The New 2013 Common Application

The Common Application (Common App) is used by nearly 500 colleges including all members of the Ivy League and many other private and public institutions in the US and Canada. The University of Tennessee joined the Common App program for the first time last year. The Common Application allows students to apply to as many schools as they see fit by only having to fill out one universal application. Many schools, however, require an additional supplement as well which students fill out as part of the Common Application process. This supplement can be just a few extra factual questions or it may consist of one or more short or long essay questions.

The Common App has been unchanged for many years, but this past February the Common App Board of Directors announced major changes that are the culmination of two years of discussion about the role that the Common App essay plays in the holistic selection process. In addition, Common App deleted the short answer essay question, so now there is only one essay. The new essay prompts are designed to allow students to present thoughtful and creative expressions in essays that will allow the colleges to make better informed decisions regarding admittance. There are also several other changes to this year’s Common App, most of them being more technical in nature.

Each year the Common Application goes live on August 1st, meaning that that is the first date students can log on to and begin filling out their application. Because the essay prompts are all new this year, the Common App board decided to release the essay prompts early so rising seniors can get an extra early start developing their essay ideas. Here are the five new Common Application Essay prompts:

1. 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.

2. Recount an incident or time when you experienced failure. How did it affect you, and what lessons 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 and accomplishment or event, formal or informal, that marked your transition from childhood to adulthood within your culture, community or family.

So which essay do you pick and how do you go about writing it? I’ll talk about that in my next blog.

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