The Common Application is the leading application platform for freshman and transfer college admissions in the US, and is accepted by over 900 member institutions. The Common App organization continues to grow with 35 new members this year, including Colorado School of Mines, The University of Alabama, James Madison University, and University of Illinois. As we await the annual relaunch of the Common App on August 1st, the organization has released some important updates.

Personal Statement Prompts

The 2021-2022 admissions cycle will include a new Personal Statement prompt on the Common App for the first time in almost five years. The new prompt was released in February and reads:

Reflect on something that someone has done for you that has made you happy or thankful in a surprising way. How has this gratitude affected or motivated you?

This question replaces the previous prompt:

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.

Here is a chart representing the percentage of last year’s seniors who chose the different prompts, with almost 90% split evenly among the four prompts about background, personal growth, adversity and topic of your choice. The “problem-solving” prompt that is being replaced was selected by only 3% of the applicants.

The Common App organization hopes the new prompt will “generate stories that students are inspired to write and that colleges are excited to read.” The other six essay prompts will remain the same, as will the optional question about Covid-19 and community disruptions in the Additional Information section, introduced last year.

Equity and Accessibility

The organization launched the “Evolving the App” initiative this past year to examine each section’s equity and accessibility as part of its ongoing effort to create an inclusive application for all students. This process will be repeated annually.

Some revisions related to accessibility and equity include adding the following:

  • More choice values for the Gender question, including an open text box
  • Question about applicant’s preferred pronouns with more choices than before
  • Combined section for Geography and Nationality, instead of two separate sections
  • A citizenship choice for DACA and undocumented applicants

Certain questions were removed completely from the Common App in order to make it more accessible and equitable to all applicants, including questions regarding:

  • Years lived outside the U.S.
  • Parent’s birth country, address, and position/title
  • Sibling’s middle initial, relationship, and education
  • Religious preference (but this is still available for institutions to use in their supplement questions)

Collegiate Gateway looks forward to August 1st, when the 2021-2022 Common App is officially released!

Rising seniors are invited to register for our Common App Workshop on Wednesday, September 1, 2021. Topics include:

  • An overview on how college admissions officers use the Common App
  • Step-by-step guidance through each and every section of the Common App form
  • How to develop a strong Activities Sheet that highlights your experiences
  • Tried and true tips for completing tricky sections of the Common App
  • Suggestions for how to approach the Personal Statement
  • Guidance for how to answer the new essay question on the impact of Covid-19

Collegiate Gateway is happy to help with any of your questions about the college application process! Visit our website to set up a complimentary consultation to learn about our services.