The Common Application, the college application system shared by more than 400 colleges, announced new essay prompts for 2014 college applicants. The questions no longer offer a "topic of choice" prompt, and the length of an acceptable essay has increased from 500 to up to 650 words. In a memo released this morning by Scott Anderson, Director of Outreach, the word limit of 650 words will be enforced.
Here are the instructions and prompts for students in the next application season:
The essay demonstrates your ability to write clearly and concisely on a selected topic and helps you distinguish yourself in your own voice. What do you want the readers of your application to know about you apart from courses, grades, and test scores? Choose the option that best helps you answer that question and write an essay of no more than 650 words, using the prompt to inspire and structure your response. Remember: 650 words is your limit, not your goal. Use the full range if you need it, but don't feel obligated to do so. (The application won't accept a response shorter than 250 words.)
• Some students have a background or 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.
• Recount an incident or time when you experienced failure. How did it affect you, and what lessons did you learn?
• Reflect on a time when you challenged a belief or idea. What prompted you to act? Would you make the same decision again?
• Describe a place or environment where you are perfectly content. What do you do or experience there, and why is it meaningful to you?
• Discuss an accomplishment or event, formal or informal, that marked your transition from childhood to adulthood within your culture, community, or family.
Students will be required to write on one topic, but many colleges will also ask students to respond to supplemental essay questions specific to their college. Member colleges of the Common Application also require students to submit letters of recommendation in addition to academic transcripts. Some colleges require SAT or ACT results, and a smaller number of schools make the submission of standardized test scores optional.