The Common Application has announced its 2018-19 college essay prompts, reflecting no change from the prompts established in last year's admission cycle.
Over 700 US and international colleges utilize the web-based Common App. Students choose among seven essay prompts, providing a platform for students to to create a personal statement that conveys aspects of their character; unique experience; personal growth; or individual focus. Students are permitted a maximum of 650 words to convey their personal statement through one of their chosen Common App essay prompts.
Here are the prompts for the upcoming admission cycle:
2018-2019 Common Application Essay Prompts
1. 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.
2. The lessons we take from obstacles we encounter can be fundamental to later success. Recount a time when you faced a challenge, setback, or failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience?
3. Reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea. What prompted your thinking? What was the outcome?
4. 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.
5. Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others.
6. Describe a topic, idea, or concept you find so engaging that it makes you lose all track of time. Why does it captivate you? What or who do you turn to when you want to learn more?
7. Share an essay on any topic of your choice. It can be one you've already written, one that responds to a different prompt, or one of your own design.
"Through the Common App essay prompts, we want to give all applicants - regardless of background or access to counseling - the opportunity to share their voice with colleges. Every applicant has a unique story. The essay helps bring that story to life," said Meredith Lombardi, Associate Director, Outreach and Education, for The Common Application.
With nearly half of the school year in the rear view mirror, many juniors are thinking about what’s to come in the remaining months. If you’re blessed with a “glass half-full” perspective, high school juniors have a whole 5 - 6 months in front of them to make good progress on their college plans. Many students kick off 2018 with several excellent opportunities at their disposal, most of which require good planning and smart use of our most precious and fleeting resource: time.
What to Focus On Now
With mid-year exams on the horizon, one of the best plans of action now is to gain an early start in prepping for these exams. In my practice, I note that a large number of students find that the precious ground they’ve gained in a semester of classroom success is later dampened by a lesser midterm exam grade. Too many students pay too little attention to a significant exam that could push their semester grade up or down several quality points, potentially affecting the GPA. Hindsight can’t override a C+ on a midterm exam that brings down a student's A- work somewhere into the B or B+ range.KEY: Begin to gradually prepare for mid year exams. Don’t cram!
More and more, rising early action (EA) or early decision (ED) applications are impacting the college admissions landscape at colleges and universities across the nation.
The application calendar continues to push back toward early in the senior year, with some colleges using a slightly different set of admissions criteria or aiming to fill seats in the early rounds. Others employ the early schedule to manage their inflows both in the admissions office as well as in the financial aid office.
Early applicants typically find themselves in a smaller pool than do regular decision applicants, hence admissions officers may be able to devote more time to reading each individual application, potentially resulting in a more nuanced review. In addition, since ED becomes a binding commitment to attend once the student is admitted, students who pursue this route are thereby indicating to the college that the school is the student’s clear first choice. For those schools that aim to fill a significant percentage of seats in the early rounds, applying ED may enable the applicant a higher likelihood of admission versus waiting to submit an application with a much larger regular decision (RD) pool.
Still, some schools pursue a policy of accepting only "stand-out" applicants in the early rounds, more often than not deferring these applicants to the RD rounds. Deferred applications are later reviewed, enabling colleges to make decisions across a larger and complete pool of applicants.
Given that students applying ED are at the time of application making a commitment to attend regardless of financial need, it is commonly said that ED is the bastion of those who have the means to pay for college without the need to compare favorable merit, grant or loan awards. ED may also appeal to those students who have begun their college process relatively early and/or have taken the time to visit individual campuses to enable a single-choice focus.
Although not all colleges offer ED or EA schedules, there is no controversy around the stark reality that, generally speaking, ED or EA policies help drive applications to colleges. Given the growing numbers of early applications many colleges have been seeing over the last several admissions cycles, the clock on the college timeline ticks on with the trend toward early application likely to continue. READ MORE
“On the new SAT, it’s easier than ever for students to show their best work. Official SAT Practice on Khan Academy is free and personalized, and we see students achieving substantial score gains,” said in a statement from College Board President David Coleman. ^
With so many choices available today for both SAT and ACT preparation — books; phone apps; sample test questions found online; private or group tutoring — I firmly recommend that students avoid walking in cold on a test day. Even some small measure of review can make all the difference between a great testing day resulting in a score that the student is happy to submit — or a day when the exam could have gone better with a little advance understanding of what to expect.
One of the intangibles of advance preparation is increased confidence on test day, an important ingredient for success, in particular, for the student who may be anxious about testing. However, students who engage in private tutoring should not be lulled into a false sense of security. Potential for testing success is not necessarily a function of how many hours students spend in live tutoring sessions, but rather the time and focus devoted to practice beyond the tutoring hour. Simply put, the keys to testing success rest on preparedness; familiarity; confidence -- and solid sleep the night before!
^ Jaschik, Scott. "College Board Releases Data on Khan Tutoring." Inside Higher Ed. May 9, 2017. Accessed December 22, 2017. https://www.insidehighered.com/quicktakes/2017/05/09/college-board-releases-data-khan-tutoring.
It may be just a matter of time before college-bound students with documented learning differences and their parents finally have a voice.
Currently, there is proposed legislation via the RISE Act (Respond, Innovate, Succeed and Empower) that aims to remove barriers to education for special needs students both when applying to college as well as once enrolled and attending classes. The broader objectives of RISE include easing transition to college, supporting academic success, as well as improving graduation rates for students with learning differences.
Studies indicate that LD or special needs students face continued obstacles at the time of college application as well as once they are matriculated. High school students with 504 plans or IEPs are currently required by most colleges to update their testing in order to be eligible for campus accommodations. Whether families attain evaluations through their child's school system or through a private source, such requirement by a college or university for updated testing brings a financial and logistical burden for many.
Beyond documentation requirements, LD students may face challenges in seeking accommodations once on campus, an effort complicated by a lack of understanding or awareness on the part of faculty. RISE aims to develop broader awareness about learning differences and the accommodations that students may rightfully seek. There is also focus on providing more transparent information to families about the availability of services and other resources for special needs students on individual college campuses.
As of this writing, the RISE Act is under bi-partisan review. For more information on this progressive pending legislation and how it may affect students, please click here.
It's something of a paradox, identifying possible colleges while, at the same time, trying to anticipate one's college major. On one hand, it makes sense to start the process by creating a list of colleges that connect to an area of academic or pre-professional interest. On another, since it is so commonplace for students to change direction on majors once they arrive on campus, how specific about major should students be as they develop their college list?
From the beginning, a good list is built on a clear identification of student fit. For most students, good fit spans criteria that includes, at a minimum, academic rigor; social life; general lifestyle; financial factors. So where -- and even when -- does the college major enter into this paradigm?
At the start of the college process, a great many high school students begin with an "undecided" approach, that is, planning to initiate a plan of studies by pursuing general areas of strength and interest. Let's be real for a moment: For many high school seniors -- and even college first-years -- a college major is little more than a concept. Students who have never pursued coursework, for example, in engineering or business do not have a grasp of how college majors such as these demand more than a quantitative skill set developed in high school.
Biology and psychology, two of the most common majors identified by high school seniors, could diverge into multiple tracks depending on the college and how departments set up course or program requirements. After a small handful of semesters in, when coursework and requirements come into greater focus, it is not unusual for students to change direction on majors. It is important for parents to recognize that their student may emerge from college having pursued a degree in an area apart from their freshmen plans.
The smorgasbörd of classes available to students and the flexibility to sample them is a hallmark of education in the United States. Unlike in many other parts of the world, including Europe and Asia, U.S colleges encourage exposure across a broad curriculum en route to satisfying the requirements of a major or major/minor.
While an early determination of focus can feel re-assuring to both parents and students -- (it's impossible to escape the endless "So what is she majoring in?" from well-meaning friends and family), prematurely pursuing a definite path can end up being costly in time and dollars.
If students jump too early into a specific area and later decide that their initial choice was not meant-to-be, there grows the need to start over again, with many of the early credits potentially not being applied to the final major choice. One example that comes to mind is that of the student pursuing a STEM path and finds his stronger interest in the humanities through later courses in english and philosophy. The result is a student who ultimately devotes more time and finances beyond his planned four years to complete the coursework to graduate with the english major and philosophy minor.
Sometimes "undecided/unsure/still unclear" is the wiser approach. With the help of a good and forward-thinking college advisor, students will begin to hone an area(s) of interest earlier in their college career that will eventually support their choice of a major.
While one size never fits all in the world of college admissions, this article from The New York Times explores a broad range of factors that come into play. Diversity... legacy... ability to pay... unique interests... . In the admissions office, these all are fair game at the time of application review.
In today's landscape, obvious academic credentials as evidenced by grades in a rigorous curriculum supported by solid standardized test scores typically lay the foundation for a student's application. But on top of these, admissions offices at competitive colleges may look for evidence of character traits or habits of mind viewed via commitment; giving to others; resilience; curiosity; motivation; leadership.
Ideally, a student's application communicates a story about who that teen is today and how she or he is likely to "show up" on campus during the course of the undergraduate career. Expect to see students evaluated holistically and in keeping with the mission of any particular institution.