Tackling the Common App Essay Prompts: Part 4

Welcome again to our 7-part blog series. Make sure to check out our previous blog on this link (**insert link**) where we have discussed the first three prompts. We will be unpacking the fourth prompt in this blog.

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 is a new prompt for the 2021-22 admissions cycle. This prompt, in particular, is different from other prompts that ask you to focus on your actions and their impact on you or on others. This prompt asks you to focus on other people’s actions and their impact on you. Since the main focus of the common app essay is to understand your values, an ideal response to this prompt should be more focused on the impact that action/s had on you, and not simply what the act of gratitude was.

Acknowledging and understanding gratitude requires one to reflect more deeply upon their own experiences. The story should display the role gratitude plays or has played in your own life. However, some topics that might come across as very common should be avoided. For instance, gratitude for things your parents have done for you would not display any uniqueness. Such stories of gratitude may just seem banal and would end up adversely affecting your application.

The story of your gratitude and how it shaped you should display how you critically and creatively think about gratitude. Reflections and insights would be more important than the event itself.  If you have a story of gratitude about your parents or friends, then the goal should be to ensure that the story is unique. However, a story of gratitude that is based on people outside your closer circles would definitely stand out and therefore strengthen your application.

Your story should also display how act/s of kindness motivated you to pay it forward and make meaningful changes in other people’s lives.  A story that contains your deep insights and outcome of that gratitude in terms of paying it forward would definitely make you stand out from the rest.

Some of the questions that you can consider as you begin your process of brainstorming are:-

What are some of the things that you are grateful for in your life and that you think are unique to you?

How did a random act of kindness restore your faith in humanity and inspired you to make meaningful changes in other people’s lives?

These broad and open-ended questions will help you think about a specific story relevant to the prompt, and that led to life-long learning outcomes for you.

For instance, can you explore how your close bond with the elderly in your neighborhood made you realize the importance of their wisdom? Why were you grateful for your interactions with them? How did that gratitude shape your actions, such as volunteering at an old age home? This story shows not only how you were simply grateful for the actions of another, but how that also inspired you to pay that gratitude forward to others.

Tackling the Common App Essay Prompts: Part 4

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