Last week, the Common Application announced that the essay prompts for 2020-2021 will remain the same as they were in 2019-2020 application. So, what are you waiting for? Now is a great time to start brainstorming topics for your Common App essay.
2020-2021 Common Application Essay Prompts
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.
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?
3. Reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea. What prompted your thinking? What was the outcome?
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.
5. Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others.
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?
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.
During the 2018-2019 application year, the most popular topic was #7: “Share an essay on any topic of your choice…” (24.1% nationally). However, most of my students went for #5.
How should you decide?
Keep in mind that the colleges will already have a lot of information about you in your application – your high school transcript, your activity list, demographic information, maybe even recommendations. Your essay is an opportunity to tell the college something they don’t already know – to give them greater insight on what makes you –
You! The key is to find a topic that allows you to tell your most important story in an authentic voice.
Look at each Common App essay prompt. Give yourself two minutes for each question (set a timer) and jot down the first idea (or two or three) that comes to mind. Some prompts may spark multiple ideas – some may challenge you to really think. However, in less than 15 minutes, you’ve already created a working list of essay topics.
Put this list away for now and try this exercise again in a week or two. Do you find yourself gravitating to one or two of the questions? Which answers come most naturally to you? Which is your most important story?
Questions? Let’s chat!