The Common Application made multiple announcements for the 2015-2016 application cycle today. The announcement made today were:
- Common Application Member colleges and universities can choose not to require the Common App Personal Essay. This was first announced at the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) conference in September 2014 in Indianapolis. However, this is the first announcement on the Common Application website. If colleges do not require the essay, students will still have the option to submit the essay to the institution if they like. If the essay is still required by a college, students will not be able to submit the application to that particular institution until the essay is submitted. A list of colleges that will not require the essay has not been released.
- Students will now be able to preview completed portions of the Common App as they work through the application. In the past, students could only preview their application once the entire application was complete. Now, students will be able to review completed portions as soon as they are complete. The preview will generate a printable view of the completed section so students can review their answers and print or save for their records.
- Changes to the essay prompts were released. Last year no changes were made. However, there have been multiple changes to the prompts this year. Most of the changes are just word changes in the prompts. However, one of the prompts is brand new this year. The new prompts are listed below with changes in italics:
- 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. (Similar to this year’s prompt, but worded differently.)
- The lessons we take from failure can be fundamental to later success. Recount an incident or time when you experienced failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience? (Similar to this year’s prompt, but worded differently.)
- Reflect on a time when you challenged a belief or idea. What prompted you to act? Would you make the same decision again? (No change to this prompt at all.)
- Describe a problem you’ve solved or a problem you’d like to solve. It can be an intellectual challenge, a research query, an ethical dilemma-anything that is of personal importance, no matter the scale. Explain its significance to you and what steps you took or could be taken to identify a solution. (Brand new prompt.)
- Discuss an accomplishment or event, formal or informal that marked your transition from childhood to adulthood within your culture, community, or family. (No change to this prompt at all.)
The one prompt that will not be available on the 2015-2016 Common App that was available during the 2014-2015 year is: “Describe a place or environment where you are perfectly content. What do you do or experience there and why is it meaningful to you?”
The changes to the prompts came from feedback the Common Application received from almost 6,000 individuals who responded to a survey. 110 Common Application Member institutions responded to the survey. In addition, 5,667 constituents responded, including school counselors, independent educational consultants, students, parents, and community based organizations. The majority of survey responders believed the 2014-2015 essay prompts generated effective essays as a whole.
Now that the essay prompts have been released, college-bound students can start thinking about their essays. The Common Application will open for 2015-2016 submissions on Aug. 1, 2015.
Further changes and additions will be announced later per the counselor email from the Common Application. One change that was hinted in the email was their intention to support a college’s choice to require or not require a letter or recommendation. More information about this change will come at a later date.