New Common App Essays

  Andrew Belasco   Aug 12, 2013   College Essay   0 Comment

The Common Application is utilized by almost 500 colleges and universities nationwide, which means that the odds are strong that you will encounter it at some point during your impending college search. Thus, the recent release of major revisions made to the essay prompts on the Common App is highly likely to impact your essay writing process.

As you read through the departing and arriving prompts listed below, take note of the substantial changes in content, themes, and degree of challenge.

The Retired Prompts

1) Evaluate a significant experience, achievement, risk you have taken, or ethical dilemma you have faced and its impact on you.

2) Discuss some issue of personal, local, national, or international concern and its importance to you.

3) Indicate a person who has had a significant influence on you, and describe that influence.

4) Describe a character in fiction, a historical figure, or a creative work (as in art, music, science, etc.) that has had an influence on you, and explain that influence.

5) A range of academic interests, personal perspectives, and life experiences adds much to the educational mix. Given your personal background, describe an experience that illustrates what you would bring to the diversity in a college community, or an encounter that demonstrated the importance of diversity to you.

6) Topic of your choice.

The New Prompts

1) Some students have a background or a story that is so central to their identity that they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.

2) Recount an incident or time when you experienced failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn.

3) Reflect on a time when you challenged a belief or idea. What prompted you to act? Would you make the same decision again?

4) Describe a place or environment where you are perfectly content. What do you do or experience there, and why is it meaningful to you?

5) Discuss an accomplishment or event, formal or informal, that marked your transition from childhood to adulthood within your culture, community, or family.

CT Quick Take: The new prompts are practically begging you to get more personal and not shy away from sharing stories which may be far from your finest moment. Gone are the options to write about the topic of your choice (vacations, scoring the big touchdown, etc) or why the ideals of Thomas Jefferson led you to a Pre-law path. The new prompts invite you to share messier (and more interesting) life experiences such as failure, transition, and conflict. Additionally, the word count has increased from 500 to 650 which is an invitation to add depth and nuance to your responses.

The end of summer is the perfect time to begin brainstorming how you will craft compelling essays that will give admissions officers a sense of you truly are and set you apart amidst a sea of application files. If you will be filling out the Common Application, that task may have just gotten a bit more challenging, but also, potentially, far more rewarding.

Andrew Belasco
A licensed counselor and published researcher, Andrew’s experience in the field of college admissions and transition spans more than one decade. He has previously served as a high school counselor, consultant and author for Kaplan Test Prep, and advisor to U.S. Congress, reporting on issues related to college admissions and financial aid.

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