Those applying to college in the fall of 2013 will deal with new essay prompts on the Common Application. The essay has always been important. It tells more than the numbers of grades and text score of an applicant. The propose of the essay is to reveal the story behind those numbers and get at the personality and innate talents of the student applying.
For that reason the writing prompts are important, and for that reason the Common Application is revamping its essay prompts.
It is eliminating the Open Choice essay prompt. Some applicants and their high school counselors feel the elimination of this prompt curtails open expression and creativity; others believe the prompt was too open-ended and encouraged vague writing. Nonetheless, the open choice was the most popular prompt chosen in 2012 applications; some 36% choosing the free choice prompt.
But the writing prompts are still open and allow full range for students to express and reveal themselves. Here they are:
• 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.
Another change – the word limit on the essay has also gone up from 500 words to 650. The new limit is based on looking at the number of words in the most effective essays, and the 650 word average fit that bill. However, do be aware that the 650 word limit will be strictly enforced. Students will not be able to upload any more words than the limit (or any essay with fewer than 250 words). Before, students could upload 800 to 1,000 words. Not anymore.
Good luck with the new prompts.