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The 2021-22 Common Application Features a BRAND NEW “Gratitude” Essay Prompt!

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Yes, you read that right! For the first time in four years, the Common Application is introducing a brand new prompt for college applicants to consider as they begin penning their personal statements.

The 2021-22 Common App Essay Prompts 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 gratitude prompt, as we’re calling it, replaces the solver prompt, which read, “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.”

We’re very excited about this new prompt, since it encourages applicants to reflect on the role gratitude plays in their lives. 

Some questions to think about as you mull over this new prompt:

  • When have you felt acknowledged, prioritized, or seen?
  • How do you like to pay it forward in your daily life?
  • How (and why!) do you express gratitude and appreciation?
  • What are your favorite random acts of kindness?
  • Has anyone ever restored your faith in humanity? How?
  • Do you believe in karma? Why?  

Ultimately, like all of the Common App prompts that have ever been or will be, this question is simply a springboard for you to use in the brainstorming process. If this new question strikes you hot with inspiration, follow that instinct and see what kind of magic flows from your keyboard. If this question doesn’t pepper your noggin with old stories or interesting ideas, don’t fret. 

The truth is, the prompts don’t really matter that much (GASP). What does matter is who you are and what you want admissions to know about you. The prompts are just fodder for you to lean on as you wish.

Thank you for reading (we’re grateful!), and be sure to check out our Common App Essay Guide for more in-depth prompt breakdowns and brainstorming questions!

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