Common App Essay Questions Released for 2015-2016 Season

cropped-ca-logo4-e1393203803100True to its word, the Common App released its new essay questions for 2015-2016 on March 31. While the length will remain 250-650 words, the questions themselves have been revised. Posted to its blog here, the changes are based on survey research the Common App performed. Thanks to 5,667 responses, including feedback from 110 Member colleges, the Common App made revisions to two prompts and eliminated the following prompt:

Describe a place or environment where you are perfectly content. What do you do or experience there, and why is it meaningful to you?

Member Colleges will now have the option to not require their applicants to complete the Common App main essay, though we suspect that few, if any, will opt out of the essay requirement. It seems more in keeping with the Common App's goal of giving more control to member colleges, which can choose their applicant requirements.

Here are the new questions with the changes in italics for those juniors who want to get a head start:

  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.

Happy brainstorming!

 

Keeping College Admissions in Perspective

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Don't let rejection get the best of you.

As college decision time rolls around, it’s important to keep things in perspective, and two inspiring articles published by the New York Times (click here and here) help do just that. You don’t have to look far to find the college mania surrounding many of us, but while students and parents can easily get swept along, it’s important to remember the bigger picture. In his recently published book “Where You Go Is Not Who You’ll Be: An Antidote to the College Admissions Mania,” Frank Bruni takes real life examples of talented, driven students who experienced a series of intense rejections during the admissions process but ultimately achieved their goals.

Not only did these students continue to move forward, they felt the rejections even helped them to succeed down the road. According to one student, “I never would have had the strength, drive or fearlessness to take such a risk if I hadn’t been rejected so intensely before. There’s a beauty to that kind of rejection, because it allows you to find the strength within.” It may sound cliche, but hearing from students who actually thrived in the face of rejection brings the point home.

Another student who attended Indiana University also turned his initial disappointment into success, and it ultimately turned out to be a door opener in so many ways: “He got into an honors program for undergraduate business majors. He became vice president of a business fraternity on campus. He cobbled together the capital to start a tiny real estate enterprise that fixed up and rented small houses to fellow students. And he finagled a way, off campus, to interview with several of the top-drawer consulting firms that trawled for recruits at the Ivies but often bypassed schools like Indiana. Upon graduation, he took a plum job in the Chicago office of the Boston Consulting Group, where he recognized one of the other new hires: the friend from New Trier who’d gone to Yale. Traveling a more gilded path, she’d arrived at the same destination. He later decided to get a master’s degree in business administration, and that’s where he is now, in graduate school — at Harvard.”

However your college admissions experience turns out, keep in mind that it’s your grit, hard work, and positive outlook that will ultimately get you where you want to be. You may not always control the scenery, but you are still the driver!

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Student's Creative Response to MIT's Letter

mitThe admissions process brings up many stressful feelings, but here is one incident that will definitely bring a smile to your face! MIT, easily one of the most sought-after schools in the country, sent a letter to a prospective student, but what makes this situation different from others is that this student wrote back. Click here for a guaranteed laugh at this student's creative response. Kudos to the student, and we hope that his request is granted!

Students Gaining Access to Admissions Files

stanfordThe admissions process has always been stressful, in large part due to the mysteriousness of the end results delivered in sealed envelopes or precisely-timed emails. According to a recent article by Richard Perez-Pena in The New York Times, some of the esoteric nature of the admissions process is finally being exposed, at least at one college. Due to a little-known federal law that has been around for years, some Stanford students have asked for copies of their admissions records, and the university has 45 days to comply with the request. Students then receive a complete copy of their files, including comments and recommendations, and some students have shared their findings on the internet, encouraging other students to do the same. While this is only available to students who have been admitted, the findings have still been surprising.

This effort is being led by a group of students who run an anonymous newsletter called the Fountain Hopper, and according to Lisa Lapin, spokeswoman for Stanford, the requests are increasing. As this becomes more widespread, the result may be that admissions officers become more careful with what they write, and students will gain greater insight into how admissions officers are evaluating applicants. As this point, according to a Fountain Hopper staff member, “The things they write, it’s clear that they never expect them to be read. They’re very frank.”

The Sound of Hard Work Paying Off

For those of you who have the good fortune of getting accepted earlScreen Shot 2014-12-19 at 8.22.00 PMy to college, you may have already had a moment like this. For those of you who are applying regular decision, take inspiration from this student getting into her dream college. You will get there too!

Join Tonight's Webcast: The Top 5 Reasons Why Applicants Who Upgraded to College Essay Organizer's RoadMap Got Accepted Early

Top 5 Reasons Why Applicants Who Upgraded to College Essay Organizer's RoadMap Got Accepted Early:
  1. Most students overlook essay questions that shockingly aren't on the apps; our RoadMap members never miss questions.
  2. Most students waste hours writing more essays than they need to; our RoadMap members typically write half as many essays.
  3. Most students don't know there are essay questions for various programs and majors. For example, NYU lists only 1 required question on the NYU supplement but there are actually 27 questions for different programs! Our RoadMap members
    get instant access to all of these "stealth" questions.
  4. The Common App doesn't mention any scholarship essay questions; our RoadMap members have access to 1,000+ scholarship essay opportunities.
  5. Most students don't know what makes for a great essay; our RoadMap members have access to winning essay samples and archived webcasts about how to write killer essays.

Dan Stern, founder of College Essay Organizer, will host this final webcast of the year, covering all these points and more. Luck isn't an admissions strategy - this is.

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Didn't get in early? Or just procrastinating? Tuesday's webcast will help you finish strong -- and quickly!

Didn't get in early? Or just procrastinating? Either way, it's now time to finish strong -- and quickly!

And that's where I come in. As founder of College Essay Organizer and president of a leading admissions company, I have a ridiculous success rate getting applicants into their #1 choice colleges. I have seen all the pitfalls, and I have helped otherwise unremarkable students write essays that got them accepted to their dream schools.

This is my final webcast of the year, and I'm eager to share key insider tips as well as answer all your individual questions.

Click here to register now for this FREE webcast on Tuesday, December 16 @ 8 pm ET -- space is limited!

Two participants will win personalized feedback on their college essays.

College Admission Rates Are Not What They Appear to Be

mailboxGood news for all seniors waiting to hear back from colleges! Those low acceptance rates do not reveal the whole story. If you’re a qualified applicant whose SAT scores are within the desired range and whose essays are strong, your chances of getting in are much higher!

According to Kevin Carey’s recent article in the New York Times, The Truth Behind College Admission, “Top schools receive a substantial number of applications from underqualified students who are almost always summarily rejected. Once the wheat and chaff are separated, the success rate for the wheat looks better.” Parchment.com, a website that helps students submit college transcripts, found that students with competitive test scores who applied to at least one top school had an overall admission rate of 32 percent, and 80 percent of top students were accepted to at least one elite school.

Thanks to the Common App and timesaving application tools like College Essay Organizer, students are applying to more colleges each year, and that’s what it takes to maximize their chances of getting into an elite college. Carey leaves students with the following advice: “So the next time you read about terrifyingly low college admission rates, don’t panic: If you work hard and get good grades and test scores, there is very likely a place in the best schools for you.”

Include The Book of Answers: The Expert's Guide to Navigating College Admissions on Your Holiday Shopping List!

Screen Shot 2014-12-03 at 2.23.52 PMAt College Essay Organizer, we love to get you the answers you need to get you into your dream schools. As you use your College Essay Organizer accounts to finish up the rest of your essay questions, The Book of Answers: The Expert's Guide to Navigating College Admissions will be an invaluable tool to provide you and any younger siblings with the answers to those common admissions questions. Written by two experts in college advising, Jamie Reich and Wesley Berkowitz, it will cover a range of topics including how to find both need-based and merit-based money for college, what colleges look for in applications, how to prep for standardized tests, the best way to study abroad, and how to deal with learning disabilities. Definitely a book to keep in mind as you do your holiday shopping!