Jan 19, 2019

Common App essay prompts remain the same for 2019-20 while strategic plan suggests future change


Based on “extensive counselor feedback,” the Common Application decided to make no changes to essay prompts for 2019-20, keeping them the same for the third consecutive year. 

And a collective sigh of relief could be heard from the cottage industry that’s grown up to support college essay preparation.

According to the Common App, “Retaining the essay prompts provides the added benefit of consistency for students, counselors, parents, and members during the admissions process.”
It also means that essay advisers won’t have to retool or come up with innovative approaches to new prompts. They can simply add another year of feedback to advice accumulated over the past two years.

The early release of essay prompts together with the ability to “roll over” existing Common App accounts ensures students have more time to plan and prepare applications prior to senior year of high school. Knowing what to expect for the coming year also provides counselors and others the opportunity to get a head start on application workshops and other programs designed to support students in a process many find increasingly stressful.

In the meantime, while preparing for 2019-20, the Common App’s Board of Directors Strategic Planning Committee is simultaneously engaging in an internal “creative and collaborative process” with the support of Tomorrow Partners, a California-based design team, “to reimagine its future.”

Specifically, Tomorrow Partners was asked to “envision a college preparation and application experience that meets the needs of the changing demographic of students” and answer the question, “How can we make this process better and more relevant” for both students and the Common App membership of colleges.

The research spanned four months and 18 states, reaching over 75 students, counselors, admissions leaders and parents.  The resulting strategic plan identified myriad “possible solutions to help improve their existing product” and suggested as a “guiding principle” the desire to innovate “capitalizing on the latest technology to provide students, members, and counselors with an experience that not only serves their needs, but exceeds their digital expectations.”
 
So while essay prompts remain the same for the coming application cycle, it should come as no surprise that the Common Application may be looking to make future changes in product and operations. And unlike the experience of the recent past with CA4, the Common App is involving stakeholders early enough to voice opinions and respond to proposed changes long before anything new is launched.

For the record, the 2019-20 Common Application prompts will inspire essays on the following topics:

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 obstacles we encounter can be fundamental to later success. Recount a time when you faced a challenge, setback, or failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience?
3. Reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea. What prompted your thinking? What was the outcome?
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, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others.
6. Describe a topic, idea, or concept you find so engaging that it makes you lose all track of time. Why does it captivate you? What or who do you turn to when you want to learn more? 
7. Share an essay on any topic of your choice. It can be one you've already written, one that responds to a different prompt, or one of your own design.

Also for the record, during the 2018-19 application year, the most popular prompt was #7, “Share an essay on any topic of your choice” (24.1%). The next popular topics were #5 (23.7%) followed by #2 (21.1%).

Jan 11, 2019

Admissions office advice for deferred students

Johns Hopkins encourages the submission of additional
information from deferred applicants.

Far too many students who applied early this fall are finding they’ve been neither accepted nor rejected, but deferred to a much larger regular admissions pool. And this is not a particularly happy place to be, especially if you were counting on having the college admissions thing totally wrapped up by winter break.

But there’s really no reason to dwell on the negative. Think of the deferral as an opportunity to explore other, possibly better, options. And although there are no guarantees, continuing the campaign for admission to the college that deferred you may sometimes work in your favor.

After the initial shock is past, take stock of the situation and make a plan, preferably in consultation with your school counselor or an independent educational consultant with whom you’ve been working. Once you decide to press your case, it’s usually advisable to provide new information in the way of grades, scores and accomplishments.  Note that it’s very important to follow directions, which should be clearly outlined on the school website or in the notice of deferral.

Unfortunately, not every college specifically states what it is they want in the way of follow-up. Some are coy and general about the kinds of information they’d like to see, preferring to leave it to the imagination of applicants wishing to demonstrate continued interest or improve their odds for admission. Others specifically list the materials they’re interested in and the process by which they should be submitted—often through a portal associated with the application. Most colleges encourage continued communication, especially with regional representatives.

But some, like the University of Virginia, discourage sending additional information or making contact with the admissions office. And the University of Illinois definitely will not consider additional materials from deferred students.

There are some consistent ‘themes’ in the advice provided by different colleges to students they deferred. One that often surprises applicants is how much they are encouraged to submit additional standardized tests. This is usually not welcome news for students who thought they were finished with all that!

In any event, the following is a sample of the many ways colleges and universities want to hear from students deferred:

Brown University
You may certainly let us know if there is a significant accomplishment or a noteworthy change in your circumstances, but it is not necessary to amend your application as a matter of course. Remember that a deferral does not mean that an applicant has fallen short in terms of qualification for admission. Make sure that your counselor has the Mid-Year Report form so we can receive your fall term grades and any updates your school would like to provide. 
https://www.brown.edu/admission/undergraduate/ask/early-decision
 
College of William and Mary
Over the coming weeks, you are welcome to send us any new academic information (first-semester grades, updated standardized test scores) as well as any high-level awards or significant accomplishments not included in your original application. You can also send us a letter/email/statement of continued interest. If you elect to send us such a statement, this does not have to be anything overly elaborate. This should simply be a few paragraph explanation of why you feel like William & Mary is the best fit for you.
https://wmblogs.wm.edu/admiss/decisions-decisions-early-decision-2018-edition/
 
Columbia University
If you are deferred under the Early Decision plan, a final decision on your candidacy will be made with the regular applicant pool, and you will be notified by April 1. We encourage deferred candidates update us in the winter with mid-year grades and any significant new achievements.
https://undergrad.admissions.columbia.edu/apply/first-year/early-decision
 
Dartmouth University
If you've been deferred, we welcome brief updates on recent notable academic, extracurricular, and personal accomplishments. You should also submit mid-term grades, and you are welcome to submit new test scores if you wish.
https://admissions.dartmouth.edu/glossary-term/deferred
 
Elon University
When Early Decision and Early Action applicants are deferred, the admissions committee is requesting new information to be used in reconsidering your application in the Regular Deadline program. While receiving a deferred decision may be disappointing, receipt of new information in the form of mid-year grades or updated standardized test scores provides you the opportunity to be considered for admission in the final pool.
https://www.elon.edu/e/admissions/undergraduate/apply/path-of-a-first-year-application.html

Emory University
Students who are deferred to Regular Decision should send first semester senior grades from their high school and any new application information.
http://apply.emory.edu/apply/ed.php

Georgia Tech
…you may augment your application by submitting the following documents:
  • Deferred Supplemental Form (DSF): The DSF allows you to provide us with an update on your extracurricular activities, and other information that will help us in our continued review of your application.
  • Mid-year transcript: Please ask your counselor to submit your fall term grades as soon as available
 
Georgetown University
Early Action admission is offered to a limited number of students, those whom the Admissions Committee is certain they would offer admission based on information from freshman, sophomore and junior years only. Deferred students are strongly encouraged to maintain high senior year grades and submit any new information, such as standardized test scores, new honors or awards.
https://uadmissions.georgetown.edu/firstyear/early-action#10

Gettysburg College
Some Early Decision applicants who are not offered acceptance at that time will be deferred to the Regular Decision admission pool and their application will be reviewed again. Additional semester grades or new test scores may be submitted for students deferred to Regular Decision.
https://www.gettysburg.edu/academics/catalog/policies/policy-details.dot?id=6a3fce7c-50d8-4742-bc78-74b426739bef

Harvard University
Further updates may enhance your prospects, although in most cases, the essential details already are on file with the Admissions Committee. Additional information should be limited to significant developments in your high school career.
https://college.harvard.edu/frequently-asked-questions
 
Johns Hopkins University
You are not required to submit any additional materials. However, if you would like to, you may submit supplemental materials to your application file for review during the RD selection process. This information could be additional standardized test results, your senior year semester grades, additional letters of recommendations, an updated resume, or an additional written statement of your interest in Johns Hopkins.
https://apply.jhu.edu/apply/faq/early-decision/

MIT
The only update you need to send is the February Updates & Notes (FUN) form. In the FUN form, you can tell us things like:
  • Your midyear grades
  • Anything new that has happened or will happen before we review RA applications, like new awards, activities, work, etc,
  • Anything about your circumstances that have changed since you submitted your application that you think we should know about
Note: You do NOT necessarily need to fill the form with a ton of new (or really, any) updates. If you’re only providing your midyear grades, that’s totally fine. You can complete the FUN form through your MyMIT account and it’s due by February 15.

If you have new test scores, you can designate MIT as a score recipient and we’ll automatically update your application.

You technically can submit a supplemental portfolio by January 1, but again, your application is competitive as-is and there is absolutely no pressure to submit a portfolio.
https://mitadmissions.org/pages/ea-deferred-faq/

Princeton University
If you submitted all of the required components of your application, we have everything we need for consideration. If you have a significant update, you may add the new information to your file through the applicant portal or by email to uaoffice@princeton.edu.
https://admission.princeton.edu/faqs#early-action
 
Tulane University
DO: Complete the continued interest form on your Green Wave Portal. This is the most important way to let us know you are still interested in attending Tulane.  It will be nearly impossible to be admitted to Tulane if you do not complete this form. We know your plans sometimes change, your list might shift going into the spring semester of senior year, etc. We'd like to only take those students we know want to enroll here. Don't feel pressured to, but you are also welcome to contact your admission counselor and let them know you are still interested in Tulane. Take winter break to think about it and formulate a plan going forward. Then, in the coming weeks let them know that you have been deferred and that you remain strongly interested in Tulane.

DON'T: Over-contact your admission counselor. One email to your counselor over the course of the spring semester can help, especially if you have some bigger news for us (you retook the SATs, a major (major) advancement in your extracurricular activity, etc) but do not send us a weekly email update. It will not help your cause. Major profile in your local paper's community section? Send it in. Promoted to secretary of the National Honor Society? No need to send; we already have a nice list of your extracurricular activities you sent us when you applied. Also, be honest. If you'll enroll at Tulane if you are admitted, tell us, but only if that is the truth.

DO: Send us an essay about why you are interested in enrolling at Tulane, if you have not already done so. See the Why Tulane? prompt on the application for admission. Tell us why you would be a great fit here, and why Tulane is a great fit for you. Do some research. Many times, we defer students who are academically qualified to be admitted, but we are unsure of their interest level. So reach out and let us know.

DON'T: Feel pressured to come down and visit. We know money is tight these days, and New Orleans is a big trip for many of our applicants. If you feel the need to come down to check out campus, you are definitely welcome to do so, however if this is not possible (for financial or any other reasons) do not fret. We understand not everyone can make it down to visit, especially if you are not admitted yet. If you are interested in coming down, let your counselor know.
https://admission.tulane.edu/aggregator/sources/1
 
University of Chicago
  • Complete the defer response form on your UChicago Account by January 15, 2019.
  • Have your school send us a midyear transcript. It’s helpful for us to be able to see your senior year grades when we reconsider your application; your midyear transcript will be the best way for us to do so.
  • Send an email to your regional admissions counselor. If UChicago remains your first choice, don’t hesitate to let us know! We don’t need a novel, but a thoughtful note of one to two paragraphs sent by email can help us understand and consider your continued interest.
  • Optional: You can continue to upload supplemental materials directly to your UChicago Account through the Portfolio and Upload Materials sections. This is not necessary, but if you do have additional materials you’d like to share, please feel free to upload them.
  • Optional: Deferred students who previously did not share testing as part of the test-optional admissions policy may do so as part of their updates to our office. Although this is certainly neither required nor specifically encouraged, we understand that some students may have updated SAT/ACT, subject, or other supplemental tests you may wish to share, and we would be happy to consider them. However, students who had previously applied sharing SAT or ACT testing may not opt in to a test-optional method of continued review.
  • Optional: After consulting with your family and school counselor to determine if this is a good fit for you, deferred applicants may also elect to move into our binding Early Decision II application pool by contacting your regional admissions counselor and completing the Early Decision II Agreement form by January 15, 2019.
    https://collegeadmissions.uchicago.edu/uncommon-blog/message-our-applicants-0
University of Illinois
If you applied to a particularly competitive major before our early action deadline, we want to determine how you and your strengths fit into this year’s entire freshman applicant pool. In order to do that, we need to wait until we’ve received all applications.

You’ll be given a decision by our second notification date. At that time, you may be admitted, denied, or wait listed. Please note that we won’t accept additional documents while you’re waiting on your decision.
https://admissions.illinois.edu/apply/freshman/decisions
 
University of Massachusetts Amherst
Applicants who were deferred from Early Action will receive a second review at the end of March. Make sure that any new academic information (mid-semester grades, higher test scores, etc.) has been sent to us by March 1. Please do not send duplicate information or additional recommendations. Visiting or contacting the Admissions Office will not enhance your chance of being admitted.
https://www.umass.edu/admissions/apply/dates-and-deadlines/early-action-faqs

University of Notre Dame
Keep us updated with any changes to your application. The most important part of this is sending us your first semester senior year grades. Many high school counselors will do this automatically, but if not, this should be a top priority for you. The admissions committee wants to see that students are maintaining a strong academic performance throughout their senior year, particularly if the applicant is taking high-level courses. Being informed of any changes in GPA or class rank can also be helpful in our evaluation process.

You should also update us on any significant extracurricular accomplishments or awards that you have or will receive after our Restrictive Early Action process. The easiest way to do this is to email this information to either your regional admissions counselor and/or upload additional materials via your applicant status portal.

You do not need to submit any additional letters of recommendation. We generally do not encourage letters of recommendation beyond the required academic teacher letter and optional counselor letter, which you submitted with your original application.

If Notre Dame is truly one of your first-choice schools, you may also write a letter of desire explaining why you believe Notre Dame is the best school for you. You may send this letter directly to your regional admissions counselor and/or upload to your applicant status portal so we can be sure to add it to your admissions file. This letter of desire is a great opportunity to tell the admissions committee a little bit more about yourself and to explain why you would love to attend Notre Dame.
https://admissions.nd.edu/apply/deferred-and-waitlisted-students/

University of Pennsylvania
If you have additional information that sheds new light on your candidacy, you may submit an update through your Penn Applicant Portal. Our form will only allow you to submit an update once, so we recommend you take time to collect any new information or recognition you may have earned since submitting your Early Decision application, and upload one comprehensive document by January 31, 2019.Please be judicious in the information you choose to include in your update.
https://key.admissions.upenn.edu/www/documents/CY2019/ED/ED-Defer%202023%20FAQ.pdf
 
University of Virginia
If you were deferred from Early Action to Regular Decision it means that we feel your application deserves another review. You possess many of the strengths we expect our admitted students to present in their applications but we cannot offer you admission at this stage. In many cases we want to see how deferred students are doing in the classroom during their senior year.

Please send any updated testing to our admission office as soon as it becomes available. We will review your application again in Regular Decision. Please be sure to forward  new test results immediately.

Other than midyear grade updates or new standardized test results, we will not be able to review any edits to your application or additional information. Please do not send additional information, including recommendations, during this time.      
http://admission.virginia.edu/defer

Wellesley
If you are deferred, sending certain additional materials may be helpful to the College during the next round of the decision-making process. You may want to send us your most up-to-date grades, a list of any recent special honors or awards you have received, or any helpful information you may not have provided with your initial application. An additional recommendation may also be helpful. If you have been deferred and you are not sure exactly what to send, just contact us and we'll help you decide.
https://www.wellesley.edu/admission/faq#defer#bJCiqZOSeCHu6gD4.97