It's not only the times that are a changin', but the Common Application as well!

Yes, the wire services and news outlets are reporting that the Common App, as students know (and often despise) it today, will find new ways of considering student's app-titude for college, if not new ways of totally frustrating them.

Among the changes for the 2013-14 Common App will be the eliminations of "A Topic of Your Choice" from the personal statement (essay) -- enter a collective GASP! here -- and strict adherence to the 250-500 word count. [SEE, Common Application Is Removing A Surprising Essay Topic. SEE also, Common App Revamped.]

There seems to be a general consensus (at least in the online commentary we've come across) that the Common App -- which, even in its present incarnation drives students and parents alike to Common App-oplexy -- is headed in the wrong direction, particularly as concerns the personal statement.

Eliminating the topic of choice, and strictly adhering to the 500 word limit, stymies creativity, taking what amounts to a one-size (or four sizes, depending upon how many essay topics may appear from year to year) fits all approach to the college application. 

Don't we want to give students latitude in expressing -- in one of the few ways the college application process permits -- the very essence of their characters and personalities, let alone what they, as unique individuals, could bring to the college campus and the community beyond?

Apparently not. Common App and its member colleges, or so it would seem, would rather mass produce automatons, capable of responding, in little more than a Twitter response, to a narrow set of questions. The very same questions, in fact, that thousands of other applicants must ponder. [Pity the poor admissions officers who will have to read virtually the same essays over and over and over again!]

As to the word limit (up to now more of a suggestion than a mandate), clearly students should neither respond with a mere sentence, nor should a dissertation akin to the second coming of War & Peace be in the offing. Indeed, brevity, and choosing one's words carefully, is the soul of wit and what a good college essay is made of. 

That said, give applicants the opportunity to speak their piece (in more than 1000 characters), with reasonable limitation (i.e., page and one-half, double-spaced, 12 point font) in one of the few realms in the college application process where they can be more than test scores and GPAs.

Change is inevitable, yes. The College Whisperer
likes change (especially change back from his dollar). Still, when change does come, shouldn't it be for the better? How about taking out the questions and form response tags in the Common App Supplements which have already been asked and answered in the Common App itself? Or maybe tweaking the submission process so that, at the very least, payment is the last step, not an intermediate layover, with submission of the Common Application itself left hanging out there as if an afterthought? [Oh yeah. We still have to submit that!] Nah. That would make too much sense!

The idea behind Common App is a good one (or so they would have us believe). To give students access to hundreds of college in one place, with the ability to seek entree to many colleges with a single (well, almost) application.

Common App 4.0
should strive to gain a more thorough insight into the minds and hearts of prospective college students, rather than to truncate their avenues of expression or further constrain their modes of self-evaluation.

P.S. The above treatise consists of 601 words. Darn! Over the Common App limit again!
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The College Whisperer.

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