The Common Application platform for applying to colleges was utilized by more than 3 million students, parents, teachers, and counselors last year. With a goal to improve the quality, ease, timeliness, and scope of the previous year, The Common Application was revised to include several new features for 2017-2018.
The Common Application essay prompts were released in February 2017. While two of the prompts remained unchanged, three underwent revisions, and two new prompts were introduced. Direct feedback from The Common Application board members, along with member colleges and constituents, led to enhanced essay prompts that include discussions of personal aspirations and identity, character, and community.
The two unchanged essay prompts remain traditional and standard in nature.
- 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.
- Describe a problem you’ve solved or a problem you’d like to solve. It can be an intellectual challenge, a research query, an ethical dilemma – anything that is of personal importance, no matter the scale. Explain its significance to you and what steps you took or could be taken to identify a solution.
The three revised prompts allow students to showcase themselves in fresh, meaningful ways.
- The lessons we take from obstacles we encounter can be fundamental to later success. Recount a time when you faced a challenge, setback, or failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience?
- Reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea. What prompted your thinking? What was the outcome?
- Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others.
And finally, the two new prompts encourage students to share specific examples of their intellectual curiosity or invite them to introduce a topic or essay of their own choice.
- Describe a topic, idea, or concept you find so engaging that it makes you lose all track of time. Why does it captivate you? What or who do you turn to when you want to learn more?
- Share an essay on any topic of your choice. It can be one you’ve already written, one that responds to a different prompt, or one of your own design.
Changes to The Common Application
There are several improvements to The Common Application for 2017-2018:
Google Drive – Students may now upload documents such as essays and resumes to The Common Application using Google Drive, which is the convenient storage and file sharing platform frequently utilized by students.
Course and Grade Reporting – Students may self-report their courses and grades directly into their Common Application profile, which allows colleges to have a sense of the student’s coursework and performance in advance of the official transcript which is forwarded by the high school. Many universities admit students based on the self-reported transcript. This process saves the universities time and money as they are not waiting for or following up on missing transcripts from all the students that apply; they only need to collect and check the transcripts of admitted students. Very few students misrepresent their transcripts.
Recommenders and Advisors – In addition to school-based guidance counselors, The Common Application now allows for advisors outside the school community to offer their guidance and support in the form of evaluations and recommendations. Students can also generate a pdf of The Common Application and share or send it to counselors/advisors for review.
Spanish Translations – Key areas of The Common Application will be translated into Spanish.
Ready, Set, Go!
Don’t wait until fall to begin thinking about applying to college; the time to start is now (for our tips, click here). In fact, The Common Application, with its new features and innovations, will be launched on August 1, 2017. Students, parents, and advisors who are aware of these changes will be prepared and ready for a strong running start when it comes time to submit college applications.
Photo credit: Oscar Rethwill