College Common Application Essay Questions 2013

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The Common Application Announces 2013-2014 Essay Prompts, Longer Word Limit

Today the Common Application released the essay prompts for the 2013-2014 application, along with news that they will enforce a strict 650 word limit, an increase of 150 words from the previous 500 word limit.

There has been controversy surrounding the Common Application's new essay prompts since it was announced they were eliminating the "topic of your choice" essay option. According to the organization, the development of the prompts and the word limit came after much consideration from the counselors on the Outreach Advisory Committee.

The Common App also clarified on its Facebook page that the short answer activity essay will not be part of the main application in 2013-2014. Schools will instead choose whether or not to ask a version of it on their supplements.

Below are the instructions and the new essay prompts for the 2013-14 Common Application, set to be released in August.

Instructions. The essay demonstrates your ability to write clearly and concisely on a selected topic and helps you distinguish yourself in your own voice. What do you want the readers of your application to know about you apart from courses, grades, and test scores? Choose the option that best helps you answer that question and write an essay of no more than 650 words, using the prompt to inspire and structure your response. Remember: 650 words is your limit, not your goal. Use the full range if you need it, but don't feel obligated to do so. (The application won't accept a response shorter than 250 words.)

  • "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."

  • "Recount an incident or time when you experienced failure. How did it affect you, and what lessons did you learn?"

  • "Reflect on a time when you challenged a belief or idea. What prompted you to act? Would you make the same decision again?"

  • "Describe a place or environment where you are perfectly content. What do you do or experience there, and why is it meaningful to you?"

  • "Discuss an accomplishment or event, formal or informal, that marked your transition from childhood to adulthood within your culture, community, or family."

What do you think of the new essay prompts? Do you think there should still be a "topic of choice?" Tell us in the comments!

The new Common Application — which received some criticism a few months ago for removing the “topic of your choice” essay prompt — has released five new essay prompts for the 2013-14 admissions season, Inside Higher Ed reports.

Students who plan to use the Common App, a form that allows students to apply to multiple colleges and universities simultaneously, are advised to keep these essay prompts in mind. Savvy juniors, and regular readers of this blog, know that the earlier a college applicant starts drafting his or her essay, the more prepared they are.

Here are the new essay prompts:

  • 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.
  • Recount an incident or time when you experienced failure. How did it affect you, and what lessons did you learn?
  • Reflect on a time when you challenged a belief or idea. What prompted you to act? Would you make the same decision again?
  • Describe a place or environment where you are perfectly content. What do you do or experience there, and why is it meaningful to you?
  • Discuss an accomplishment or event, formal or informal, that marked your transition from childhood to adulthood within your culture, community, or family.

The Common App will still be a stickler for essay lengths, as we reported in October. However, the maximum has increased to 650 words. (The previous limit was 500 words.) The Web-only application will not accept essays with fewer than 250 words.


We’d like to hear your thoughts on this. What do you think of the Common App’s new essay prompts? Are you upset that the “topic of your choice” is no longer an option? Please join the discussion in the comments box below.

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