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Changes to the Common Application essay prompts.

2015-16 brings a few changes to the Common Application Essay choices:

  1. “Minor changes have been made to essays No. 1 and No. 2. There are no changes in No. 3 and No. 5. The No. 4 essay, however, has been completely revamped. Here’s a comparison. The changed language is in italics.

    No. 1:
    Old: 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.

    New: 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.

    No. 2:
    Old: Recount an incident or time when you experienced failure. How did it affect you, and what lessons did you learn?

    New: The lessons we take from failure can be fundamental to later success. Recount an incident or time when you experienced failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience?

    No. 3:
    Old/New (no changes from previous year): Reflect on a time when you challenged a belief or idea. What prompted you to act? Would you make the same decision again?

    No. 4:
    Old: Describe a place or environment where you are perfectly content. What do you do or experience there, and why is is meaningful to you?

    New: 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.

    No. 5:
    Old/New (no changes from previous year): Discuss an accomplishment or event, formal or informal, which marked your transition from childhood to adulthood within your culture, community, or family.
  2. Unlimited essay revisions
    In the past, applicants were permitted to revise their Common App essays three times. This year, they will be able to make as many edits and revisions as they like. This means that students will have an opportunity to tailor their Common App essay to a college and use the essay to demonstrate a specific interest in a school.”
  3. Colleges can make the essay optional
    Until this year, the Common App essay was required for all member colleges. Now, colleges will be able to choose whether or not to require the essay. If the essay is not required, students will still have an opportunity to submit it.
  4. Streamlined access to program-specific essays
    Some programs or majors require separate application essays. In the past, applicants had to go through each application and respond to the right questions in the form to reveal these special requirements. This resulted in unwelcome surprises for applicants who waited until the last minute to complete their online applications. During the next admissions season, program-specific essay requirements will be identified up front for each college.
  5. Colleges can make recommendations optional
    Previously, all Common App member colleges were required to ask applicants for at least one recommendation from a school-based counselor or teacher. In 2015-2016, colleges will have the option to waive that requirement.

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