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Common App Announces 2021-22 Essay Prompts, Including One We Haven't Seen Before

FEB 18, 2021 • 5 min read

The Common App essay is the centerpiece of your college application, and with a new prompt announced this year, 2021-22 applicants can take advantage of an opportunity to write a truly unique essay.

The Common Application, which is used by students around the world to apply to more than 900 schools in the US, has announced its essay prompts for the upcoming application cycle with a new prompt featured. Typically, the prompts don’t change substantially from one year to the next — but this year introduces a new question Essay prompt 4.

First, let’s look at the seven 2021-2022 prompts as a whole. They are:

  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. Reflect on something that someone has done for you that has made you happy or thankful in a surprising way. How has this gratitude affected or motivated you?
  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.

The above shows essay prompts, 1,2,3,5,6 and 7 remaining the same as those posted in previous years, but prompt 4 is new. Here’s what it was previously:

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.

And here’s the new prompt 4:

Reflect on something that someone has done for you that has made you happy or thankful in a surprising way. How has this gratitude affected or motivated you?

It feels like a fitting question for a time where hardships are often eased by simple acts of support, and could prove to be a popular question in the new admissions cycle. While there is no right or wrong prompt to choose, this new option is well-suited for students who want to focus on the power of gratitude.

As we know, the Common App essay is among the most important parts of your application as it provides the only opportunity to speak directly to admissions officers about who you are, what you’re passionate about and why you would be a valuable addition to their community.

At Crimson, personal statement support is an integral part of our program, and each year we are blown away by the essays our students produce. We can’t wait to see what our students produce this application year and look forward to supporting them on their 2021-22 journeys.

For more information on how we help our students create their perfect personal statement, and to read 23 statements written by Crimson students who were admitted to the Ivy League, Stanford, Duke, UChicago and more, you can download our Personal Statement eBook on our free eBook and Infographics page here.

Need help brainstorming, writing or revising your application essays?

Crimson's essay mentors have been there, done that — and they got in! Chat with an Academic Advisor to learn how we can help you draft the perfect essay.