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The Ivy Coach Daily

January 29, 2020

2020-2021 Common Application Essay Prompts

The Common Application has released the Personal Statement prompts for next cycle (photo credit: Sach1tb).

The Common Application has released the essay prompts for the 2020-2021 college admissions cycle. Drumroll please. So what will be the prompts for current juniors come the time they apply to college in November and December of 2020? Wonder no more — we know it’s been keeping our readers up late into the night. The essay prompts will be the exact same essay prompts as they were for current seniors. We know. It’s a bombshell. This breaking news is surely deserving of a Pulitzer. In any case, why did the Common App. keep the Personal Statement essay prompts the same?

Why the Common App. Essay Prompts Will Stay the Same

As the saying goes, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” As Scott Anderson, Common App.’s Board Secretary and Senior Director on Access and Equity Team, writes on Common App.’s website, “As part of our commitment to making sure the essay prompts continue to serve students and Common App member colleges well, we invited feedback through a survey. Over the course of three weeks in December, over 10,000 people–two-thirds of them students–shared their thoughts. Here’s what we learned: The current prompts do their job well. Over 95% of every group who responded to the survey–students, counselors, teachers, admission officers–agree that the current prompts spark effective essays…Opinions about individual prompts are as diverse as the people who write and read the essays they inspire…There’s always room for improvement, even if the prompts stay the same.”

What the 2020-2021 Common Application Essay Prompts Are

So what are the prompts exactly? We’ve got them for our readers below, right from the horse’s — or shall we say Common App.’s — mouth.

“1. Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, please share your story.

2. 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?

3. Reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea. What prompted your thinking? What was the outcome?

4. Describe a problem you’ve solved or a problem you’d like to solve. It can be an intellectual challenge, a research query, an ethical dilemma — anything of personal importance, no matter the scale. Explain its significance to you and what steps you took or could be taken to identify a solution.

5. Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others.

6. Describe a topic, idea, or concept you find so engaging it makes you lose all track of time. Why does it captivate you? What or who do you turn to when you want to learn more?

7. Share an essay on any topic of your choice. It can be one you’ve already written, one that responds to a different prompt, or one of your own design.”

And we are in full agreement with Common App. that these prompts didn’t need to be changed one bit for the 2020-2021 application cycle. Now where’s our Pulitzer?

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