What’s up with The Common Application in 2020?

It’s almost time to fill out college applications. . . wait, but even before that, students need to write their supplemental essays and the angst-producing Great American stresser – the Common Application essay. Starting to brainstorm essay topics and create first drafts of essays is a great way for rising seniors to spend their unexpected “gift” of time. Using your summer to get ahead with test prep, college essays and applications and summer reading will make you feel more confident this fall.

Let’s start the process with an easy, yet momentous act: go to www.commonapp.org and set up your account. You can start your data input anytime and fill in as much as you can. Take notes on information that you need to confirm, such as the number in your high school graduating class, your test scores and the name of the colleges your parents attended.

But it’s really all about the essays… right?

HERE ARE THE FIRST THREE OF SEVEN COMMON APPLICATION PROMPTS  — Next week I’ll share the remaining 4 prompts as well as the brand new Optional Essay about the personal impacts of  Covid-19, with a few more tips.

As you begin to think about your Common App essay, however, be sure to read these prompts carefully and take time to brainstorm how you might answer each question effectively. Before you commit to a specific prompt, consider the key points you want to convey to an admissions committee and how each prompt would allow you to craft a compelling narrative that complements the rest of your application materials.

Common Application Essay Prompts 1-3, 2020-21

  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. 
    • Tip: It’s one of the most popular essay prompts, as it gives students the opportunity to share something about themselves the rest of the application doesn’t touch on. It’s typically through this prompt that we gain insight into their drive and motivation for their extracurriculars. You don’t need to take this prompt literally and shouldn’t try to write a memoir in 650 words. In fact, that approach would lead to a weak essay by trying to cover too much ground. Avoid writing an overly personal story that offers too many intimate details.
  1. 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?
  • Tip: The key to this prompt is in the final phrase–what did you learn from the experience? Beware of focusing too much on your failure or wallowing in negativity. Use this essay as an opportunity to show the reader how you think and how you are a problem solve!
  1. Reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea. What prompted your thinking? What was the outcome?
  • Tip: This prompt encourages students to share their thought processes as a way to demonstrate their higher-level thinking and perspectives. With this prompt, it’s important to use specific examples without alienating your reader. While it’s great to show your engagement with the news and current events, you want to ensure this essay is about YOU and not a specific political cause or proving someone wrong.

Send questions to: lee@collegeadmissionsstrategies.com; www.collegeadmissionsstrategies.com