Tackling the Common App Essay Prompts: Part 1

The Common App essay prompts provide you an opportunity to tell a compelling story that will display the skills, values, and personality traits that you would want the admissions committee to know about you. The best part about these prompts is that they are very broad in scope, giving you the flexibility to choose which story/stories you want to share that will add the most value to your application.

In this 7-part blog series, we will be unpacking each of the 2021-22 Common App essay prompts,  and exploring how they can be tackled to make sure your application stands out.

Prompt 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.

The first prompt asks you to share a meaningful story about your background, identity, interest, or talent. These four key-words can be interpreted and deconstructed in many ways, providing you the liberty to choose the story you want to share.

To tackle this prompt, you can begin by asking yourself some open-ended questions that can be used as a starting point in the process of brainstorming:

What are the hobbies, interests, parts of your identity, or cultural background that can add meaning to your application and make you stand out? How has your background shaped your character? What interest or hobby were you able to transform into a talent, which led you to connect with other people?

These four keywords are not single, isolated categories. In some cases, all of these elements can be encompassed in one essay. You might also choose to emphasize one keyword (identity or an interest, for example) and use others as supplements to your story.

While identifying your story is a critical starting point, it will also be crucial to draw insights from that experience and explore how it shaped you as an individual. For instance, if you chose to write about how your grandfather’s occupation of farming (background or identity) sparked your interest in agriculture, making you more aware about sustainability, you could also include how you participated in sustainability campaigns or made a club in your school dedicated to sustainability. In this way, you are not only exploring the background of your motivation, but also the impact it had on you and your actions, as an individual.

Vartik Jain.

Tackling the Common App Essay Prompts: Part 1

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