Common App Essay 2013-14 Prompts Writing

Our friends at The Learning Network blog have just published a lesson plan devoted to helping students prepare their essays for the Common Application, which recently released new essay prompts for the 2013-14 admission season.

The timing couldn’t be more ideal for juniors, who are often encouraged to start thinking about their college application essays before senior year begins.

To help applicants who might otherwise stare at a blinking cursor until inspiration strikes, these veteran teachers suggest that students take a speed-dating approach to get their writing juices flowing.

An excerpt from the lesson plan:

Project or unveil the first prompt and tell students that they will talk about the topic with the person across from them for five minutes. Within that time, each student should play the role of speaker and listener. Set a timer for five minutes and signal that they should begin. Once time is up, the outer circle rotates left. Unveil a new topic and begin the process again until students have discussed each topic, rotating to new discussion partners with each prompt. Then ask students to return to their seats.

After the activity, students are encouraged to reflect on which essay topic was easiest to discuss, and which one they would like to continue talking (or writing) about. The answer may help them select a topic for the Common Application.

The lesson plan also includes more than a dozen New York Times articles that serve as “mentor texts” for students’ application essays, as well as many other resources from The Times on how to write an essay.

Whether you intend to use The Learning Network’s advice at school or at home, we encourage you to read its suggestions and contribute essay-writing tips of your own using the comments box below.

The Common Application Announces 2013-2014 Essay Prompts, Longer Word Limit

Today the Common Application released the essay prompts for the 2013-2014 application, along with news that they will enforce a strict 650 word limit, an increase of 150 words from the previous 500 word limit.

There has been controversy surrounding the Common Application's new essay prompts since it was announced they were eliminating the "topic of your choice" essay option. According to the organization, the development of the prompts and the word limit came after much consideration from the counselors on the Outreach Advisory Committee.

The Common App also clarified on its Facebook page that the short answer activity essay will not be part of the main application in 2013-2014. Schools will instead choose whether or not to ask a version of it on their supplements.

Below are the instructions and the new essay prompts for the 2013-14 Common Application, set to be released in August.

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."

What do you think of the new essay prompts? Do you think there should still be a "topic of choice?" Tell us in the comments!

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