This year has seen a lot of change, and the Common App is part of that. For the first time in years, the Common App has a new essay 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?” According to Common App President & CEO Jenny Rickard, the new prompt was developed based on research showing benefits of writing about the positive influence of others. She explained, “Particularly at this challenging time, we can help students think about something positive and heartfelt in their lives.” The new prompt replaces a seldom-used prompt about problem solving; all other essay prompts remain the same.

Last year, the Common App also added an optional question on COVID-19; that will continue to be available.

Students wishing to get a head start on essays can find all the Common App prompts here. The prompts don’t change very often so chances are good that younger students who find a prompt that resonates will be able to use that prompt when the time comes for their college applications. The Coalition App will use the same prompts for the 2021-2022 application cycle as for 2020-2021; those are here.