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Which Prompt to Answer: Does It Matter?

30 Jan

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The Common Application will be keeping the same questions for this fall’s college applicants as it used in 2015-2016. The company says it will review prompts every two years, because that is how long it takes to process all the feedback.  So the announcement was not terribly newsworthy, but it did include some curious statistics on the the proportion of applicants who answered each of the five prompts last year:

Among the more than 800,000 unique applicants who have submitted a Common App so far during the 2015-2016 application cycle, 47 percent have chosen to write about their background, identity, interest, or talent – making it the most frequently selected prompt; 22 percent have chosen to write about an accomplishment, 17 percent about a lesson or failure, 10 percent about a problem solved, and four percent about an idea challenged.

I am not sure why it should matter to any individual writer how many other applicants might be responding to the same question he or she has chosen.

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But You Digress . . .

2 Oct

We’ve been thinking about the possibility that mediocre essay questions produce mediocre essay answers. But who says you have to answer the question precisely as posed? Continue reading

Do Bad Questions Make for Bad Essays?

1 Oct

How Mediocre Are the Common App Questions?

Peter Laipson, provost and vice president of Bard College at Simon’s Rock, blames the poor quality of the essay questions for the badly written, cliched tales that so many students submit:

Unfortunately, the vast differences in culture and mission among institutions that accept the Common Application mean that its essay topics appeal to the least common denominator. This fact makes for both bad writing and, often, a bad experience for the writer. Continue reading