This is an optional question for all graduate students and only required for those applying for the Giolas-Harriott Fellowship ( http:///financial-resources/internal-funding-opportunities/giolas-harriott-crandall-cordero-fellowships/ ). This question is NOT the same as the prompt for essay #2 for the Higher Education and Student Affairs (HESA) master’s program, and students applying for the HESA program are NOT REQUIRED to address this question. Students applying for the HESA program should address the prompts for essay #1 and #2, as described above, in one document and upload this document in the personal statement section of the application.
Finally, realize that many topics fit under multiple options on the Common Application. For example, option #3 asks about questioning or challenging a belief or idea. This can certainly connect with the idea of a "realization" in option #5. Also, option #2 on encountering obstacles could also overlap with some of the possibilities for option #5. Don't worry too much about which option is best if your topic fits in multiple places. Most important is that you write an effective and engaging essay. Be sure to check out this article for tips and samples for each of the Common Application essay options .
What a semantic freak. These are essays through and through, no ifs or buts about it. An essay is any piece of organized writing with a cohesive theme, purpose, or message. In fact, this very response I’m typing here could very well be called an essay, even if I ended the post right here. It doesn’t matter what the UCs call these essays. “Essay” is a generic term that readily applies here. Trying to discourage people from calling these pieces of writing “essays” is insanity, just like it would be to discourage the use of the word “person” simply because you may prefer a different term, like “human.”