Every year, anxious high school seniors across the country take a deep breath and stare at a dreaded enemy: the Common Application. They have to fill out personal information, decide which colleges to apply to, and write an essay that will impress the college admissions board. But no matter how intimidating the Common App may seem at first glance, it’s actually not *too* scary. The Common App undergoes some changes every year, and the 2017-18 essay prompts have recently been announced. In the past, the Common App released its essay prompts in August, which gave aspiring graduates only a few short weeks to work on their college essays. Now, the Common App releases its essay prompts towards the beginning of the year so that seniors will have ample time to work on their essays and produce the best work possible. So what are the major changes to this year’s essay prompts? Let’s find out!
For years, there have only been five writing prompts students could choose from on the Common App. But for the 2017-18 application, there are now a whopping seven prompts to choose from. Five of these prompts are similar to the prompts that showed up on the 2015-16 application, such as, “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.” However, these prompts have been reworded slightly from their 2015-16 counterparts.
Most significantly, though, is that there are two completely new prompts. They are: “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?” and “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.” In both of these prompts, students are free to write about a topic that they truly enjoy, one that asks them to discuss their passions and intellectual interests. With these prompts, the hope is that students will answer the questions honestly and in a way that shows their true selves. Too often students craft answers that they think colleges want to hear, and these answers do not present an accurate depiction of the candidate. These two new prompts are meant to encourage students to reflect on what they truly love and speak candidly.
A strong college application essay is not one that presents an ideal version of the applicant. Rather, a strong college application is one that shows a human being: one with interests in all sorts of things, one with flaws, and one with the capability to grow. So if you or your child intends to apply for college in the Fall, consider answering one of the new essay prompts in the Common App. Write about your love for the Oxford comma, your interest in animal hibernation patterns, or your passion for debating the place sports has in politics. If you write about something you legitimately enjoy, you offer colleges the chance to know the real you.