Common App Releases New Essay Prompts


The Common Application— the application service used by 488 member colleges and institutions worldwide — has released its new 2013-14 essay prompts!

Perhaps the most notable change is that the "topic of your choice" essay prompt, popular with many students in years past, is no longer an option. Additionally, the essay word limit has been increased from 500 to 650 words, though the Common App is careful to discourage wordiness, noting that "650 words is your limit, not your goal."

Additional changes to the application will be rolled out over the next few months before the new "next generation Common Application Online" is fully launched on August 1, 2013.

Here are the five new essay prompts and their accompanying instructions:

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.)

  • 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. 

To download the official announcement from the Common Application, click here.