University of Connecticut Admissions on the Role of the Essay and the Common App Changes

In our continuing series on the changes in the writing section of the Common Application, today the University of Connecticut’s Wayne Locust, Vice President of Enrollment Planning and Management, and Nathan Fuerst, Director of Undergraduate Admissions, contribute their thoughts on the role of the essay in the admission decision as well as the new essay prompts and longer length.


How would you characterize the importance of the essay in the admission decision?


The University of Connecticut values greatly the insights the essay questions provide as part of the admissions evaluation process. Although not an over-riding factor, the essay is indeed a substantial consideration and will likely become even more so as competition for freshman seats in the class increases.


What impact do you foresee the changes to the Common Application writing section having?


The new essay prompts seem to require more self-reflection which is a good approach as our admission counselors and application readers attempt to get a sense of the qualities and characteristics a student may potentially bring to our campus. This is not always possible to glean by assessing an activity list, counselor recommendations and other non-cognitive measures in and of themselves. Thus, we are happy with the direction of the new prompts in allowing students to express themselves in a deeper manner.


What are your thoughts about the longer length and do you plan to encourage students to go for it or stick as close as possible to the old 500-word limit?


We do not believe that an increase in the length of the essay will be a major factor one way or another. Many students are able to clearly respond in a sufficient manner with a 500-word ceiling.  However, others might find the increased limit helpful. It may take a minute more or two for us to read the essay at the longer length but we tend to be pretty intensive in our application reading process regardless. We do not see a need to add supplemental questions to the process aimed at further inquiry into a student's academic interest.


One criticism of the new prompts is that there is no opportunity for students to address intellectual interests. Can you respond to that?


A young person's intellectual interests are developmental and always a work in they should be.


Founded in 1881, University of Connecticut is a public research university located in Storrs, Connecticut. (The school also has five regional campuses.) Serving more than 22,000 undergraduates, UConn has fourteen schools and colleges. Information about undergraduate admissions can be found here.


Previous posts on the Common Application changes include a feature discussing the new prompts and word-limits, an interview with Common Application Director of Outreach Scott Anderson, and a Q&A with Common App Outreach Advisory Committee member Ralph Figueroa, Dean of College Guidance at Albuquerque Academy. Our series continues tomorrow with thoughts a Q & A with Vanderbilt University's Dean of Admissions Douglas Christiansen, followed by a post from college advisor Alice Kleeman providing examples of possible topics for each of the new prompts.

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