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New College Common App Essay Topics Announced

Heading to college this fall? This post (first in a series) will help you write a winning common application essay.

If you were thinking of using your older sister’s or best friend’s common app essay from last year to help write your own for this year, think again!

Last week The Common Application Board of Directors announced new prompts for 2013-2014 essays. After two years of discussion, the new topics were formulated to better encourage applicants to present information about their personalities, character and other traits that isn’t otherwise available to colleges through test scores, grades, or extracurricular activities.

So (drum roll), here are the Common Application Essay Questions for 2013-2014:

  • 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.
  •  

    In addition, the maximum word count has been increased from 500 to 650 words.

    How do these changes affect how to write a winning common app essay?

    Stay tuned over the next three weeks for tips to help you do just that.

    In the meantime, if you’d like further information, contact me at (203) 273-4728 or at mppwriter@gmail.com.

    This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

    Lisa Buchman (Editor) February 21, 2013 at 08:37 PM
    Thanks Madeline - this is helpful news for juniors who are gearing up now for the application process. Seems like there's a lot to work with here—parents, students, what do you think?
    Leslie Yager February 22, 2013 at 01:07 AM
    I think it's great they're allowing longer essays. 500 word count was SHORT, though is was just suggested and I know my kid went wayyyy over. 650 feels like a better ballpark.
    Glen K Dunbar February 22, 2013 at 02:57 PM
    First, I LOVE to write. Longer essays is great. But, I want to point out to our young people that it is not what you know but who you know that really counts in life. If I had gone to college nobody guaranteed me I would have a nice 6-figure job or I would have gone. be sure, you have a job waiting before you waste all that money and get in debt just to go to college. Colleges are part of the economy...that is all. If companies did not require college nobody would go and those jobs would be lost. So, that is why companies require college. Moreover, I am sure colleges and big companies "compensate" each other if you know what I mean GLEN
    Leslie Yager February 22, 2013 at 03:08 PM
    Let's not forget Glen that education is also an end in itself. Indebtedness aside, a good college education enriches one's life. Besides, having a "6-figure job" is not everyone's goal for going to college.
    Glen K Dunbar February 22, 2013 at 03:18 PM
    I will concurr that a 6-figure income is not always the ultimate goal. Actually, for me it is not what comes in that I am VERY angry about. What I am extremely ANGRY GRRR about is what goes out and where. I work for my money and HATE to now all of a sudden w/o any training have to pay bills that I never even gave a thought to before. PLUS, I get NO reward for my sacrifices. NO love or anything. Just this miserable abyss New Canaan town I will also concurr that education for a persons own beneift might be a good thing too. Just remember Kids... if you are doing it for a better job...make sure they guarantee you a job when you are done w/college BEFORE you even start college
    Leslie Yager February 22, 2013 at 03:23 PM
    But Glen you do have a lot of folks who talk to you on Patch : ]
    Leslie Yager February 22, 2013 at 03:40 PM
    Glen, thought of you when a reader sent me this about boys/college/ and debt: http://jezebel.com/5985963/men-are-more-likely-to-drop-out-of-college-than-women-because-they-can-afford-it
    Joyce Singer February 22, 2013 at 04:36 PM
    How wonderful to receive this information free of charge and in such a compelling way! Three cheers for the 150-word increase--a modification that should bring a sigh of relief to many college applicants. The new topics speak to actual experiences students have and will inspire not only recall, but also connection to specific events that contribute to one's personal identity. Let's not forget most important aspect of the personal essay--the author's ability to convey authenticity--which involves searching within to find his or her voice. This process takes time and requires commitment to multiple revisions until he or she finally can say, "That's IT; THAT'S what I mean!" When an author reaches this level of comfort, the chances his or her readers also will "get it" increases exponentially. When juniors begin this process shortly before, or during, the summer months when freedom from school's daily challenges allows time for incubation and an opportunity to delve into the "meaning" of their personal stories, the final polishing of their narrative comes easily and brings that "I did it! I'm done!" sigh that accompanies that blissful relief. Whether students choose to work alone or with a professional to discover those significant moments that reveal his or her "grit," final editing by an English teacher or writing coach promises to add volume to that wonderful sigh.

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