By Sarah Wright
New Question Formats
According to The New York Times, colleges like Brown University and Yale University are beginning to incorporate a social-media inspired trend into their admission applications. No, they're not going to be notifying accepted students via a 'Like' button - but they are calling for Twitter-like brevity for some application questions. For example, Brown is giving students a 25-word limit for answers to questions like 'If I could do something with no risk of failing, I would …'.
Though this may be welcome news to some tech-savvy prospective college students, it might not be that easy to come up with a good answer in so few words. Plus, this is a relatively new trend. Still, you should be ready to answer all different kinds of answers on your college applications - different not only in topic, but in format as well.
What to Anticipate
Of course, there's only so much prepping you can do before you actually see the questions you're going to have to answer. But generally, college application questions, both essay and short-form, want to get students talking about who they are. These questions allow the admissions committee to see you as more than a GPA and SAT score. Ultimately, they humanize applicants. These topics are commonly the focus of college application questions.
Sometimes, colleges want to know in direct terms what you want out of life. They might ask what you want to major in, and why, or what career you'd be interested in pursuing after college. Your answers to these questions are typically given in the format of a personal statement, something that is written directly and in first person. For example, you could say something like 'I want to major in biology, because I've always been interested in how the natural world around me works.'
These questions aren't exactly looking for you to define your personality, per se, but they are designed to get you to talk about who you are, either in an abstract or a direct way. For example, some college applications might ask you a seemingly wacky question, like what kind of utensil you would be, if you had to pick one. The question might also be more direct, like how you can add to the diverse community on campus. Either way, this is your chance to dig deep and think about what makes you unique.
Life Experience Discovery
You might also be asked to talk about a specific experience in your life, perhaps something that made a deep impact on you intellectually, or an example of overcoming a challenge or hardship. These are getting-to-know-you type questions, but they can also let an admissions committee know how fit you are for academic life at their institution.
To learn more about these new types of questions, read up on our analysis of Twitter's impact on college applications.