The Newest Common Application Prompt & Ways to Answer It

Newest Common Application Prompt | How to Write Prompt Essay?

For the application year 2021-22, the Common Application has announced a new essay prompt –

“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?”

This change comes amidst the pandemic crisis that has engulfed us. We are adjusting and readjusting to an evolving normal as cases rise and fall every day. Through this prompt, the Common Application wishes for students to take this opportunity to talk about gratitude in big ways or small. While all other prompts ask students what they have done, this one focuses on that which someone else has done for you. That’s not all. It also asks you to share how you have paid this forward in whatever way you could.

Don’t commit the mistake of thinking that gratitude comes in the form of materialistic things. That is not the only way to think or approach this essay. Turn back in time when you faced moments of stress, loss, anger, hopelessness, disappointment, and then ask yourself these questions:

  1. How did I cope with this situation?

  2. Did I do it all by myself? If yes, did I do something for inspiration/motivation when I felt most low?

  3. Did someone help me get through these trying times? Was it my school counselor, a teacher, a friend, a family member, a psychiatrist/psychologist, or a stranger?

  4. How did I help someone else in return?

Sharing a couple of examples to help you brainstorm:

  1. Someone close to you has passed away and this has been an irreparable loss for you. Did someone lend you their shoulder to cry on? Did they ensure they stayed with you till you recovered emotionally? Perhaps they suggested you take counseling or therapy when you were against this idea because of your own beliefs/stigma against it? Did you ultimately seek professional help and make yourself stronger? How did you pay this forward? You could have started a mental health organization or acted similarly to guide another individual who was in a similar situation.

  2. Did you fail at something you were really hoping you would excel at? How did that make you feel? Did watching a life coach’s videos and following his/her/their advice help? Did a character from a novella help you get through this situation? In what ways? Did you write a literacy narrative? Or create an art journal? Perhaps you curated and conducted writing/art therapy classes for a bunch of peers then?

  3. You had a covid-related emergency and someone used their network to help you out. You did the same for someone else when you were in the position to.

Strategies to help you write a great prompt 4 essay:

  1. Maintain a gratitude journal. Write down things you feel thankful for, and reasons why you feel this. Focus on people, nature, circumstances.

  2. Talk about your own growth, learning, and values through this essay even though it may initially talk about someone else. A common pitfall would be making the person/s who has helped you the focal point of your essay.

  3. There is a clear-cut emphasis on the word ‘surprising’ in this prompt. Therefore, ensure that you address unexpected acts of kindness you have experienced in your life.

  4. Generally speaking, avoid something that has happened when you were a child unless this is truly significant to the story you want to share. You should select something that has occurred during more recent times since that’s most likely to have had a greater impact on your life and subsequent growth.

I hope these brainstorming questions help you navigate through this prompt more effectively.

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