2016-17 Common Application Changes

Thursday, May 12, 2016

2016-17 common application changesHere’s Your Student and Parent Guide to the 2016-17 Common Application


Before getting a head start on your college applications this summer, make sure you’re aware of Common Application changes for the 2016-17 admissions season.

The college admissions process is constantly evolving, and so are the application platforms that students use to apply to college. While new application options are becoming available to students – like the new Coalition application and locker – the Common Application is by far still the most popular with nearly 700 member colleges.

The 2016-17 Common Application doesn’t officially launch until Aug. 1, however, the platform has made it possible for the class of 2021 to get started on their application earlier than ever.

Here’s what students and parents need to know about the 2016-17 Common Application changes.

No Change in Essay Prompts

The biggest change this year is that there’s no change at all! The essay prompts for the 2016-17 Common Application will remain the same as last year. Here’s a look at this year’s Common Application essay prompts as well as other available essay 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 failure can be fundamental to later success. Recount an incident or time when you experienced failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience?
  3. Reflect on a time when you challenged a belief or idea. What prompted you to act? Would you make the same decision again?
  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 or event, formal or informal, that marked your transition from childhood to adulthood within your culture, community, or family.

Account Rollover

Previously, students who created a Common Application account before the Aug. 1 open date would lose that account and all information in it when the new application was released. Now, students who create an account before Aug. 1 will be able to transfer their account, application information, and login to the new application after Aug. 1. Any information entered into the “Common App” sections, like profile, family information, etc., will carry over into the new account. Since the college-specific supplements are from the previous year’s application, any information entered in the supplements will not carry over. The same applies to recommendations, uploaded PDFs, and more. Here’s a full list of will and will not carry over from one year to the next.

Criminal History Question

There has been a lot of discussion lately about how criminal records factor into the admissions process. Just recently the Common Application announced that this year it “will still ask whether students have been found guilty of a misdemeanor or felony but remove part of the question asking about any other crimes.” The intention is to clear up any confusion about what students have to report to colleges when applying.

Gender Identity Question

Students who do not identify as either male or female now have more options on the Common Application to express how they want to be identified. The Common Application recently announced that it will be making changes to the application to allow students to better “express their gender identity in several ways including within the Profile page, optional free response text field, as well as in member colleges’ specific sections.” The Common Application will ask students their “sex assigned at birth,” but will also “have a free response box for students to indicate additional information, such as transgender status.”

New Member Colleges

In March the Common Application announced that 48 new colleges and universities will be joining the Common App for the 2016-17 application season. New notable Common Application colleges for 2016-17 include Baylor University, George Mason University, Indiana University – Bloomington, and the University of Wisconsin – Madison.

It’s important to stay up-to-date on the latest college admissions and college admissions changes. For more college admissions updates for the 2016-17 admissions season, be sure to subscribe to our mailing list!


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11th Grade, 12th Grade, College Application Tips, College Essays
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