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How to Common App 2020-21 - Prompt #3

APR 17, 2020 • 5 min read

Welcome back to Crimson’s 9 part series on this year’s Common Application Essay prompts and how to tackle them. This blog talks about prompt #3, which asks you to discuss a time when you thought critically about your own beliefs.

If you haven’t already, check out our first, second and third blogs in this series.

The prompt reads: Reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea. What prompted your thinking? What was the outcome?

This essay seeks to explore a time where you may have pushed back against authority in order to stand up for what you believe is right. Was it pushing back against something ingrained in you from an early age? Was it challenging injustices you see in society? Was it being critical of how an issue was portrayed in the media? In this way, the prompt invites you to court controversy to a certain extent—often, students will have had experience doing this in the context of politics, culture, or religion.

Let’s take the example of religion. If you decided that you wanted to leave your religion and explore the learnings of another after having a discussion with a family member, that in and of itself is probably a shallow basis for your faith. Did you read a book or watch a movie that confronted your original faith? Did you have a discussion with somebody who follows a different religion that made you see your former religion differently? Did you have a conflict between your faith and other ideas you feel strongly about? These are just some ideas. What admissions officers want to see is the path that you took to answer questions of faith for yourself.

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Ultimately, this prompt wants to see what you do when you’re faced with uncertainty; when you have to find answers for yourself. What was the process that you followed to deal with doubt? Who were the authorities that you turned to for guidance? Are you still looking for answers? It will also show admissions officers that you have the ability to think critically about yourself and are open minded, which are attributes that are desired by universities today.

Again, the best essays from this prompt will be very unique. Don’t be afraid to talk about something that could be deeply personal and a little bit controversial; interesting people are often opinionated. Admissions officers will appreciate a meaningful essay, even if they themselves don’t agree with the ideas explored within them.

Read Part 5 of the Common App series.

If you would like your essay reviewed by an expert so you can feel confident when submitting your college application, get your essay reviewed by Crimson.

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