The Common Application Essay

Common App Essay, Common Application Personal Statement, Common App Essay Topics

The Common Application essay prompt isn’t so different for next year.

It seems The Common Application may have taken our suggestion. Against what was previously planned, The Common Application has opted not to remove the essay prompt that asks students to write — more or less –about a topic of their choice in their personal statement. On the new Common Application, the first essay prompt will now be: “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.” That question is about as “topic of your choice” as you can get.

The other possible questions to choose from on the 2013-2014 Common Application essay prompts ask applicants to recount a time when they experienced failure and how it impacted them, discuss a time when they challenged a belief and why, describe a place that makes them perfectly happy, and discuss an event or accomplishment that marked their transition into adulthood. Having a maximum of 650 words is also good should a student need more room to accomplish what they’re trying to say (though 500 is perfectly fine, too).

You can have your voice heard in the world of college admissions. If you think something should or shouldn’t change, speak out about it and sure enough the organization may in fact listen to you. The proposed changes by The Common App were not in the best interest of college applicants and, for the most part, they’ve listened and made changes accordingly.

Have a question on The Common App? Post it below! We look forward to hearing from you.


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  • Kim Lifton says:

    You give great advice to students applying to college. We were also pleased with the Common App questions. They are good questions with better instructions. Thankfully, they are more focused, clear and will not stifle creativity in any way. As you imply, writing-wise, it does not seem like much will change for students.

    Kim Lifton

  • Kevin Taylor says:

    Good tips, and there is a need to follow it. I did not know at the expense of changing the number of words in the essay. Thanks for the information.
    Kevin Taylor.

  • Penny Deck says:

    If Common App had truly listened to the masses they would have left intact Option #6 Topic of your Choice. Prompt #1 is NOT Topic of your Choice; students must still write within the parameters of the prompt. What remains to be seen is how strict some colleges and universities will be in judging whether the student truly answered the prompt or went off and wrote a “topic of their choice” anyway.

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