As more students overcome the hurdles previously associated with attending college, it has become more difficult for applicants to stand apart from the crowd during the admissions process. While extracurricular activities add to your experience in high school and can help mold you into the individual you will become, they alone will not convince an admissions office to offer you a place in college. It is up to you to express yourself and show colleges that you deserve to be admitted and you have a plan to be successful during the next stage of your academic career.
With the number of college applicants rising, admission committees must sift through thousands of applications – sometimes reviewing up to 150 applications in a single day. That means each individual application is often only given around 15-30 minutes of attention before being shuffled into the next pile – making it absolutely imperative that your application stands out from the crowd.
The most effective way to really set your candidacy apart is through the application essays. With over 500 member institutions using The Common Application for college admission, you can gain insight into the requirements of each of your prospective schools. In addition, you can get a better sense of the various essay topics you will run into so that you can begin the early stages of your essay now. This will allow you to develop and refine your essay into a finished product that shows admissions officers that you are the perfect candidate for their school.
New Essay Prompts on The Common Application
On August 1st, 2013, the newest version of The Common Application was released. With it came an overhaul to the essay portion of the application. Gone are the six prompts that were in place for the last decade and applicants no longer have the option of writing an essay on the “Topic of Your Choice.” After a discussion and debate between the member institutions that use The Common Application, five new prompts were put in place.
1. Background or Story that is Essential to Your Identity
The first prompt asks applicants to share their story and experiences if they feel that it is central to their identity. The key to this prompt lies within the word “identity.” To answer this prompt draw on key experiences or situations from your life, such as living in poverty or growing up overseas and don’t forget to explain how and why your identity was influenced.
2. Learning from Failure
The second prompt asks you to recount an incident or time when you experienced failure. To successfully answer this prompt, it is important to explain how the failure affected you, the lessons you learned from the event and steps that you are taking to grow from the experience. Remember to be honest about yourself and your shortcomings and be introspective in order to impress the admissions officers.
3. Challenging a Belief or Idea
Have you ever found yourself challenging a popular belief or idea? If so, what prompted you to take action? Would you make the same decision to act again? This prompt gives you the chance to show your strengths and share the values that are important to you. Challenging firmly held beliefs is not an easy task and the outcome undoubtedly had an impact on you personally. Share your story and give a window into who you truly are.
4. Describe a Place or Environment Where You are Perfectly Content
Once again, you are given the opportunity to show the admissions committee your values and what inspires you as a person. The “place or environment” can be anything in your life so do not be afraid to express yourself. Be sure to explain what you do or experience at this place or in the environment, and why it is meaningful to you.
5. Accomplishment or Event that Marked Transition to Adulthood
The final prompt asks you to highlight one achievement or event, either formal or informal, that marked the transition from childhood to adulthood within your culture, community or family. The topic is wide-ranging and gives you the opportunity to explore a single event or accomplishment that was a clear milestone in your life. Be careful not to be boastful about the event. Instead, analyze your personal growth and show why it was significant for you.
The world of college admissions can certainly be challenging to navigate and the stakes are high. If you would like help in writing exceptional college essays that will earn you a spot on the top of the pile, you should consider college counseling services.
Written by Michael Goran at Ivy Select.