(This is the first of two articles about writing effective college admission application essays. Part two, “Effective College Application Essay Writing Tips,” will follow soon, so be sure to check back in October.)

What Is The Common Application?

The Common Application, started in the 1970s, is a not-for-profit organization that strives to “promote equity, access, and integrity in the college application process” (www.commonapp.org). To date, The Common Application serves more than a million students and school officials each year and has over 500 members representing a wide range of public and private colleges and universities.

The Common Application provides a comprehensive evaluation of students as they apply to participating membership secondary education institutions. For more information, including a directory of participating colleges and their admissions requirements, supplemental application requests, and application deadlines, please visit www.commonapp.org. Today, The Common Application can only be completed and submitted online.

The New Common College Application Essay Prompts for 2014

In August, 2013, The Common Application changed its application to the CA4; with that came modifications to the essay section.

The essay choices have dropped from six to five, eliminating the “topic of your choice” prompt. The length limit also changed: the word limit increased from 500 to 650.

Essay Instructions:

The essay demonstrates your ability to write clearly and concisely on a selected topic and helps you distinguish yourself in your own voice. What do you want the readers of your application to know about you apart from courses, grades, and test scores? Choose the option that best helps you answer that question and write an essay of no more than 650 words, using the prompt to inspire and structure your response. Remember: 650 words is your limit, not your goal. Use the full range if you need it, but don’t feel obligated to do so. (The application won’t accept a response shorter than 250 words.)

Essay Prompts:

  • 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.

Please check back for our second part of this series for help with writing effective college admission application essays, “Effective College Application Essay Writing Tips.” Here, we will cover content strategies and successful presentation of the personal essay response.

Remember, All About Writing is here to help with both the prewriting and editing of your college application essay; however, we promote integrity and independence on behalf of the student and will not write your essay for you!   It is critical that content genuinely comes from and reflects the student, as that is the point of  weighting the essay so heavily in the admissions process.

If you are struggling with brainstorming ideas, organizing your thoughts, or structuring your essay, call us to get started. When you are finished with the rough draft of your essay, we can then work together to polish it to perfection!

Learn more about All About Writing and owner Christa Riddle at www.allaboutwritingconsulting.com. Remember, with All About Writing, writing help is just a call or click away! Call us today to schedule your free consultation and get your project underway. We are here to assist with any phase of the project.

-by Christa Riddle


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