As of this writing, over 490 out of about 550 Common App colleges have gone fully “live” with their member questions and writing supplements for 2014-15. The rest are working out details and will come on line as soon as all parties reach agreement.
“The 60 or so remaining Members will make the decision to go live when they are ready to do so -- that may be anytime between now and the end of August,” explained Aba Blankson, the Common App’s director of communications. “…Prospective Applicants who navigate to a Member page that is not yet published, will see a message explaining that the Common App and Member Institution are working together to finalize the questions. At that time, they will also see tips on how to proceed through the other parts of the application process.”
In the meantime, early bird applicants have already begun completing applications. On the first day, about 600 applications were filed through the Common App system, according to Ms. Blankson.
And while most of the application elements introduced last year remain in place, there have been a couple of changes in function and design, some of which were recommended by focus groups of local high school students.
Perhaps the most noticeable and somewhat unexpected change this year is the challenge of locating essay prompts. Colleges were given the option of locating prompts in writing supplements like last year or placing them in member questions located in the main body of the application. For colleges requiring a writing supplement, filing an application becomes a two-step process. Without the supplement, the process is reduced to one submission.
A complication comes in when a college uses member questions to “trigger” other member questions or a brand new writing supplement which wasn’t immediately visible on the “My Colleges” page. This marks the return of the “stealth” essay, which gave many applicants nightmares last year.
The essay hunt may take some getting used to, but if applicants take care to answer member questions first, all prompts should readily appear. If applicants wait until late in the game, however, they may be surprised with a few unexpected essays to complete.
In any event, it appears that some colleges spent the summer coming up with challenging, if not downright weird questions for applicants to consider and ponder late into the night.
Here are 12 of the more ‘un’common Common Application questions for 2014-15:
Barnard College, NY
"Alumna and writer Anna Quindlen says that she 'majored in unafraid' at Barnard. Tell us about a time when you majored in unafraid."
Dartmouth College, NH
"Every name tells a story: Tell us about your name--any name: first, middle, last, nickname--and its origin."
Hampshire College, MA
"You are writing your autobiography. Imagine what you would say on page 54 about yourself and your experiences."
Hendrix College, AR
"What is your favorite candy?"
Lake Forest College, IL
Questions: Other Information
"What song best describes your high school career or the last few years for you? (include the artist)"
Lehigh University, PA
"Describe your favorite 'Bazinga' moment."
Linfield College, OR
Questions: Other Information
"What fictional character would you choose as your college roommate and why? (Maximum of 250 words)"
Tufts University, MA
"Sports, science and society are filled with rules, theories and laws like the Ninth Commandment, PV=nRT, Occam’s Razor, and The Law of Diminishing Returns. Three strikes and you’re out. In English, “I” comes before “E” except after “C.” Warm air rises. Pick one and explain its significance to you."
University of Chicago, IL
Were pH an expression of personality, what would be your pH and why? (Feel free to respond acidly! Do not be neutral, for that is base!) - Inspired by Joshua Harris, Class of 2016"
University of Notre Dame, IN
"Describe your ideal intellectual field trip."
University of Richmond, VA
"Tell us about spiders."
University of Virginia
"To tweet or not to tweet."