College Applications – Common App 2021-22  College Essays

Greetings Students and Families!

A few short weeks ago , the 2021-22 Common Application officially opened for the new college application season.  Are you working on your core essay or already gathering inputs for college-specific college essay prompts?  Unsure where you’ll apply?  Have a pre-paid state tuition plan and unsure about financial aid or scholarship availability at private universities?  Did you know there’s a COVID prompt ? Schedule your comprehensive Educational & College Admissions Planning Assessment with college advisor- Bonnie Rabin, PhD.

Let’s highlight a few changes too hep high school seniors and their families engaged in their college admissions and college essay process.

My goal is to make the college application process manageable, clear and stress-free. If you haven’t read my earlier resources on “Finding the Perfect College ‘Fit’” or “Yes – You Can Afford College—Understanding Scholarships and College Choice”, please explore.

Bonnie Rabin with student and college acceptances

Let’s take a look at some of the changes in the 2021-22 Common App.

Common App 2019-20

It’s not just rebranding, but the portal is actually one that is continuously improving allowing easier navigation during the college admissions process and providing students with ways to best present their

strengths during the application process.

High School students can also complete their Common App on their smartphones. A comparison of the desktop and mobile look:

Common App 2019-20 Mobile App

New Resources
The 2021-22 Common App will include several new resources to assist applicants with navigating the college admissions process.

  • An improved and enhanced college search and school detail pages. These resources help with analyzing college readiness. There’s also access to virtual campus tours – not a replacement to a campus visit, but an important option as social distancing and travel restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic limit if not preclude on-campus college visits. Ask me more about how to make personal connections with faculty and students from a distance!
  • For families without access to private college counseling or timely access to their guidance counselor, the application guides offer clear step-by-step guidelines for the 2021-22 common application process
  • Non-traditional students including community college students, active and retired military, and returning-to-the-workforce adult students will find an expanded college roadmap that is a valuable initial step when privately available counselors aren’t accessible.

Common App 2019-20


2021-22 Common App Essay Prompts

Despite all the changes, the actual Common App core essay prompts are the same — with one exception- prompt # 4 is new – it’s all about “kindness” and “community”.  Beware—college-specific supplemental prompts do change!  In addition – there’s an optional COVID-19 prompt and you may want to review my earlier blog on how to utilize this additional opportunity – or not.

Here are the Common App essay prompts for the upcoming admissions cycle and you’re invited to meet with me to brainstorm your core essay content (strategically highlighting your strengths) and supplemental essays.  Please also consider joining us in-person in Boca Raton, Florida (<<Click to learn more about our services in South Florida) or online at our Sunday Fall Series College Application & College Essay workshop.

    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.
    1. 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?
    1. Reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea. What prompted your thinking? What was the outcome?
    1. 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?
    1. Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others.
    1. 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?
    1. 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.

This year, the activities inputs section has been revised- to include an additional input line. Previously, students were limited to a total of 200 characters to detail each extracurricular activity. The additional character limitation is a huge bonus in an already crammed section that is critical to distinguishing yourself within the sea of equally qualified applicants.

Getting Started on your Common App
There’s no prize for being first to submit, but as noted previously, most certainly don’t be last nor after December 1 if you can avoid it.   Take care and be thoughtful about every all the required elements of your application.

I advise seniors to aim to complete their safety colleges ASAP- reducing some stress and yes- even parent-student stress.   With these behind you, turn your attention to your other applications – beginning with any Early Decision/Early Action applications.

  • Get Started!
    Create your Common App account and become comfortable and aware of the elements of each section. The easy inputs can be completed ASAP and have another set of eyes proof read.
  • Begin work on the Core Essay- your personal statement.
    Don’t repeat other information that’s revealed on your resume or transcript.  Be heartfelt, genuine and share WHO YOU ARE with readers of your application.  Brainstorming, drafting and refining is a process.  Be patient- your college essay shouldn’t be written in a day—take time to think through and go slowly. Your college counselor should be available to help with a topic that highlights your strengths as a member of the freshman class of 2026!   Read more:boca raton college consultant with client
  • The activities section is another crucial element of your application. While there’s room for 10 – be strategic and be clear – include those activities that capture your intended area of academic interest, activities that bring you joy and those that have shown how you engage with others in community endeavors that are a reflection of issues that matter most to you and the values of importance.  With an improved limit on the number of 250 characters (not words!—characters)—even the most masterful tweeter may be unclear on how to share yours strength in a noticeable manner. Above all, show how you have made an impact.

Seniors should naturally be filled with a bit of angst about the process ahead – but above all, please stay focused on clear manageable goals and avoid unhealthy comparisons/conversations with peers to minimize stress during the college application process.

This is an exciting time for college-bound high school seniors eager to embark on their college admissions journey.  Whether you’re just getting started in high school or a senior engaged in completing your college applications and college essays—please reach out to schedule an Educational and College Admissions Planning Assessment.  I’d be delighted to assist you with any questions or concerns.

Best wishes for an absolutely wonderful school year!


Professor Emeritus
Cornell University Alumni Rep.
Educational & College Admissions Consultant

30+ Years Experience

College Admissions Assistance & Academic Advising
Serving Clients In-Person in South Florida &  Boulder Remotely Nationwide
561.509.0021  or  833-MY-ESSAY

college essay help with bonnie r. rabin

College Application & College Essay Workshop Nationwide on Zoom – Individual Break Out Sessions