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2023-24 Common Application Guide

High school student uses his cell phone and laptop to view his 2023-24 Common App

The Common Application for the 2023-24 college application season is officially open! While there were several significant changes made to the application last year, the Common App essay prompts will remain the same for the upcoming admissions cycle.

What is the Common App?

The Common Application is the most widely used application for college admissions in the U.S. For the 2022-23 application season, there were approximately 8.6 million first-year applications submitted, an increase of 13% over the last year. While there are other alternative applications like the Coalition App, students are most likely to use the Common App when applying.

At IvyWise, our goal is to make the college application process as stress-free and transparent as possible. This means keeping families abreast of the latest college admissions news and trends and breaking down what students need to know about the Common App each year. Here’s what students need to know about the 2023-24 Common App.

2023-24 Common App Essay Prompts

For the 2023-24 admissions cycle, the essay prompts remain the same. The Common App essay prompts for the upcoming admissions cycle are as follows:

  • 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?
  • 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.
  • 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?
  • Reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea. What prompted your thinking? What was the outcome?
  • 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?
  • Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others.
  • 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?
  • 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.

Common App Adds New Options for Legal Sex and Name

This year, the Common App will add “X or another legal sex” as an option on first-year applications, as well as give students the option to include a different first name when creating their account. Applicants will have the ability to select which name Common App uses in communications.

New Common App Member Colleges

The Common Application is used by over 900 colleges and universities in the US and abroad. This year, the Common App added 29 new member colleges and universities to its robust list, with more to be announced in August 2023. Additions include Rutgers University, Virginia Military Institute, and Pacific Northwest College of Art, among others.

Other Notable Changes to the Common App

The 2023-24 Common App has made some changes to the testing section, including updating the language for the SAT and ACT writing score reporting from “Have you taken…?” to “Would you like to report…?” Other changes include:

  • Updating the ACT writing score range to 2-12 (previously 1-36)
  • Removing TOEFL paper test score self-reporting
  • Changing behavior of test suppression on PDFs
  • Improving visibility for students on what info has been suppressed on the application PDF

Students will also be able to convert their practice accounts to live accounts and change the start year. Additionally, the financial aid section will be more user-friendly, and the language on inviting and assigning recommenders has been improved.

Tips for the Common App

When completing your Common Application, it’s important to take your time and be thoughtful about every piece of information you’re providing to colleges. This application is, after all, your means to present yourself to your top-choice schools so you want to maximize every section. Here are a few things to keep in mind while working on your Common App this fall:

Start ASAP!

Ideally, most students will have started to fill out the Common App and worked on their personal statements in advance of the Common App launch on Aug. 1. However, that’s not the case for everyone. If you haven’t already, create your Common App account and start to fill out each section in order to get the tedious personal information out of the way. You’ll be thankful to have the bulk of this work out of the way once the school year starts this fall.

Be thoughtful about your personal statement.

This is your chance to tell universities something new about you that can’t be found anywhere else in the application, so take your time brainstorming, drafting, and refining your personal statement. The prompts are broad, so take your time identifying the right prompt for you and ensure that your personal statement properly addresses it. Don’t be afraid to reach out to your college counselor for help identifying a topic and refining your essay.

Strategically fill out the Activities section.

Extracurricular activities are about quality — not quantity. When filling out the activities section of your Common App, list your activities in order of importance to you, putting your most impactful and meaningful activities at the top of the list. If there are any activities on your list that you only participated in once, or that you did for a year or two and stopped, leave them off. Be as detailed as possible when describing your involvement in these activities. Mention any leadership positions or initiatives and how you have made an impact.

At IvyWise, we know that applying to college is an exciting (but sometimes stressful!) journey for high school seniors. We’re here to help with any questions or concerns that families may encounter along the way. We can help students with all aspects of the college admissions process, from creating a balanced college list all the way to ensuring that their Common App is ready for submission. Contact us today for more information on our college counseling services for high school seniors.

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