Filling out your college application will take time and patience. You’ll have to gather a range of documents, letters of recommendation, and other relevant information about yourself. Most importantly, you’ll need to write your college application essay.
Choosing a prompt for your Common App essay can be challenging. There are a range of options, but in today’s post, we’ll be discussing how to write essay responding to Prompt #4 from the 2013-2014 Common Application. The prompt was dropped in 2015, but you can still respond to this prompt by selecting the Common App’s “topic of your choice” option.
Prompt #4 reads: “Describe a place or environment where you are perfectly content. What do you do or experience there, and why is it meaningful to you?”
Most students have a place or environment where they feel perfectly content, so this is a great option for students who don’t know what to write about.
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While this is an accessible prompt, that doesn’t mean you won’t run into challenges as you craft your essay. We’ve come up with some simple tips to help you answer every part of this essay prompt.
First, Pick a Place or Environment
The first step of writing this essay will be picking a place or environment. This might seem easy at first, but there are a lot of different options you can go with—and some of those options might make your writing more creative and unique than others.
Students often start by choosing a physical location, whether that be somewhere they’ve visited or a specific environment that brings them contentedness. Anything can work for this essay—large spaces, small places, natural landscapes, even imagined locations. As long as you can describe the place and why it’s important to you, you can write about it. Just a few of the many possible examples include:
- A Building – This could be a church, a relative’s home, a movie theater, a treehouse or pillow fort, your favorite restaurant, or a store.
- A More Specific Room or Area – This could include your bedroom, living room, kitchen, classroom, or basement.
- An Outdoor Space – If you’re into nature, your place of contentment might be the beach, the woods, a mountain trail, or a city rooftop.
- A Travel Location – Students who enjoy traveling might center their essay around a location they’ve traveled to, like Paris, Madrid, San Diego, or Shanghai. Students might even pick specific places within a city they’ve visited, like the Uffizi Museum in Florence or a museum or La Merced market in Mexico City.
- A Venue – If you enjoy going to concerts or sporting events, consider writing about a specific sports arena or concert hall (just don’t pick a specific college stadium, or you might alienate some of your audience).
- An Imaginary Location: Finally, some students choose to write about places that don’t exist. The place can be from your favorite books (Harry Potter’s Hogwarts), TV (the Stranger Things kids’ basement), movies (the wonderful land of Oz), and even pieces of art (Hieronymous Bosch’s Garden of Earthly Delights).
There are lots of options to choose from. These are just a few ideas to get you started!
Define What “Perfectly Content” Means to You
Once you figure out what location or place you want to write about, you need to decide what “perfectly content” means to you. A feeling of contentment will be different for each student. Typically, this means that the place you’ve chosen makes you feel at peace or at ease with yourself and your surroundings.
But contentedness goes beyond just a feeling of peace. For some people, they feel most content in a location where they are doing something that makes them happy. This could include more adrenaline-inducing activities, such as concerts, exercise, or even performing in front of other people. Take this into consideration as you write your essay. When are you most content? What makes you content? Answer these questions then connect them to the location you picked.
“Describe” Your Chosen Location Concisely
The prompt asks you to describe your location. This means that you’ll have to be descriptive, painting a picture for the admissions officer reading your essay. It’s important for your reader to get a clear view of your location, but don’t over-describe in excessive detail. Spend a short amount of time capturing the most important features of your location, then get into the meat of your essay, talking about why it makes you content.
Go In-Depth about “Why”
The final part of the prompt is the most important. This is where you can best show your reader who you are. After talking about the location, explain why this location so meaningful to you. Why are these the qualities that make you feel content? What’s the meaning behind this place you’ve chosen to write about? This is the time to look inward and reflect on yourself and your values. Don’t make the mistake of going shallow with this answer.
It’s easy to say that you like a particular place because it makes you happy. For instance, you might say that the gym makes you content because you like working out. For a college essay, you need to go deeper than that. What is it about working out and the gym that contributes positively to your life? Does it help you channel your emotions? Or maybe this place and activity have helped you build discipline and consistency in other areas of your life, such as academics.
There are a lot of different ways to answer the “Why” portion of this essay prompt. As long as you can find some way to talk about your values and life experiences, you can turn your description of your place of contentment into a college essay that stands out!
Final Tips about This Essay Prompt
Writing your college application essay can be a real challenge, but with the tips we’ve talked about, you shouldn’t have a problem answering this particular prompt. Just remember to focus on why this location has meaning to you, bringing out your personality and introducing your passions and values to your reader.
By using your place of contentment to highlight your character, you can connect with your admissions readers—and hopefully get accepted into your school of choice. Strong writing skills are important, but you also want to create an essay that uniquely presents you. We suggest letting teachers and friends read your essay for feedback, as this can also help improve the tone and quality of your writing.
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