What is your favorite color M&M? If you could have dinner with an important historical figure, who would you select, and why? How do you want to be remembered?
The Common Application, used by 660,000 high school seniors applying to U.S. colleges during the 2011-2012 admissions cycle, is about to get a significant upgrade for 2013, and changing the essay questions on an annual basis is under discussion among the organization’s board members. (For those applying during 2012, don’t worry! The essays aren’t changing this year.)
Rotating essay questions would be part of the Common App’s plans. The 35-year-old nonprofit organization hopes to make the questions more interesting and the submission system easier for students, colleges and high schools.
High school guidance counselors, college admissions counselors and college prep professionals learned about the proposed facelift during the Michigan Association for College Admission Counseling 2012 annual conference held at Michigan State University last Friday. During one of several break-out sessions, Tim McGraw, the director of information systems for the Common App, shared some possible changes.
I attended the conference and participated in discussions surrounding the theme, Our Race to Somewhere: Following a Simpler Path, and heard an inspiring keynote address by Marty O’Connell, the executive director for the nonprofit group Colleges that Change Lives. Bill Hancock, an associate dean of college counseling for Cranbrook Schools, was sworn in as MACAC president.
McGraw’ s presentation packed the room. While he did not cite sample prompts to be considered, the essay was a hot topic of group discussion.
“We would like to begin changing up the essay questions to make them more catchy,” he said.
The crowd seemed pleased when McGraw said the Common App is also considering adding a plagiarism detection tool to its system. One attendee suggested creating an app that could detect essays written by parents, siblings, tutors and friends of applicants.
McGraw also said that the Common App will release prompts earlier in the year (possibly as early as March) after the system’s overhaul so students can devote more time to their essays. The Common App is also deciding on a method to better enforce word limits.
Follow the Wow blog for updates on the state of the Common App essay; we’ll keep you posted as new information is released.
Kim Lifton is co-founder of Wow Writing Workshop, which hosts classes for college essay writing.