Last weekend, the Common App rolled over and refreshed for the 2021-22 application season as it does every year on August 1st. As one of the most widely used application platforms for over 950 colleges and universities in the US and internationally, the Common App gives students a consolidated portal to manage and track the different components of their college applications.

What is different about this year’s Common App?

  1. More colleges:
    Over 60 new institutions
    have joined the Common App this year, including all of the public universities in Illinois (and most notably, the ever-popular University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign) and the Pratt Institute in New York, to name a few. Closer to our part of the world, the Lebanese American University is now also on the Common App as of this application year.
  2. A new essay prompt: For those who missed the announcement earlier this year, the Common App has introduced one new essay question for this year’s application cycle, which asks students: “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?” This new essay prompt has replaced the question that previously asked students to describe a problem they have solved. Check out our previous blog post on how to approach this new prompt and how to choose an essay prompt in general.
  3. Revised questions on gender and sex: In an effort to make the Common App more inclusive, there have been minor updates to the Profile Section. This includes additional personal information questions, where students can share their preferred first name as well as gender pronouns by either selecting from a list or adding their own set of pronouns. Similarly, the gender question now gives students an option to “add another gender” and describe their gender identity in more detail if they wish to, rather than simply selecting from a list. As part of this shift, the sex question, under the demographics tab, has now been reworded to “legal sex”, making a clearer distinction between gender and sex.
  4. Changes to the nationality and family questions: One relevant, although minor, change for international students is that the citizenship response now includes a more clearly worded option called “citizen of non-US country,” which was previously called “other (non-US).” The selection options in this question have also been expanded to include “DACA or undocumented” in an effort to reduce the barriers that students in this group often face when it comes to college applications. To this effect, some of the questions under the family tab have now also been made optional, such as including parents’ occupations and employment statuses. The sibling question in this same section has also been streamlined, no longer requiring students to share their siblings’ educational details.
  5. Removal of the school discipline question: As part of its endeavour to make the application process more equitable, the Common App has removed the school discipline question that previously asked students to report whether they’ve been cited for a disciplinary violation at school.

What about the COVID-19 question?

The COVID-19 question still appears as an optional essay prompt of up to 250 words under the Additional Information tab of the Writing section. If you are unsure about whether you should answer this question or not, you can refer to our previous blog post on this.

We understand that the college application process can be overwhelming and may seem especially uncertain in the current environment. If you find yourself wondering how this is going to affect your admissions this year, get in touch with us.

We will continue to share more ideas on how to approach and improve your application, so be sure to watch this space for more updates!