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More Changes to the Common Application


In a previous post, I outlined the five new prompts for this year’s Common App personal statement. However, there are still more significant changes coming to the Common App for this year’s class of college applicants.

Here are some of the highlights that will affect the greatest number of students beginning on August 1

The College Page

In the past, the process of providing school-specific information was confusing. There was a Future Plans tab, in addition to a Supplement section. Now, the process has been intelligently streamlined.

Each college will have its own page to be completed. What a student must to submit to a given college will surely vary, as each school’s supplement in the previous incarnation of the Common App differed. For instance, Wake Forest notoriously requires applicants to submit seven short answer questions and one lengthier essay—that all in addition to the 650-word personal statement. Meanwhile, schools like Dartmouth and University of Miami ask for no additional essays.

For the most part, even with the Common App’s structural changes, colleges’ “supplemental” essays will unlikely change much. Every college will ask that students designate how they are applying (early decision, early action, regular, etc.) and to which program they are applying (college, major, etc.).

However, starting this year, a school can also offer the opportunity for a student to submit additional recommendation letters, in addition to two from teachers and one from the guidance counselor, and other supplemental materials. Which leads to this change…

Supplemental Materials

In previous years, students had the opportunity to upload as many supplemental materials as they wished on a Writing page. These would automatically be sent to every college to which a student applied. This page will no longer exist, and students will now only submit supplemental materials through a given school’s College Page, and only if the school gives the students the option to submit supplemental materials. These may include a resume, a research paper and other materials.

No More Activity Essay

For years, students were given the opportunity to elaborate on one particular important activity in a 150-word essay. With the personal statement’s expansion this year, the Activity Essay has disappeared entirely.

Applicants will still have the Activity page to detail their extracurricular involvement throughout their four years of high school. Yet, they will only have 150 characters (including spaces!) to explain their leadership roles and details of their involvement.

So if given the chance to upload a resume, students should seize that opportunity to further detail their accomplishments.

The Ability to Update Pages

Students have always had the option of submitting different versions of the Common App to different colleges, but frankly, that the option existed was not always obvious—nor was it easy. That changes this year. A student can update the Pages of their Common App as many times as they want in between submissions to schools.

So let’s say, for instance, that after a student submitted their Common App to Villanova, they realized a glaring typo on the Activity page. Before submitting the Common App to their remaining colleges, they could fix that typo. There is no limit to the number of changes a student can make between submissions on these pages.

However, there is one important note here: A student can only submit three versions of their Personal Statement. In other words, once a student submits a third version of his or her Personal Statement, the essay will lock and be impossible to change.

One Final Word on the Personal Statement

A student can no longer upload a file with their essay. It is text-entry only. This eliminates any opportunity for creativity in formatting.

For further questions about the Common App and the changes coming this year, Eric Karlan is available by email at eric@myivyexperience.com or by phone at (267) 888-6489.

» Read More Education, Test and Prep Insights from Eric Karlan
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