Earlier this year, the Common App announced some changes to its essay prompts. The app includes revisions to some existing prompts, plus two new additional prompts. The Common App administrators do things like this because they want to improve the system and make it even more valuable and useful as the schools evaluate potential students.
We summarized the changes below and offer some information on how they might impact you or your child.
What changed in the old prompts?
The app now offers seven total prompts instead of five. Two of the five options stayed the same as last year, but they slightly tweaked the other three to draw more thoughtful and specific answers from students.
The three revised prompts are below, with the changes shown in italics:
- The lessons we take from obstacles we encounter can be fundamental to later success. Recount a time when you faced a challenge, setback, or failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience?
- Reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea. What prompted your thinking? What was the outcome?
- Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others.
For reference, here are the two unchanged prompts:
- 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.
- 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.
What are the new common app essay prompts?
These two common app essay prompts are brand new for 2017:
- Describe a topic, idea, or concept you find so engaging that it makes you lose all track of time. Why does it captivate you? What or who do you turn to when you want to learn more?
- Share an essay on any topic of your choice. It can be one you’ve already written, one that responds to a different prompt, or one of your own design.
What do these changes mean for you?
As you can probably tell from reading them, the new common app essay prompts use open-ended language, giving students more room to share their stories and perspectives.
Remember that the Common App essay is optional for some colleges (such as IPFW); however, you must enter some kind of text in the essay box, even if it’s just “This university does not require an essay.”