limelight. Read more. 


Princeton ‘18

I was in a giant, fuzzy, non-airconditioned mascot suit dancing in an arena filled with thousands of spectators, including my school’s entire student body. I was at the High School State Championship basketball game in March of last year, dressed as a Cavalier. The uniform included giant boots with gold belt buckles, a sword, and a giant fedora. Now, I can usually keep my composure, but anybody in my position would have been a little bit nervous, especially because of what I was planning to do following the game. I had my sign ready, flowers on standby, and a few select friends prepared to act on my mark. That day was the day I would ask my girlfriend to prom. View full profile.


Indiana ‘20

In the manga Fullmetal Alchemist characters can transmute material, controlling matter with their inner energies. However, their powers are limited by the Law of Equivalent Exchange: in order to create, something of equal value must be lost. It’s been said our entire universe operates on this principle. Atoms are conserved; what goes up must come down. My identity, too, is an amalgam of a series of exchanges: of ideas, experiences and memories. But only for the more naive half of my life have I believed these exchanges were inherently equivalent. Continue reading.


Stanford ‘18

I have a secret. I have lived more than one life. In fact, I’ve lived hundreds. I’ve been an emotionally detached man with a deeply instilled sense of duty. I’ve been a fragile girl with three days left to live. I’ve witnessed my town burned by raiders. I’ve been an life auctioneer. I’ve rescued a friend from a collapsing building. I’ve sacrificed my life for someone. Read on. 

Applying to college?
View the app files and essays of accepted students.

Have you started brainstorming what you should write for your college application essay? If you’re interested in writing about it on your personal story, unlock the one of the above profiles for free to read the full essay for inspiration! 

Choosing where to go to college is an incredibly important decision. Make an informed choice by talking to current students on our mentorship platform. Access 60,000+ successful college application files uploaded by college students (they get paid when you view them). AdmitSee is a community of students helping students. Our goal is to bring much-needed transparency to higher education. 


About The Author

Frances Wong
Frances Wong

Frances was born in Hong Kong and received her bachelor’s degree from Georgetown University. She loves super sad drama television, cooking, and reading. Her favorite person on Earth isn’t actually a member of the AdmitSee team - it’s her dog Cooper.


Browse Successful Application Files

USC ‘19

Accepted to USC, UMich, Northwestern, UC Berkeley, UCLA, Swarthmore, CMU, NYU, Vassar, Reed, Kenyon, UC Davis, Syracuse, CU, Fordham, Santa Clara, CSU Chico, CSUF, UC Riverside , UCSB, UCSC, Bard

Theater/business double major from classic and online highschool background. Here to help navigate audition and business interview processes! On full tuition scholarship
UNC ‘18

Accepted to Yale, UPenn, Davidson, UNC, UMich, Emory, Northwestern, Wake Forest, UVA, UKentucky, William & Mary, Miami OH, Vanderbilt

Passionate about education from the great state of Kentucky.
Stanford ‘19

Accepted to Stanford, Williams, Brown, Pomona, Duke, Bard, Kenyon

Stanford 2019, creative writing and education. Full essays! "Lopsided," less-than-stellar numbers.
Stanford ‘20

Accepted to Stanford, Wheaton, Pomona

I love languages, exercising, and eating!

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