Changes to The Common Application 2013-14

The Common App questions have changed beginning Fall 2013

The Common App questions have changed beginning Fall 2013

Big news!  The Common Application Board of Directors has changed the questions for the common application essay beginning next fall (2013).  If you haven’t applied to college before, it shouldn’t really matter, but if you have older siblings/children who have, it’s a good idea to preview the new questions.

Actually, it’s a good idea for all high school juniors to read over the questions now to get an idea of the five different options and have a chance to reflect on past, present and future experiences you might wish to write about.

How are the questions different from previous years?

  • Gone is question #6—write on whatever topic you wish–so now every applicant has to present a more specific and focused essay.
  • The 500-word limit has been extended to 650 words, though some counselors still recommend sticking as close as possible to 500 words.
  • The questions focus less on achievements and more on struggle.
  • They ask more specifically for reflection and evaluation, especially questions #2, #3, and #4.
  • Question #1 is still pretty open ended—a “background or story . . . central to [your] identity.”
  • Overall, the questions seem to direct students more toward narrating one event or story rather than stringing together several vignettes.

Click here for a to link to the new questions.

I suggest investing in a notebook or opening a file on your computer where you can jot down ideas and reflections during the next few months.  Don’t worry about having “unusual” or “unique” experiences—how you evaluate your experiences is at least as important as what you choose to write about.

You might also consider signing up for a college essay writing workshop or for individual help with essays with an independent college counselor.

Here is a link to the college essay workshops offered by Peninsula Young Writers in San Carlos, California.

This blog was provided by Beth Harrison, Executive Director, Peninsula Writing and Literature Programs/Peninsula Young Writers. Beth Harrison was a guest on College Smart Radio “Tackling the Runaway Costs of College” on March 9th, 2013.  Listen to this broadcast on YouTube here.

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