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How to write Common App Essays 2020-21

Here we talk about how high school students can draft and write their Common App Essays for Fall 2021 applications. With each essay prompt, some tips and examples are given for applicants to think and brainstorm ideas from. The best way to approach these essays is to show by example and not just tell.

With the Fall 2021 applications around the corner, GuideMe consultants thought of sharing their tips and strategies of making the near-perfect essays for your US university applications. Applying to college for undergrad programs can be daunting. It’s good to spend more time on your application essays, profile building, and networking with alumni.


College Essays form an important part of your application for the admissions team to know more about you apart from your grades, course load, and test scores (SAT/ACT). It’s an opportunity for you to showcase your strengths to the AdCom, why you are unique, and what matters to you. This year, The Common App announced that prompts will remain unchanged from the 2019-2020 cycle.

You need to pick ONE of the essays prompts (out of the 7 essays) and answer the question in the form of a 600-650 word essay. The maximum word count for these essays is 650 words each.

Strategy for writing the Common App Essays 2020-21


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


Tip: Focus on the main keywords here- “background,” “identity,” “interest,” and “talent,” and use them as the starting points. Talk about your history, personality, hobbies, or accomplishments might be worth highlighting for an admissions officer? It can be something as small as seeing a poor man on the road (are you living life in the Upside Down?) or as large as the struggle of moving to a new foreign land.


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?


Tip: This is a platform to showcase if you’ve faced hurdles or come across hardships in life. Your learnings and key takeaways are what the AdCom would love to hear. For example, if you did not study much in Grade 10 and your grades fell drastically. That was a big setback and how you overcame by putting in long hours and your SAT, Grade 11 marks are a testament.


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


Tip: This seems like a difficult question considering most of you would not have participated in protests. But if you took initiatives at school or outside to bring about changes in the society, or if you started a blogging club or a website, then this essay is for you. Or if you have not liked or felt different in schools or maybe about your name, how you have learnt to enjoy being unique in the company of others.


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 that is 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.


Tip: If there’s a problem that concerns you or something you’ve solved already, use this space to talk about it. You could also bring an academic angle to it. For example, if you want to challenge a math theorem and are applying for a Math Major, this could be a nice twist.

You could also want to raise your voice on literacy rate in your home country and how you plan to run awareness drives. Describe the experience that caused you to realize the gravity of the problem, the specific actions you took to plan or execute your solution (i.e., call sponsors, raise money, design graphics, speak at events), explain why solving your problem is so critical, and identify the tangible change your solution would bring to people’s lives.


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


Tip: Your first blog, your attempt at baking a cake, or maybe cooking with your mom and learning your local cuisine could be great examples. The cooking experience not only made you understand the techniques but also brought you closer to who you are, where you come from, and make you feel connected with your roots. How you cherish spending more time with your family could be a good takeaway.


6. Describe a topic, idea, or concept you find so engaging that 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?


Tip: This is for you to showcase the nerd in you. If you picked up a new hobby or an academic interest during the COVID situation you can use this essay to talk about it. For example, if you’re interested in studying astrophysics, you might choose to write about a concept that shows how far your thought process in science goes. How focussed are you by this passion you are choosing to pursue academically?


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.


Tip: This essay could be a game-changer for you. Although it's too vast and often confuses students, use the other essay questions as starting points and talk about something that sets you apart. If you spend an hour a week teaching your domestic help or have started an NGO to help the differently-abled, this could be a magic essay.


Get writing!

Common App Essay Screen - Image for Demonstrative Purpose

If you are a high school international student dreaming of top Ivy League colleges such as Harvard, Stanford, Princeton, UPenn, your search ends here. We are known for our candid advice, honest consulting, and awesome results for undergrad admissions. Our students have been admitted to top undergraduate programs in the USA, UK, Canada, and Europe.


Sometimes even a 1550 SAT score and a 3.8 GPA would not be enough! You can raise the bar with a compelling personal story that grabs the eyeballs of the Admission Committees. Some of the popular programs for bachelor's in STEM are computer science, computer engineering, mechanical engineering, robotics, and artificial intelligence. Famous Liberal Arts majors include journalism and social sciences, and for management programs bachelors in business administration, marketing and commerce are popular.

Our Dubai admissions consultants will help you with these application processes. Create your account for more details. We also provide essay editing services for the prompts. Get in touch with our Admissions Team at +971-521405818

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