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Common App essays are a little too common — it’s time to start reimagining college applications

Student typing on laptop

Students spend a majority of the time behind the computer during college application season, writing essays through websites like the Common App.

In a world where any one high school senior is one of millions marketing themselves to colleges with the same essay prompts, college applications have become too predictable. Whether it’s asking students to describe a time they have failed or how they have defeated all odds against them to reach an achievement, these generic application questions have conditioned students to become a cookie-cutter applicant — myself included. I would be lying if I said I didn’t spend my senior year reading hundreds of explaining how students got into my dream school or how they stood out as an applicant.

This constant exposure to other students’ stories of success had a huge impact on my own perception of what it meant to be a competitive college applicant, which only resulted in countless drafts that did not actually capture who I was; not only as a student but as an individual.

While it’s not surprising that most high school students experience immense amounts of during college application season, colleges should relieve this by expanding the types of applications accepted — like encouraging applicants to submit and creative projects unique to each prospective student.

is one of few colleges that includes an optional video supplement in their application, with the purpose of knowing more about a student beyond the information listed. More importantly, it’s with the intention of hearing students share about themselves in their own voice, which humanizes the applicant.

Although colleges include questions that highlight students’ creativity or hobbies, the applications still emphasize one’s grades, writing and extracurriculars. By prioritizing analytical or technical skills like research and problem-solving, students who are creative or driven in other ways may be at a disadvantage. Instead of giving base-level prompts and expecting students to persuade as much as they can, the admission process needs to be reevaluated as an entirety.

By focusing too much on one student archetype, colleges can end up with a lot of similar people — resulting in a less diverse student body. In return, colleges miss out on a lot of different personalities, leadership styles and .

Outside of transcripts, colleges should allow students to submit diverse mediums with their application, allowing them to bring their stories to life. Instead of asking rigid questions and prioritizing traditional metrics like high grade-point averages (GPA), colleges can humanize their applicants beyond mere essays and promote individuality within the student body.

This could also expand outside of just art-related majors — an engineering student could submit an art portfolio with prototypes they have designed, while a political science student could film a documentary analyzing voter behavior in their city. By allowing students to demonstrate their skills and expertise in a tangible way, colleges can gain a deeper understanding of their potential contributions to the campus community.

Embracing a broader definition of valuable skills for students can enrich not only the educational experience, but also foster a more campus environment —reflecting the values of a . Schools like LMU have championed this approach through their emphasis on our , by promoting concepts like community and the dedication to help serve others, which all institutions should adopt.

For students who may not perform well in traditional academic settings but excel in creative pursuits, like visual arts or performance, unique supplements provide an opportunity to showcase their talents and potential contributions to the college community. By putting a personality to a student’s application, colleges can better gauge not just their academic skills, but their character, passion and fit for the institution. This shift towards a more and personalized approach not only makes the college application process less taxing for students, but also empowers them to embrace their individuality and authenticity when presenting themselves to college admissions.

In reality, it’s about reimagining the admissions experience as a storytelling of self-discovery and growth for students. Instead of being judged solely on their academic achievements, students can be encouraged to explore their passions, pursue their interests and engage in meaningful projects that reflect their true identity.

This is the opinion of Melody Mulugeta (’26), a journalism major from San Ramon, Calif. Send comments and feedback to . Follow @LALoyolan on , and subscribe to our .