Common Application Changes (2015-16)

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Here’s What Families Need to Know About the Changes Coming to the Common Application This Year

The Common Application has announced changes for the 2015-16 application, which opens August 1. For rising seniors, the summer is a prime time to get a head start on college applications, with many completing essays well before the August 1 open date. Because of this, it’s important for students and parents to know what to expect on this year’s Common App.

In order to help students adequately prepare for the college admissions process this fall, we’ve already identified some college admissions trends that families can prepare for in the months leading up to the fall semester. In addition to these trends, families need to be aware of some major changes that are coming to the Common Application.

Here are the 2015-16 Common Application changes that parents and students need to be aware of:

New Essay Prompts
Once again, the Common Application has revised the personal statement essay prompts for the coming application season. While students must choose a particular topic to write on, these prompts are still broad enough to offer students flexibility in their essays. Here are the Common Application essay prompts for the 2015-16 application:

  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 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?
  3. Reflect on a time when you challenged a belief or idea. What prompted you to act? Would you make the same decision again?
  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 or event, formal or informal, that marked your transition from childhood to adulthood within your culture, community, or family.

Colleges Can Make Essay Optional
For the first time, the Common Application personal statement essay is now optional. Previously, all students were required to submit an essay with their Common Application. Now, colleges can choose not to require the essay – allowing students to submit their application without one. That said, if a college does choose to require the Common Application essay, students will have to provide one in order to submit their applications. If a college does not require the Common Application essay, students will still have the option to include an essay if they wish.

Print Preview At Any Time
This year, students will be able to preview completed portions of their Common Application at any time, screen by screen. Previously, students could only preview their Common Application once it was completely filled out as part of the submission process. Now, students can preview their application at any time, allowing them to see what their application will look like once submitted. This is a big technological improvement for the Common Application, especially after issues with print preview in years past.

Unlimited Edits
Also this year for the first time, students will be allowed to make as many edits to their Common App essay as they want after submission. Previously, students were only allowed three essay edits after the first submission, intended to allow students to make minor changes like correcting spelling and grammar errors. Now, students will be allowed to make unlimited changes to the essay, mirroring the unlimited changes students could already make to other parts of the application. This will allow students to make adjustments for each submission – possibly further tailoring their personal statement to a particular school if they see fit.

“Where Else Are You Applying” Optional Question
As we have mentioned before, the Common Application this year will give schools the option to ask applicants where else they are applying to college this fall. This has been a controversial announcement and is problematic, as a question like this can be used to judge a student’s likeliness to enroll if admitted – something colleges take seriously as a way to manage yield rates and enrollment models. This is something for families to be aware of and prepare for by meeting with their college counselors and developing a plan of action should they encounter this question during the college application process.

Colleges Can Make Recommendations Optional
Teacher and counselor recommendation letters, a large piece of the college admissions puzzle, will no longer be required. Previously, colleges using the Common App were required to ask for at least one recommendation letter from a counselor or teacher. Most member colleges require at least two – one from a college counselor and one from a teacher. Now, colleges have the option to get rid of recommendations altogether – opening the Common App to many colleges that might not have joined previously.

No Penalties For Colleges Using Another Application
Another change for 2015-16 that is opening the Common Application to more colleges is the removal of the penalty for member colleges using another application, either their own application or one through a competitor like the Universal Application. Previously, colleges paid more to use the Common Application if they also used another application option. Now, all penalties are removed, allowing for broader access.

Whether you’re ready to knock out those application essays, or you’re just starting to look at colleges, we have a counseling program that can meet your needs. If you need help formulating a college application plan, editing essays, or deciding where to apply, contact us today for more information on our programs for rising seniors.

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