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CommonApp to Replace “Topic of Your Choice” Essay Option

Jamie Wheeler-Roberts
Next year changes are being made to the

This past fall when seniors sat down to begin writing their college essays, limiting their insight into who they are as a person to 500 words seemed like a daunting task. However, all of that is about to change. As of next year, the CommonApp will not only increase this word limit, but change the “topic of your choice” option for students applying to college in the 2013-2014 school year and beyond.

For the past few years, the CommonApp has provided students with several questions, but the one that has remained consistent is the “topic of your choice” option. The new question is still one students can use to craft an essay based on almost anything they want. The new question is:

“Some students have a background or story that is so central to their identity that they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.”

The changes in the application have received mixed reviews. Some seniors believe that removing the straightforward “topic of your choice” option is unfair, because sometimes students don’t have a specific “story” that they wish to write about.

“Because students can’t choose their own essay prompts, they won’t be as inspired to write their essays,” Andrew Travers ’13 said. “People showcase their full ability when they write about something they actually care about.”

For some, the biggest point of contention regarding the new requirements is not the questions at all, but the word limit. In past years, some seniors have spent hours dissecting their essays to make them fit the tight 500-word limit. However, the CommonApp has recently changed this word limit to 650, giving this year’s juniors a sigh of relief.

“I like the idea of [the essay] being concise,” Jack Greenwald ’14 said. “I think 500 words is probably a little too concise; however, 650 words is definitely not a huge difference.”

In the Guidance offices, these new changes to the application will not change how each counselor handles the personal essay component with their students. According to guidance counselor William Plunkett, the essay is a unique chance for students to show themselves off, regardless of the prompt. Additionally, he believes the changes to the word limit won’t have a marginal effect in the essay writing process for students.

“People who write longer will write longer,” Plunkett said. “We’ll still review essays and often those students who make the appropriate cuts rather than trying to fill up the page end up with a better essay.”

Although it has not been confirmed, there is also talk that the CommonApp will do away with the additional 250-word essay devoted to extra curricular activities. Regardless of the various changes coming to the CommonApp this year, the role of the personal essay will remain consistent.

“I always think of the movie 21, when the college admissions guy has his jaw dropped wide open at the end after the story has been told,” Greenwald said. “The main character asks, ‘How’s that for life experience professor? Did I dazzle you? Did I jump off the page?’ I think that’s the goal of every kid writing his or her essay.”

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About the Contributors
Molly Barreca
Molly Barreca, Sports Editor
Molly Barreca seems like a typical humorous girl at Staples. However, there are many things that most don’t know about her. She aspires to work in public relations when she is older, similarly to her father who has worked in the television industry for years. Barreca is one of Inklings most popular writers with over 1,000 hits on her articles. She has always been a talented writer and loved reading the paper, but she officially started Inklings at the end of her sophomore year. She then took advanced journalism her junior year and is currently in the advanced class her senior year. This coming year Barreca is one of the sports editors, and her ambition is to change the sports section. “I want to make the sports section a little less predictable,” Barreca said. She is very excited about the back page and likes that it is one of the more featured pages. “I want to make the section somewhere people turn to when they first get the paper because they want to see what we’re going to do next,” Barreca said. Barreca and her good friend Aaron Hendel, which is also her co-editor, are eager to change Inkling’s sports section for the better. It will be interesting to watch Barreca as she changes the Inklings sports section and follow in the footsteps of her father.
Jamie Wheeler-Roberts
Jamie Wheeler-Roberts, News Editor
Jamie Wheeler – Roberts, who loves to write and edit for the paper, has a passion for journalism as well as something else. Jamie is a girl who along with loving journalism loves to travel.  Because her mom works for an airline, flying alone at a young age is natural to her. She’s traveled across the world, from Europe to Australia, and has plenty of stories to go with it. “I like going to new places and seeing how different others live their lives compared to ours,” said Jamie ‘13. Jamie is still aspiring to travel more, as she looks forward to hopefully attending college in London. Besides getting to live in a foreign country, she can also focus on her interest in Social Studies which she has indulged over the years by taking courses at Princeton during the summer.  At college though, she wants to focus on her specific passion for International Relations. Jamie has been active in clubs such as JSA, the debate team and student ambassador.  However, during her last few years at Staples she has spent more time at Inklings where she likes making the paper.

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