The Ivy Coach Daily

September 1, 2013

Duke Admissions Essay

Duke is also flip-flopping with their admissions essays.

We’ve been fairly critical of the University of Michigan of late for changing their admissions essays after releasing different essays earlier for students applying this coming year. But the University of Michigan isn’t alone. A Duke admissions essay has been mysteriously changed as well! It seems as if colleges are still deciding which essays to add and which ones to delete on their supplements. So if you think that the college admissions process is stressful, deans of admission from across the country are only making it that much more stressful by changing their minds on their supplemental essay questions.

At first Duke University included their perennial Why Duke essay question with the following directions: “Please limit your response to one or two paragraphs.” Then suddenly that same Why Duke essay question was deleted entirely from Duke’s Common Application Supplement so students who already wrote this essay no longer needed it.  And then just as suddenly, the essay question reappeared, but this time it includes a 150 word limit. So for those students who wrote the essay in two paragraphs, they now need to edit it down to 150 words. Oy vey!

Duke and the University of Michigan aren’t the only universities that can’t seem to decide on their supplemental essay questions. Before the Common App. went live on August 1st, the University of Virginia indicated on its undergraduate admissions page that both essays from the previous year would be included on the Common Application. Then a week or so after August 1st, UVA included only one essay on their supplemental application. So if you followed the instructions on UVA’s website, you wrote both essays and you limited that second essay to 250 words — only to find out that UVA was not requiring it after all. Now all of a sudden, that essay has miraculously reappeared on UVA’s Common App. supplement, but not with a word limit of 250 words. Instead, it’s a minimum of 250 words and a maximum of 650 words.

We could go on and on about colleges that posted essay questions on their site in late spring and early summer only to change those essay questions once the Common App. went live. And then change them again because, for whatever reason, they didn’t get it right the first time or maybe they ate something that upset their stomachs and led them to change the essays all around. So if you’re thinking of submitting your application soon because you have the required essays completed, we urge you not to do so. It’s still possible that the colleges to which you’re applying will change their minds on these questions once again, and you will be responsible for questions that you didn’t answer, or you’ll submit essays that are no longer required, or essays that you submitted are either above or below the word limit.

And don’t let us get started on colleges that indicate there’s no supplemental application when in fact there is a supplement and a few essay questions. We kindly ask the Common Application to fix this. For example, when you add Cornell University as a college to your list, it will indicate that there is no supplemental application when in fact there are indeed supplemental essay questions.  A student could literally hit the submit button and would never know that they should have also submitted Cornell’s supplement with its essay questions.

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