The Common Application

Common App Changes, Common App, Changes to Common App

The Common Application is adding a few new questions to their application.

New questions have been added to the Common Application, announced the Common Application, Inc. The questions won’t apply to the vast majority of college applicants but rather reflect the diversity of applicants who now apply to college. Marital status, children, and an optional question on military status have all been added to the application. For the 2011-2012 application cycle, the new version also asks applicants to check specific categories of their proficiency in a particular language – whether or not they speak it, read it, and/or write it, whether its their first language, and if the language is spoken at home. Applicants are also asked about prior college-level coursework, and the marital status of their parents – whether their parents are considered “civil union” or “domestic partners”.

One other change is on the personal statement.  For the past three years it was required that applicants write a minimum of 250 words, but with this new change applicants must now write between 250 and 500 words.  Since the 2007-2008 application year, while the personal statement on the Common Application required a minimum of 250 words, there was no maximum word limit.  However, in years prior to 2007 there was in fact a 500 word limit.  The reason for the change in 2007 to no word limit was because applicants were not abiding by the word restriction, and as a result those students in some ways were able to tell more of their story.  While you would think that students who didn’t follow directions would have been outright rejected, this was not the case, and that’s why there was this change. The only way this maximum word limit can be enforced is if the personal statement is not uploaded and instead cut and pasted into a box – just like the activity essay.  Time will tell if this change back to a 500 word limit will remain.

According to Eric Hoover of “The Chronicle of Higher Education, “The continuing evolution of this virtual document also reveals the complexity of admissions in the digital age. Even as the Common Application has simplified the admissions process in various ways, it has raised questions—logistical and philosophical—for high schools and colleges alike. The organization’s members continue to debate what the application should and should not ask. In a sense, the Common Application has become the living document of the admissions profession, subject to continual additions and revisions.”

The new questions about marital status, children, and military status were added in response to the growing number of nontraditional students and veterans enrolling at member colleges, says Rob Killion, executive director of the Common Application, Inc. ‘This is just more data to help colleges understand who students are and how they got there,’ he says.

Check out our related blogs: Completing the Common Application, the Common Application’s Discipline Question, and Truncated Essays.


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