The Common Application arrived on August 1. This year, there should not be too many bugs since we are in year three of CA4 (as you may recall, a few years ago, the Common App changed quite a bit, which led to many issues). Let’s take a step back – the Common Application is a web-based system that allows students to complete one main application that can then be sent out to approximately 600 different schools (you must submit to each one individually, and, in many cases, submit a fee).

Many colleges choose to include additional questions to this application. Those questions may be basic, like ‘in what major are you interested,’ or more like a full essay, like ‘what’s your favorite amusement park ride and why.’ These extra questions are what add much complexity and work to the process.

There are a few changes this year that are of note:

  • This is not really a change, but if you created an account last year, you’ll have to create a new one for this year’s application.
  • You may now preview your application before submission! A preview button is included on every page.
  • Some of the main essay topics have stayed the same; others changed slightly; and a few were all together scrapped (the ‘place’ essay was removed this year).
  • Colleges can choose whether or not they want a personal statement. We are carefully reviewing each school, and it appears that the most selective schools are all still requiring this essay.
  • Students were only able to have three drafts of the personal statement. This year, if a student wants to change the personal statement, s/he can do so as many times as s/he likes. Catching typos late is the biggest reason for changing the personal statement. Another may be if a student submits one essay for November deadline schools and then earns an accomplish worth writing about for the January deadline schools.
  • Many schools include additional writing prompts. These prompts were sometimes buried last year within a section called “Member Questions.” This year, the Common App does a slightly better job of pointing out these “hidden” essays. Happy hunting!
  • You can list more than 10 AP classes. It’s a scary thought, but clearly there was a need for a significant number of students to put down more than 10.
  • Students must add their high school’s CEEB code before inviting any of their teachers or counselors for letters of recommendation. While students had to do this before, I believe, this year, the code entered will be matched to the counselors’ high school codes. This is particularly important for high schools that utilize Naviance e-docs.

There are a few other less prominent (and less important) changes this year. But, thankfully, support will be available at all times courtesy of the Common Application organization!


Happy application season!