Let’s Talk About Common App Prompt #4 (a.k.a. “The New Prompt”)

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.

For more information about College Counseling/Essay Coaching, please drop me a line at Elizabeth@eecollegecoach.com or give me a holler at 917-863-2424. Also, for “news you can use,” please check out my blog, videos, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.