No more “Topic of Choice” in Common App essay prompts

Mod Squad Mia, glad she doesn't have to write essays.

Mod Squad Mia, glad she doesn’t have to write essays.

The Common App Board updated their essay questions for the 2013 application season and–in the most significant change–removed the wild card, “topic of your choice.”

Your choice must be one of the following:

  • 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 other significant change for this year’s applicants: essays must be within 250 to 650 words. No less, no more. For any newbies, previous prompts suggested a length of 500 words, but since the process involved uploading Word documents, the application accepted any length. Application readers may have been perturbed by over-long essays, but that’s another matter.

The announcement from the Common App folks suggests that this year, rather than uploading a document, an applicant will paste the essay text into a word-count-restricting interface.

When writing about deadlines recently, I corresponded with a number of independent college counselors. Almost all of them strongly recommended that seniors complete their essays before school starts.

That gives Mod Squad Julie and her classmates about four more weeks.

Last I checked, Julie had drafts in-progress for most of the supplementary essays, but not for the main Common App prompt. She wasn’t wild about any of the options, so she checked to see which one M.S. Pete chose a couple of years ago… Of course:  topic of your choice.

Essay-writing resources up next. Which prompt would you choose?

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5 Comments

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5 responses to “No more “Topic of Choice” in Common App essay prompts

  1. Jen

    If I were an applicant, I would hate to have to answer any of those. The first pretty much does not apply. The second is too personal to share with college admissions. That leaves the third, fourth, and fifth, none of which I’m feeling wild about at this moment.

  2. Pingback: How to write college essays: Help from Essay Hell and 7 other treasures. | Dr. StrangeCollege or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Journey

  3. Well, I could do any of these, but I’m middle-aged so I’ve had time to accumulate plenty of experience!

  4. Pingback: 3 Quick Tips for Completing the Common App (including this most important one: take it slowly). | Dr. StrangeCollege or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Journey

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