The Common Application, which more than 500 colleges and universities around the country use for their admissions, no longer allows prospective college students to answer an essay prompt on a topic of their choice, has set a 650-word limit on the personal essay and has removed the short answer describing an important extracurricular.
Rising seniors will fill out a slightly different Common Application when applying to school for the 2014-2015 school year, as previous years of the Common Application required a limit of 500 words at most on the personal essay.
The fourth generation of the Common Application, dubbed “CA4” by the organization, will launch on August 1, 2013. Common Application Board President Carey Thomson said that “The New Era: 2013-2025” of the Common Application was launched because it can handle over 1,500 four-year institutions and over 3 million applicants.
The instructions for the new essay prompts warn students that 650 words is not a goal but a limit.
Upper School Dean Vanna Cairns said that though students no longer have the option to make up their own essay topic, their writing choices will not be affected.
“It’s better to write what you want and have it fit into one of the essay topics rather than be stymied trying to fit in one of the available topics,” she said.
The upper school deans will view a webinar during their early June retreat to learn more about the changes to the Common Application.
One such change is a “slide-room,” a program that “will allow students to more easily send in their art portfolios, music and dance videos,” Cairns said. “There will be a $5 charge per college for this unless the college picks up the tab.”