Admission News

How to Write to the Fourth Essay Prompt on the Common Application

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The fourth choice you have on the Common Application for your college essay follows:
Describe a place or environment where you are perfectly content. What do you do or experience there, and why is it meaningful to you?

Many students like this prompt because most have a favorite spot or a refuge from the stresses of life. This prompt can also refer to imaginary places and to general surroundings, that is, types of settings, not one specific place.

With this broader idea of “place,” a writer can really settle into a perfect writing place. Think about writing about your home, a favorite class, a place you visited on vacation, your camp, a neighborhood hangout, even a place you hope to see one day. Or, you might write about an imaginary place, like a peaceful world, a world where music reigns, a place in your mind’s eye that represents contentment or excitement or great diversity. You might also describe an environment that makes you comfortable or stimulated: a setting where you are surrounded by books, pine smells, water, urban sights and sounds, etc.

Whatever “place” you choose, don’t be stumped or stunted by the words “perfectly content;” they do not limit you to soothing peace. Some people are more content with a feeling of competition, by stimulating crowds, or by danger and risk.

When you write to this prompt it is the what and why of the question which are most important. What you do and experience and why this is meaningful to you is where you want to spend your time and space. Especially, spend time thinking about what in this place gives you satisfaction or makes it a pleasant experience. Then think about the meaning your experience or feeling gives to you. Why is it important for you to have this satisfaction or pleasure? Are you a person who wants balance in your life so, despite your busyness and involvements, you need down time too? Does the pleasure of thinking about a world filled with music or diversity or whatever underline your goals and commitments in life? Always bring your essay back to what admissions people want to know—who you are as a person, beyond the data in your application.

Be imaginative choosing the topic for this prompt, think about how your choice tells about you, and then write clearly and honestly.

If you would like to read more about how to write to the other prompts for the personal college essay on the Common Application, go to College Basics.