Common Application Announces Updated Essay Prompts

Common Application Announces Updated Essay Prompts
  • Opening Intro -

    High school students that use the Common Application to apply for college may notice some changes with their 2013-2014 essay prompts.

    The new prompts, announced this week, will bring forth several changes of note, no less than stretching out the word count maximum by 30 percent.


Applying to college made easy.

Introduced for 1975-1976, the Common Application has grown from 15 members to nearly 500 members including its first international institutions.


The Common Application was developed to streamline the college application process for high school students and college transferees. Two versions of the Common App are used to serve both groups.

Of the 488 member institutions as of 2012-2013, approximately one-third are recognized as exclusive users with only the Common App accepted. Students can access the application online or download a copy.

Word Limits

The Common App has a word count minimum of 250 words. On the upper end, its 500 word limit has now been expanded to 650 words.

Students are not required to write 650 words, but they are limited to that number. The Common App stresses that students should not feel obligated to reach the limit, but the new guidelines do give them considerable room to write longer.

Essay Prompts

Following the input of 15 counselors to the Common App’s Outreach Advisory Committee, the essay prompts for the upcoming year are:

  • 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.

Common App

The goal of any college application including the Common App is to help students distinguish themselves from their peers. College admissions personnel look at each application individually and may be looking for a mix of qualities that go beyond test scores and grades. Thus, write in your own voice and your own voice alone to help tell your story at college application time.


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