March 22nd, 2020

2020-2021 Common Application Essay Prompts

The Common Application has just announced that the essay prompts will be the same as those used in 2019-2020. Every cycle, the Common App offers six prompts that students can use to brainstorm great essay topics. There is also a seventh prompt to write on any topic of your choosing.
Here are the essay prompts from last year, which will be used again in this upcoming application cycle.
Here are the essay prompts from last year, which will be used again in this upcoming application cycle. 
    • Prompt #1: 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. 
    • Prompt #2: The lessons we take from obstacles we encounter can be fundamental to later success. Recount a time when you faced a challenge, setback, or failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience? 
    • Prompt #3: Reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea. What prompted your thinking? What was the outcome? 
    • Prompt #4: Describe a problem you’ve solved or a problem you’d like to solve. It can be an intellectual challenge, a research query, an ethical dilemma – anything that is of personal importance, no matter the scale. Explain its significance to you and what steps you took or could be taken to identify a solution. 
    • Prompt #5: Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others. 
    • Prompt #6: Describe a topic, idea, or concept you find so engaging that it makes you lose all track of time. Why does it captivate you? What or who do you turn to when you want to learn more? 
    • Prompt #7: Share an essay on any topic of your choice. It can be one you’ve already written, one that responds to a different prompt, or one of your own design.
What is the Purpose of the Common App Essay?
Your college essay gives admissions officers an insight into what makes you unique beyond your high school grades, test scores and extracurriculars. Your essay tells them how you will add something to their freshman class, what you can bring to their community of leaders, learners, and thinkers, as well as, what sets you apart. You are crafting the story of YOU!
Colleges place a premium on strong writing. They look for mastery of the mechanics of writing (grammar, syntax, and organization) as well as fluency and originality. Your essay reveals the caliber of your thinking and your readiness for a competitive academic program.


Tips for Writing the College Essay
    • Proofread your work! Misspelled words and grammatical errors don’t give a good first impression of your writing ability.
    • Be yourself. Give admissions officers a window into your values and experiences. You know yourself best, so be honest.
    • Stay focused. Don’t write a research paper. Write an essay with meaning, and tell us something about yourself that will help admission officers imagine how you might fit into the school’s community. 
    • Grab our attention. Start with a great opener that catches the reader’s attention immediately. Make the admission officer want to read more about you.
    • Show, don’t tell. Use details to illustrate ideas and action words that bring your essay to life. Paint a picture that holds the reader’s attention.
    • Start now. Take time during the summer to begin brainstorming. Outline the framework of your essay. By the time the next school year begins, you should be almost finished.
    • Be original. Schools have seen plagiarized essays before, as well as the work of a parent, teacher or essay-writing professional. Don’t make that mistake.
    • Keep it simple. Don’t use words that sound overly sophisticated. Admission officers aren’t impressed by highfalutin language and vocabulary from the thesaurus. Tell your story in your true voice.
    • Get feedback. Have a fresh pair of eyes give you some feedback. Don’t allow someone else to rewrite your essay, but do take advantage of others’ edits and opinions when they seem helpful.
    • Don’t stress out! Enjoy the process of reflecting on and writing about one aspect of your life that is meaningful to you. Know that most admission officers will enjoy reading your story.
While the essay can be about any topic, the Common App provides a few suggestions to help students start out on the right foot. Whether you write to a prompt or brainstorm a fresh idea, make sure your essay addresses these for key questions.