The Common Application, popularly known as the Common App, has released its new, altered list of essay prompts for undergraduates who are going to try their luck this year: some points were changed, and one was replaced with something completely new, so if you’ve been practicing on last year’s prompts it’s time to upgrade. Application period doesn’t start until August – so there is plenty of time to perfect your grasp of these topics.
Common App is extremely important and useful for college applicants for one simple reason: it allows you to choose one of 5 essay topics, write an essay and use it to apply to as many colleges out of more than 500 member schools as you want – you simply have to press a button on the program’s website and pay the associated fees. No need to write a separate essay for each school you are going to apply to, no need to keep track of numerous application procedures – and this year the list of available colleges is about sixty names longer than before, hence even more possibilities.
So which are the prompts this year? Let’s start with the newcomer, as it is likely to attract the greatest attention both from applicants and the schools.
Prompt number 4: “Describe a problem you’ve solved or a problem you’d like to solve”. It comes instead of “describe a place or environment where you are perfectly content” – according to the latest survey, three thirds of member schools wanted to get rid of it; such a unanimity makes one wonder how it made its way into the prompts list in the first place.
This new prompt is certainly much more dynamic and open for experimentation than an old one – it aims to motivate undergraduates to talk about things they care about, discuss the way they want to change the world, even if the change they are after is rather minute. All in all, it is practice-oriented and strives to bring the active side of applicant’s personality under the spotlight.
Other changes are much less significant, one may even call them superficial. A few words were replaced with synonyms in the first prompt (“Some students have a background, identity, interest or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story”).
The second prompt, dealing with the role of failure in our lives, was complemented with an additional hint, indicating that experiencing failure at one stage of life can often be fundamental for later success. Previously it was simply implied, now it is said directly.
Two other prompts remain the same: one asks you to recount an experience of challenging an idea or belief, another suggests that you describe the event or experience that marked your transition from childhood to adulthood.
All in all, in its current form Common App prompts probably leave more freedom for expression than ever before. All of them are generalized enough to welcome almost any topic, and the new problem-solving variant will surely be popular this fall.