The Student News Site of Walt Whitman High School

The Black and White

The Student News Site of Walt Whitman High School

The Black and White

The Student News Site of Walt Whitman High School

The Black and White

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April 8, 2024

New Common Application essay questions limit students’ options

Over the next few months, juniors should start thinking about their failures, their identities and their transition to adulthood. These are among the five essay topics that will appear on the new Common Application for college admissions next year.

The new application, which will be released Aug. 1, will no longer include a “Topic of Your Choice” essay option. Also, the word limit will be raised from 500 to 650 words and will be strictly enforced, unlike in previous years. Essays shorter than 250 words will no longer be accepted.

The new prompts invite students to discuss their identities, a time they experienced failure, a time they challenged a belief, a favorite environment or an event that marked the transition from childhood to adulthood.

Nearly 500 colleges and universities use the admissions application prepared by the nonprofit The Common Application.

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The organization’s 15-member Outreach Advisory Committee spent two years revising the writing prompts. The organization will review the essay prompts each year and solicit comments from member institutions, it said in a press release.

Despite The Common Application’s claims, guidance resource counselor Fran Landau expects these topics to remain in place for a while. Before this year, questions hadn’t changed for “many, many years,” she said.

Three of last years’ six prompts, those concerning a significant experience, a significant issue and an influential person, date back to the early 1990s, The Common Application outreach director Scott Anderson said. The three other prompts, concerning a character in fiction, a topic of one’s choice and diversity, were added by 2004, he said.

The five new essay topics are more personal and character-driven than the old ones, guidance counselor Kenneth Putt said.

“They really want to get more from kids about what they value, their ethics and what they’re bringing to the campus,” he said.

Students believe the new prompts are interesting and varied enough to allow them to present themselves to colleges in their own ways.

“I would be able to say something about each of them,” senior Alex Farzanegan said. “I can’t say that about last year’s.”

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  • H 25, 2013 at 4:36 am

    Thanks for the important information and all changes. I did not know about the increase in the number of words in the essays.