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Allen Grove

The Common Application Essay Requirements for 2012 - 2013

By May 15, 2012

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The Common Application gained 37 new members for the 2012-13 application cycle. That means that there are now 488 colleges and universities that accept the Common Application. A growing number are public institutions. Most of the country's top universities and top liberal arts colleges accept the Common Application.

The Common Application evolves from year to year in an effort to best meet the admissions needs of member institutions. For the 2012 - 2013 application cycle, however, the changes are minor. Like last year, the essay needs to be in the 250 to 500 word range. The 500 word maximum was a change that has many critics -- 500 words isn't much space in which to present a fleshed-out idea -- but the hope is that admissions officers won't have to slog through so many long, rambling, poorly edited essays (learn more in this article on essay length).

The Common Application went live late on July 31st, and now is a good time to start working on your essay. The actual essay options have not changed since last year. In 250 to 500 words, students should respond to one of these prompts:

  1. Evaluate a significant experience, achievement, risk you have taken, or ethical dilemma you have faced and its impact on you.
  2. Discuss some issue of personal, local, national, or international concern and its importance to you.
  3. Indicate a person who has had a significant influence on you, and describe that influence.
  4. Describe a character in fiction, a historical figure, or a creative work (as in art, music, science, etc.) that has had an influence on you, and explain that influence.
  5. A range of academic interests, personal perspectives, and life experiences adds much to the educational mix. Given your personal background, describe an experience that illustrates what you would bring to the diversity in a college community or an encounter that demonstrated the importance of diversity to you.
  6. Topic of your choice.

You can sign up to use the Common Application on the Common Application website.

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