Changes to the Common Application 2014

The Common Application 2014 is significantly different than its predecessors. It is the result of the organization’s efforts to full digitize the application process. For you, the experience will be leaner, cleaner, and more standardized than it’s ever been before. However, this does come with one caveat – less transparency. You won’t be able to preview the components of application all at once. Instead, you have to navigate step-by-step through the online interface to figure out what goes on the application. The easiest workaround to this clunky interface is to view the 2013 Template, and then mind the following changes.

 

Common Application 2014 :

 

1. The maximum word count for the primary statement has been increased to 650, from 500. The minimum is still 250 words, the same as it was before. We recommend aiming for a 500-word story (per the old limit) and using the extra 150 words as a buffer. There is no correlation between essay quality and length – so don’t feel the need to make use of the increased limit unless there’s a good reason to.

2. The ‘topic of your choice’ essay prompt has been eliminated. This is a good thing. Students who have used this option in the past have often been too off-topic. Either that or they would write in format/style that wasn’t conducive to their application.

Our recommendation at The App Style is toignore the prompts completely. It is far more important to understand the purpose of the personal statement than it is to read too deeply into any given prompt.

3. You will no longer be allowed to upload an optional resume. This is, again, a good thing, as the bulk of the Common Application is already in resume format. People who have done this in the past have risked being redundant and confusing their readers by rendering multiple interpretations of the same activities/awards.

4. The short response for an extracurricular activity/work experience has been removed. That means you will not be required to write about your primary extracurricular activity. This is beneficial for most students, as you get to let your accomplishments and awards speak for themselves. When asked to elaborate, there’s always the risk of overdoing the ‘personal significance’ message, thereby detracting from actual achievements.

Some schools have compensated by moving the activity question to their supplementary application, so don’t expect it to be gone completely. If you are applying to many schools, be prepared to write a meaningful description of what your primary activity means to you and what you’ve learned from it.

5. The Common App doesn’t do paper applications anymore. Because the website dispenses information in small bites only, you might want to see what an actual, entire form looks like. If that’s the case, check out the link above and see this Example of a .pdf generated by the online application.