The Common Application 2020 Essays

It’s almost time to fill out college applications, wait, but even before that, students need to write their supplemental essays and the angst-producing Great American stresser, the Common Application essay. Starting to brainstorm essay topics and create first drafts of essays is an excellent way for rising seniors to spend their unexpected “gift” of time. Using your summer to get ahead with test prep, college essays, and applications, and summer reading will make you feel more confident this fall.

Let’s start the process with a comfortable, yet momentous act: go to and set up your account. You can begin your data input anytime and fill in as much as you can. Take notes on information that you need to confirm, such as the number in your high school graduating class, your test scores, and the name of the colleges your parents attended. But it’s really all about the essays.

As you begin to think about your Common App essay, however, be sure to read these prompts carefully and take time to brainstorm how you might answer each question effectively. Before you commit to a specific prompt, consider the key points you want to convey to an admissions committee and how each prompt would allow you to craft a compelling narrative that complements the rest of your application materials.

Common App has announced that the 2020-2021 essay prompts

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.