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Students, colleges applaud changes to the Common App


Wednesday, February 19, 2014

The Common Application enacted several changes for the 2013–14 academic year. As thousands of students rely on the Common App to apply to some or all of their college choices, any change to the process will likely affect a large part of the total college search process.

Growing in popularity
The number of students using the Common App has grown considerably over the past several years. Since the 2008–09 school year, usage has increased steadily, jumping from 413,675 students to more than 723,000 in 2012–13, according to the application's fact sheet. Additionally, more than 500 member colleges, including schools in 47 states and seven foreign countries, currently accept the Common App in some form.

New essay questions provide personal insight
With so many aspiring college students using the Common App, the organization set out to continue improving its services prior to the 2013–14 academic year. In February 2013, it released five revamped essay prompts, which were created with input from admissions officials and experts. These new topics include reflections on personal challenges, lessons learned by past failures, transitional moments, and personal background stories. While previous versions of the application featured more open-ended questions, as well as an option allowing applicants to write about any topic important to them, these recent prompts focus on inspiring students to reveal more about themselves.

Writing prompts are here to stay
The changes made to the essay portion of the Common App were met with widespread approval. According to a press release, almost 70 percent of the organization's member colleges and 90 percent of counselors said that the new writing prompts were helpful to students, specifically in allowing those individuals to represent themselves well to potential schools.

Because of this acceptance, the Common App announced that the essay topics will remain for the upcoming year with no changes made. The length of essays will also be kept at a maximum of 650 words, up from the 500 words it was capped at prior to 2013. However, the organization will continue evaluating and reviewing the application each year to identify alterations that should be made to better serve students, counselors and colleges.

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