5 Changes to the Common Application You Should Know About

Find out how the Common Applications will improve the quality of your college essays with these tips.

November 08, 2013

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The Common Application has changed and you need to be ready. The Common Application revisions, referred to as "CA4," will be released to students in August 2013, making the college application process easier for both students and schools. You have to wait a bit longer to see the changes in the application's design, but the Common App unveiled its five new essay prompts. Now, let's prepare how to tackle them!

1. The new instructions ask students to "write clearly and concisely on a selected topic and… distinguish yourself in your own voice." The good news is that the new questions will help you tell your own story in your unique voice.

Instead of approaching the essay through vague ideas like community and diversity, you can brainstorm the new essays by remembering the significant moments in your life.

2. The new prompts are clearer and more accessible because they ask you to recount a specific story or experience. Previous Common App essay questions required you to do a lot of interpretation. A lot of students used the "topic of your choice" because evaluating an important issue or person of influence just seemed too intimidating. Instead of approaching the essay through vague ideas like community and diversity, you can brainstorm the new essays by remembering the significant moments in your life. Once you find your own most important stories, writing in your voice becomes so much easier.

3. The Common App recommends that you do not start writing your essay right away, and that's sound advice! For now, juniors should focus on their classes and the upcoming standardized tests. But you can still keep these questions at the back of your mind. And spring of junior year is a great time to start keeping a journal -- to write freely about any experience that stays with you or moves you and to keep notes about your college visits and conversations with admission counselors who visit your school.

There are a few more significant changes to the Common Application.

4. There's no more "topic of your choice," but the questions give you enough leeway to write about any significant experience that you want.

5. There's a strict 250-650 word count, and you will write your essay straight into the application instead of attaching a document.

These changes are designed to democratize the Common App, making it accessible and fair to all of its applicants. The more simply framed essay prompts encourage all students to take charge of the admissions process by telling their own stories.

Carol Barash, PhD is the founder and CEO of Story To College, a global education company that teaches courses in schools and online.

People Who Read This Article Also Read:

College Essays: Tips and Sample Questions
Make Your Application Essay Stand Out
Begin Practicing Your College Essay-Writing Skills
Start Writing Now: Avoid Last Minute Essay Prep

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