College Admissions: Big Changes For The Common App

Saturday, June 01, 2013


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A raft of changes to the 2013-14 Common App include many new essay questions (and the elimination of others). Will you be prepared?

Next year’s college applicants will face a new array of questions when they attack college applications. Most notably, the Common App, used by roughly 500 colleges and universities, has announced

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completely new essay topics for 2013-2014. Although the new version of the Common App online will not be released until this summer, we do have a preview of the new questions. Sadly, the “Topic of Your Choice” has been eliminated which will limit the creativity of many essay writers. Here are the 2013-2014 essay prompts (students need only pick one, and the word limit will be 650 words):

New Common App essay questions

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.

Other changes to the Common App will include:

  • Smart questions, based on the applicant’s answer to previous prompts
  • On-screen support and progress checks
  • A new Art Supplement process with integration
  • The elimination of the Athletic Supplement
  • The discontinuation of the paper version of the Common App (except for teacher recommendations and school forms)
  • The elimination of alternate version capability which will be replaced by new functionality allowing unlimited edits to line items in the Common App and up to three essay versions


Launching the new Common App

The new version of the Common App will be available online August 1, 2013. Students applying with fall 2013 and winter 2014 deadlines should NOT enter information on the Common App before then. The Common App typically goes dark for 1-2 weeks in July while it makes technical changes, and during this time all student information entered on the old forms is permanently removed from the system. Students may also want to explore the Universal Application which is accepted by 44 institutions and allows students greater flexibility with essay topics and the information that they supply to colleges.

Cristiana Quinn, M.Ed. is the founder of College Admission Advisors, LLC which provides strategic, college counseling and athletic recruiting services for students.


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