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  • Writer's pictureMarcia Farias

Gratitude and Kindness in the College Application through the Common App


The Common App essay questions for 2021/2022 are a little different from previous years' prompts. According to the Common App, the "seldom used option about solving a problem" has been replaced by a question on gratitude and kindness because scientific research has shown many benefits in writing about wholesome, positive thoughts. (Yeah, we are still in a pandemic).

The new prompt is "an invitation [to students] to bring some joy into their application experience".


So...how do you answer Prompt #4 below, "the new prompt"?

There is a right and a wrong way to write your essay here!

Be very careful!

Colleges are repeatedly saying they want to "hear your voice", to get to know you better. The essay in the Common App is your opportunity to write about yourself in colors not yet shining through in the rest of your application (grades, test scores, activity list, COVID essay etc.).

While you should not waste this chance on repeating what is already clear in other parts of your application, neither will it be helpful to write about someone else, right?






DO: If you do choose this prompt, focus on how this gratitude affected or motivated you. And then show, not tell.


DON'T focus on what someone has done, why they have done it, what motivated them, how this affected themselves. You get the gist. Remember: the essay is about you, your place in your community and the world, and what you bring to the table, what you have done to the kindness you have experienced.


Here is the full list of 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. 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.



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