PROMPT #4: 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?
All of the Common App Essay prompts ask students to showcase their character and strengths in some way. Essay Prompt #4 is a little bit different as it asks students to talk about a time when they felt gratitude for something someone did. Gratitude has become a quality that individuals are encouraged to connect to and reflect on, which explains the commonality of essays on gratitude in college classes. This question offers students the opportunity to reflect on how gratitude impacts or directs their own lives, as well as how giving thanks for the little things in life can inspire and energize them.
Think about times when you have personally felt heard or seen as an individual. These could be moments when you felt an immense about of pride or encouragement. Think hard about what you appreciate in your life: material gifts, individual actions, or even simply a set of feelings someone aimed in your direction. The bestower of these feelings could be someone you know well, or it could be a public figure you have never met you has nevertheless changed your life for the better. Remember that this essay should primarily focus on how you process, appreciate and respond to the actions of others, which means you need to focus more on YOU than on the generous act or words themselves.
Consider these questions for Prompt #4:
- Do you ever “pay it forward” in your daily life? How, when, and why do you do this?
- How do you usually express thanks in your own life?
- Do you have any random acts of kindness that inspire you?
- Have you ever had your faith in humanity restored by someone’s deeds or speech?
- Is karma a driving force for your actions, or do you have some other cosmic reason for doing good?
Examples to use as guidance:
- Did a gesture from a stranger inspire you to continue doing good acts for others? How do you actually do these acts and how has it changed how you view giving?
- Do you feel appreciative of a public figure for the work they have done to raise awareness about issues that are important to you? How do you give back?
- Have you ever received a gift or token of value from someone that was completely unexpected? Why was this meaningful to you? How did you show gratitude? Did the unexpected, non-transactional aspect of the gift impact your perception of helping or encouraging others?
Link your story to your life and world in a concrete and meaningful way. Don’t forget to detail how this gift or act of kindness affected and motivates you today. After choosing your essay prompt, be sure to follow the instructions and answer all substantive parts of the question.