How to Best Answer the New 650 Word Common Application Essay Prompt for Fall 2022

Common App

The 2021-22 Common Application includes a new 650 word personal statement prompt, one of seven choices: 

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?

Bold emphasis added by CMC

After analyzing the new prompt, a few tips for students to consider when crafting their essays:

  • Since another person’s actions are intertwined with the essay topic, applicants may be tempted to write an essay promoting the virtues of someone else. But, keep in mind that the essay is autobiographical, so the applicant should reveal more about themselves and their experience. 

The college admissions officer wants understanding of the candidate’s life experience; their strengths as well as their struggles. Often, applicants will need multiple drafts in collaboration with objective editors to convey the essential meaning of a lifetime of experiences. 

  • Happy” is a broad term, easily misinterpreted. Thus, prudent writers will define the word happy first using a dictionary and then apply an understanding of the word by offering evidence from their experience to effectively answer the question. 
  • Through writing multiple drafts, applicants will contextualize gratitude with detailed descriptions of their experiences, so the reader is clear about the writer’s intended meaning. Then, share examples of the consequences of being grateful. 

No matter the essay prompt chosen, applicants should first define each term of the prompt, then contemplate in either self-reflection or conversation with an objective party. Also, the prompt is subjective, basically no right answer but a more open-ended question designed to encourage an honest review of the applicant’s experience.

Lastly, keep in mind that while a student may begin drafting intending to answer one prompt, in the end, the applicant may believe another prompt best frames their story. What’s most important is authenticity. Then, not only will admissions officers gain valuable insight to the applicant’s experiences, the applicant will also better understand their own experiences defining a path towards a lasting happiness.  


Over twenty years, thousands of families have relied on Creative Marbles experts for their objective guidance in helping teenagers translate their experience into a path toward both economic success and lasting peace of mind. Contact us today if the college admissions process is more than you imagined or remembered it to be.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , ,

About Jill Yoshikawa, Ed M, Partner of Creative Marbles Consultancy

Jill Yoshikawa, EdM, Harvard ’99, a seasoned, 25 year educator and consultant, is meticulous in helping clients navigate all aspects of the educational experience, no matter the level of complexity. She combines educational theory with experience to advise families, schools and educators. A UCSD and Harvard graduate, as well as a former high school teacher, Jill works tirelessly to help her clients succeed.
View all posts by Jill Yoshikawa, Ed M, Partner of Creative Marbles Consultancy →