What’s lost when Stanford uses the Common App

February 21, 2007 at 7:59 am 1 comment

Posted by Aaron

Ever since I had heard the news that Stanford will be accepting the Common App next year, I have had mixed feelings about it. 

It is easier to fill out only one Form 1 (since they all ask exactly the same thing), but with the Common App, there are enough supplemental forms that you, almost, might as well apply to each school individually. But for those who apply to 18+ schools (and if you can, more power to you), I can see how it is helpful. But I feel there is something to be said about individual applications.

What bums me out most about Stanford’s transfer to the Common App is the possibility of them losing their more unique essay and short answer topics because there already are generic short answers and essays on the Common App. Each school’s admission committee evaluates their applicants according to the scope of their school. While it makes for an extremely painful application process for applicants if all schools had their own essays, having their own essays makes it easier for the admissions committees to glean the information they find most useful.

The greatest loss as schools transition to the Common App is the shift from quirky questions to more generic ones. Sure the generic ones make it easier for applicants to finish multiple applications, however those quirky questions are some of the hardest, yet most rewarding to do. One of my favorite quirky questions was on the Stanford app, which asks you to write a note to your future roommate relating an experience that reveals something about you. That ended up being one of the most thought provoking questions. Many of these types of questions are intentionally open-ended so that the admissions committee can see not only what the applicant wants to portray but how he/she creatively chooses to do so.  

I see this type of essay more about personality and less about success in the face of hardships. The way I tackled this question was I thought about how I wanted to present myself. I immediately chose to structure the essay as an actual note (with “Dear Future Roommate,” and “-Aaron”). I wanted to make this short answer less formal in tone than the others – more in the tone that I normally have. With that informal tone I chose to add parenthetical comments and jokes. Lastly, I chose to write about another dorm experience to talk about my idiosyncrasies.

Most essays I tried to take a topic, and make it fit the prompt; however, I feel that these quirky essays are less about the accomplishment and focus on the applicant’s personality instead. I mean, really, would you tell your future roommate that you won Regional Soccer Championships or that you apologize in advance for being a snorer (easy for me since I am only one of those…)?

Always remember that this is a creative process, so don’t let me, or anyone else, close any doors for you as my word is definitely not gospel. Just remember, as much as you want to cram as many interesting tidbits as possible, you also want to give your essays some of your own character to make the essay unique – how you do that is up to you.


Entry filed under: Admissions, Application, Common application, Essays, Jokes, Roommate, Stanford, Writing.

Either, or… not both? When to know if you’re accepted: season 2007

1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Debbie  |  February 25, 2007 at 6:28 pm

    yea, i heard about that. however, i mean, not all is lost. Stanford should still have the supplement, and still would be able to answer the same quirky questions?


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