The New and Improved Common App

Familiarize Yourself with this College Application Tool

If you will be a high school senior this fall, you should already be researching the college application process. One thing you need to determine is how to apply to each college - some have their own applications, some use The Common Application or Universal College Application, and some use a little of both. Be aware of your application deadlines, especially if you are applying for an early decision or early action admission.

The Universal College Application for 2015-16 will be available online on July 1; the Common App will be available on August 1. Since some schools have application deadlines in September and October, you may not have a lot of time to complete the application properly. It’s best to spend time now familiarizing yourself with the process so you will be good to go.

The Common App made several changes for the upcoming application season that are designed to make the process much easier. The most notable of these is the changes that were made to the essay prompts. Essays are now also fully editable, instead of being limited to two revisions. Other changes to the Common App include:

  • Letters of Recommendation: You can include your letters of recommendation with your Common App, but you need to make sure that your application has the correct high school name (and CEEB code) before you can ask your guidance counselor or teachers to submit those letters. Each of the teachers you have chosen can write one letter of recommendation for you. This letter will then be sent to all of the schools you have assigned that teacher in the “Recommenders and FERPA” section. If you add more schools later, you can also assign that teacher as a recommender and the letter will go to those schools as well.
  • Privacy Waivers: If you want to view those letters of recommendation, you have the right to do so under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). If you do not want to view those recommendations, you can choose to waive these rights.
  • Get a Preview: Hit the “preview” button and see what your application looks like. Are you repeating anything? Does it make a good overall impression?
  • See What You’re Writing: If you like to see what you’re writing as you compose your essay, press the “open full screen” button. Some students like to get the big picture, while others like to concentrate on one idea at a time.
  • Do You Want to Write an Essay: Your colleges may or may not require a personal essay or a personal statement. Even if your colleges do not require an essay, you still have the option of submitting one anyway.
  • Follow Your School’s Requirements: Once you have listed your colleges, you will see a button entitled “My Colleges.” Click on this to determine what is required for each college. Find out whether your colleges require a personal statement or supplemental information and be sure to provide it, so you won’t be wasting time later on in the process.
  • Get Credit for Your AP Classes: There is space to list grades for up to fifteen Advanced Placement courses. If you’ve done the work, you deserve to get the credit.
  • Get Help if You Need It: Don’t sit there and struggle. Help is available 24/7, so you have no excuse for not getting your application filed.

These changes should make it a little easier to complete the Common App, but you still need to leave yourself plenty of time.