The Common Application Announces 2013-2014 Essay Prompts, Longer Word Limit
Today the Common Application released the essay prompts for the 2013-2014 application, along with news that they will enforce a strict 650 word limit, an increase of 150 words from the previous 500 word limit.
There has been controversy surrounding the Common Application's new essay prompts since it was announced they were eliminating the "topic of your choice" essay option. According to the organization, the development of the prompts and the word limit came after much consideration from the counselors on the Outreach Advisory Committee.
The Common App also clarified on its Facebook page that the short answer activity essay will not be part of the main application in 2013-2014. Schools will instead choose whether or not to ask a version of it on their supplements.
Below are the instructions and the new essay prompts for the 2013-14 Common Application, set to be released in August.
Instructions. The essay demonstrates your ability to write clearly and concisely on a selected topic and helps you distinguish yourself in your own voice. What do you want the readers of your application to know about you apart from courses, grades, and test scores? Choose the option that best helps you answer that question and write an essay of no more than 650 words, using the prompt to inspire and structure your response. Remember: 650 words is your limit, not your goal. Use the full range if you need it, but don't feel obligated to do so. (The application won't accept a response shorter than 250 words.)
"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."
What do you think of the new essay prompts? Do you think there should still be a "topic of choice?" Tell us in the comments!
Why the 2018-2019 Common Application Essay Prompts Make Your Job Easier
Some years, students go into the essays blind. The prompts are new and untested. Sometimes the format or length even changes. This can be a daunting prospect.
In years when the prompts remain the same, though, you have some examples to work from. Your guidance counselor and college admissions counselors are familiar with them and have worked with students on the same prompts before. You might even be able to read examples from past students to get your creative juices flowing.
In addition, if you have the time and feel the itch to get started, you can take advantage of the Common Application account rollover feature to start an application now, and roll it over to complete in the fall when your application period officially begins.
While we generally advise students to begin working on their applications during the summer before senior year, there’s nothing wrong with starting earlier if you have a good handle on the other things you need to tackle during junior year, like standardized testing, APs, and your regular school and extracurricular commitments. If you’re one of those students who writes best during an inspired moment of creativity, by all means capture the moment no matter when it arrives.
Other Ways to Prepare for the Common Application Before Senior Year
Many high school juniors wonder what they can be doing now to get started working towards their Common Applications. While our advice to wait until the summer before senior year remains the same, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t certain skills you can develop or details to tackle now.
First, work hard to improve your writing as much as possible. Your personal essay prompts are your chance to really shine as an individual and set yourself apart from a pool of similarly qualified candidates. This means you’ll need to develop a sense of voice in your written work that is both polished and personal. You can do this by writing frequently, paying attention to the feedback you get on written work from teachers across all subject areas, and by joining writing groups or tutoring sessions. Improving your writing skills is one of the most important things you can do to prepare for college applications.
To learn more about improving your writing skills, see these posts:
How to Sharpen Your Writing Skills
Parents: 10 Easy Ways to Help Your Teen Become a Better Writer
Another way to prepare for the Common Application is to begin initial brainstorming about the essay prompts. For some students, the choice of which prompt to tackle is obvious immediately. For others, it takes much longer to make a decision. It’s a good idea to begin a list of possible essay topics. They might fit with a specific prompt, or they may just make good essay fodder to be sculpted into a prompt later. Also, remember that the last prompt allows you to submit an existing essay or even create your own prompt. Keep your eyes and ears open to compile a diverse and eclectic mix of topics to choose from when the time comes.
If you’re a high school junior getting ready to consider the 2018-2019 college application season, don’t miss these important CollegeVine posts:
A User’s Guide to the Common Application
FAQ About the Race/Ethnicity Section of the Common Application
A Guide to the ‘Demographics’ Page of the Common Application
A Guide to the Education Section of the Common App
How to Master the ‘Honors’ Section of the Common App
For more personalized advice, consider the benefits of CollegeVine’s Applications Guidance service. Here, you’ll be paired with a personal admissions specialist who can provide step-by-step guidance through the entire application process, including how to perfect your approach to the personal essay.
For more about writing application essays, check out these CollegeVine posts:
What If I Don’t Have Anything Interesting To Write About In My College Essay?
How to Write a Last Minute Essay
How to Write the Common Application Essays 2017-2018
Whom Should I Ask for Help with My College Essay?