Previews of the 2012-13 Common Application for colleges and universities are now available online, meaning that today’s high school juniors can get an early start on their college admissions hunt.

The official Common App won’t go live until August, meaning that students have to wait until then to actually send them to schools. But there is no law against starting to write essays and figure out the information needed to complete both the undergraduate application and the one for transfer students.

The Common Application is a not-for-profit organization that provides an admission application – online and in print – that students may submit to any of about 450 member schools that accept it. Newest members include The Ohio State University, the University of Tennessee Knoxville and the University of Illinois at Chicago.

When the Common Application was developed in 1975, officials hoped it would reduce the number of separate applications and essays a student applying to numerous colleges would have to complete. Actually, many colleges still require additional information, including more essays. So students, beware: There’s a lot of work to do.

So what are the undergraduate application essays? They are pretty much the same as last year, and the year before. Here are the instructions:

Please write an essay of 250-500 words on a topic of your choice or on one of the options listed below, and attach it to your application before submission. Please indicate your topic by checking the appropriate box. This personal essay helps us become acquainted with you as a person and student, apart from courses, grades, test scores, and other objective data. It will also demonstrate your ability to organize your thoughts and express yourself. NOTE: Your Common Application essay should be the same for all colleges. Do not customize it in any way for individual colleges. Colleges that want customized essay responses will ask for them on a supplement form.

* Evaluate a significant experience, achievement, risk you have taken, or ethical dilemma you have faced and its impact on you.

* Discuss some issue of personal, local, national, or international concern and its importance to you.

* Indicate a person who has had a significant influence on you, and describe that influence.

* Describe a character in fiction, a historical figure, or a creative work (as in art, music or science, etc.) that has had an influence on you, and explain that influence.

* A range of academic interests, personal perspectives, and life experiences adds much to the educational mix. Given your personal background, describe an experience that illustrates what you would bring to the diversity in a college community or an encounter that demonstrated the importance of diversity to you.

* Topic of your choice.


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