Essay Prompts

Common App will feature same essay prompts for 2014-15!

The Common Application announced today that it will retain the same essay prompts for 2014-15! That's good news for students. Typically students have had to wait until August to know what the prompts will be. This way students can get an earlier start. That said, it's too soon for juniors to be working on the essay -- but not too soon to think about them. Take a look at the list now then tuck it away until June or July.

Here's the statement in full -- including the list of essay prompts - from Scott Anderson, Senior Director for Policy for the Common Application:



Essay Prompts Successfully Support Holistic Selection Process

 ARLINGTON, VA – FEBRUARY 11, 2014 - After a positive response from Common Application member colleges and school counselors, The Common Application will retain the current set of first-year essay prompts for 2014-15, without any edits or additions. The essay length will continue to be capped at 650 words.


Scott Anderson of the Common App on the New Essay Prompts

Last year, more than 2.5 million online applications were submitted to the Common Application’s 488 member colleges -- from Adelphi University to Yale. The next generation of the electronic form -- dubbed CA4 -- will launch in August of this year. But in the lead up to the unveiling of the digital makeover, the Common App last week announced new essay prompts, as well as a new length limit of 650 words, which will be enforced by the new technology. (You can see our earlier story here.) The Common Application Director of Outreach Scott Anderson joined us to talk more about these changes.

What was the impetus for the new essay prompts? Why was it seen as necessary?

For the last few years, two of our six essay prompts--topic of your choice and significant experience--have accounted for over 70% of all essays. That clustering prompted us to ask: "Can we make our prompts more appealing and, by extension, more effective, both as an invitation for students to share their stories and as a tool for helping our members make informed decisions?"

Coming soon: The Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes to the Common App

It's Common Application Week at College Admission. Starting tomorrow, we'll have commentary on the new essay prompts and word limits for the "Writing" section of the Common Application announced earlier this week, including guidance for how students can benefit from these changes. We'll be posting advice and insights from Common Application Director of Outreach Scott Anderson and Outreach Advisory Committee member Ralph Figueroa, Vice President for Enrollment at University of Connecticut Wayne Locust and more. And college advisor Alice Kleeman will be offering examples of possible topics that respond to each new prompt.

Essay Lab: Day Four Prompts and Some Advice

Today, some advice and more prompts:

Meg Waite Clayton, bestselling author of The Four Ms. Bradwells, The Wednesday Sisters, The Language of Light, and the forthcoming The Wednesday Daughters 

From Meg's blog, how to get the words onto paper:   

I remind myself that I can throw anything out if it doesn’t work. The trick is just to write without worrying about exactly what you’re writing. Any sentence will do to start — and if it sucks, you can throw it out later! 

And some prompts from what she calls her "bag of tricks":

                Dig out an old personal photo and write about how it makes you feel.

                Subscribe to an online word-a-day service like Google word, and each day when you sit down to write, start with a sentence that uses your word of the day.