The current Common Application , CA4, launched on August 1st, 2013, and the essay prompts were revised for the 2015-16 college application cycle. They have not changed for 2016-17. When CA4 launched, one of the biggest changes from the previous version was the essay section. Gone were the six essay prompts from the past decade, and college applicants no longer have the Topic of Your Choice option. With the 2015-16 udpates, the "describe a place" option has been replaced by #4 below on solving a problem.
The current prompts are the result of much discussion and debate from the member institutions who use the Common Application. With CA4, the length limit for the essay was increased from 500 words to 650 (the minimum is 250 words), and students will need to choose from the five options below. The new prompts are designed to encourage reflection and introspection. If your essay doesn t include some self-analysis, you haven t fully succeeded in responding to the prompt.
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The Common Application has announced that the 2016-2017 personal statement essay prompts will be the same as the 2015-2016 prompts. By conducting a review process every other year, rather than annually, we can hear from admissions officers, as well as students, parents , and counselors, about the effectiveness of the essay prompts.
These prompts are designed to elicit information that will strengthen the other components of the application. "We want to make sure that every applicant can find a home within the essay prompts, and that they can use the prompts as a starting point to write an essay that is authentic and distinguishing," said Scott Anderson, former school counselor and current Senior Director for Programs and Partnerships for The Common Application.
Important Note for 2016-17 Applicants: The Common Application changed on August 1st, 2013! The tips and sample essays below will still provide useful guidance and essay samples for the new Common Application, but be sure also to read the new article for the 2016-17 Common Application: Tips for the 5 New Common Application Essay Prompts.
Option #1. Evaluate a significant experience, achievement, risk you have taken, or ethical dilemma you have faced and its impact on you.
Many students trip over common obstacles in their college application essays. For example, many students can’t see beyond the superficial prompt to construct an essay that positively communicates their personality and passion. Some students rehash their activities and achievements without adding the personal flavor, perspective and substance that admissions officers look for. Learn how to avoid these and other damaging traps.
As an independent college admissions consultant, I read many application essays and see many common application essay mistakes. Here’s some helpful advice:
The new college essay prompts for the Common Application are much more narrow than they have been in the past. However, some of the questions are new takes on questions that have sometimes appeared on various essay supplements. Thus it’s hard to say that these new prompts are all that “new.”
We’ve been looking at each of the prompts, starting with the background story , followed by the failure , and ending with the beliefs and ideas prompt. Today we take a look at the “ place or environment ” prompt.
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Writing an essay often seems to be a dreaded task among students. Whether the essay is for a scholarship, a class, or maybe even a contest, many students often find the task overwhelming. While an essay is a large project, there are many steps a student can take that will help break down the task into manageable parts. Following this process is the easiest way to draft a successful essay, whatever its purpose might be.
According to Kathy Livingston’s Guide to Writing a Basic Essay , there are seven steps to writing a successful essay: