Gratitude. If there’s ever been an application cycle where students, faculty and administrators – both on the high school and college side — are feeling thankful, it’s got to be 2021-22.
Thanks to vaccines; thanks to frontline workers; thanks to masks and hand sanitizers; thanks to quarantines; thanks to Zoom and TikTok videos — we’ve come a long, baby from Spring 2020. The pandemic seems to be in the rearview or at least massively curtailed to the point that most schools are planning a cautiously normal re-opening for Fall 2021.
What does that mean to rising seniors mulling their essay topic ideas? Consider Prompt #4, the new kid on the block:
COVID Essay Replacer
Last season, the Common App provided a space in the “Additional Information” section for students to share their COVID stories (250-word max) if they chose to. This was in addition to the steadfast Additional Information Essay (650-word max), also optional. In general, I advise my students to communicate what they need to share with admissions teams using only their Common App Essay or Supplemental Essays. My reasoning is: with Personal Statements alone, these readers have A LOT to ingest, so why ask them to read even more words unless it’s essential information that couldn’t be conveyed in other parts of the application? Prompt #4 is the perfect home for a Covid story; there’s a bigger wordcount (650 max) and you won’t exhaust your admissions readers.
New Common App Prompts Need Loving
This is not gospel but just my thinking aloud: If I were a new college essay question developed by the Leadership team of Common App, I’d want students to notice my existence — and address me! However, whichever essay prompt a student selects is obviously the right one for that student; prompt-selection is not a popularity contest.
Gratitude Can Never Be A Bad Topic
Prompt #4 is the most benign prompt I’ve seen the Common App offer. It replaced a question about problem-solving which, given Covid and its many disruptors, might have seemed too overwhelming for students to embrace. Most everyone can find something to be thankful for.