The Common Application® has been a staple of college admissions for many years now. Throughout those years, it has simplified the application process to its member schools for countless students. As the number of schools accepting the Common App has grown, so have the numbers of students using it. (Between December 30 and January 1 this year, Common App forms were being submitted at a rate of 3.6 per second.) This year the Common App has made some long-needed changes that will hopefully make things easier for everyone who uses it.
One of the most anticipated changes involves the Common App essay. In the past, students had 6 prompts to choose from including a generic “Topic of your choice” option with no word limit. The new Common App (CA4) offers 5 prompts, does not include a topic of choice, and has an enforced 650 word limit.
Having watched many students agonize over what to write about, especially when they were given the option to write about absolutely anything, I believe the new prompts and word limit will help them narrow their choices and focus more clearly on what they want to say. Consequently, I am hopeful that this will reduce some of the stress and anxiety that can accompany college applications.
The new prompts are below. I’d love to hear what you think of them.
- 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.