How to Write your Essay for Common App Prompt 4

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This is your opportunity to present your problem solving skills and your ability to plan and take action. Here, you will focus on explaining your critical thinking process from start to finish.

Here is the Common Application Prompt 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.”

Key Tips and Pointers

  • This essay can focus on either a problem you have actually solved, OR a problem you would like to solve in the future.
  • Choose a problem that is meaningful and has a measurable impact on your life or on the lives of others.
  • Identify the steps required to solve the problem in the order they need to be taken.
  • Have a clear “solution” in mind: how did you know when the problem was resolved or what would be the outcome in solving the problem?

You can approach writing Common Application Prompt 4 in four easy steps:

  1. Start by describing the specific problem you solved or intend to solve. Clearly explain why this is a “problem” and who (or what) the problem impacts.
  2. Explain why this problem is meaningful and why it is “worth solving.”
  3. In chronological (sequential) order, explain at least three steps required to solve this problem. Think of these steps as actions that must be taken towards a solution.
  4. End your essay by describing how the solution has a positive impact. Stay positive and focus on the best possible outcome.

If you need help writing your Common App Personal Essay for Prompt 4, you might want to install this Google Docs add-on. The add-on provides example essays, writing tips and smart phrases for all Common App prompts conveniently inside Google Docs.

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