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A sneak peak at six college essay topics

(CBS MoneyWatch) If your teenager is a high school senior, now is the time to get started on those college essays.

Students who are applying to the roughly 500 colleges and universities that use the "common application" can get a sneak peak at what the six college essay topics will be. You can check out the writing prompts on the preview latest application. Students can't begin filling it out until Aug. 1. 

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Nearly all the schools that use the Common Application are private, and they include many of the nation's most prestigious schools. Here are the six essay topics for the coming admission season:

1. Evaluate a significant experience, achievement, risk you have taken, or ethical dilemma you have faced and its impact on you.

2. Discuss some issue of personal local, national, or international concern and its importance to you.

3. Indicate a person who has had a significant influence on you, and describe that influence.

4. Describe a character in fiction, a historical figure, or a creative work (as in art, music, science, etc.) that has had an influence on you, and explain that influence.

5. A range of academic interests, personal perspectives, and life experiences adds much to the educational mix. Given your personal background, describe an experience that illustrates what you would bring to the diversity in a college community or an encounter that demonstrated the important of diversity to you.

6. Topic of your choice.

The six college essay topics are contained in the preview Common Application that you can find on the organization's website. Any student applying to a school using the application can't get carried away with their college essay topic -- it can't exceed 500 words.

College essay examples

If your teenager needs inspiration, here are sample college essays that the admission office at Johns Hopkins University thought were impressive. For further inspiration, here are winning opening lines from college essays written by successful applicants at Stanford University:

Image courtesy of Flickr user photosteve101

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