Oct. 20, 2013 UPDATE: This post refers to the 2011-12 Common App. A brand new interface, introduced August 1, 2013 has rendered some of this information out of date. The 2013-14 Common App has proven to be buggy and unpredictable. See Got Common App problems? Here’s what we’re trying for updated information for the new Common App.
I’m trying to figure out if I should add a new category to this blog for all these things we’re learning by doing.
What we’ve learned: you can read instructions for each of the various college-related, online, multi-part applications — the Common App, supplements, the CSS Profile, the FAFSA — but there are aspects to each of them that cannot be figured out until you actually work your way through the process and/or user interface and…just do it.
So, for that new category, what do you think: D’oh! or Learn + Do Better Second Time Around?
Here are a few things Mod Squad Pete and I learned about the Common App:
- When proofreading the printed pdf preview of the completed application, some parts of the application will appear to be blank. The student completes all parts of the Common App online, but if ABC College does not require the student’s social security number, for example, the space where it would go will still appear on the pdf, just without any number. When you preview the app for XYZ University, which does require the SSN, it will appear completed on the pdf.
- Some colleges will require payment prior to the submission of the Common App and any supplement; others will ask for it the other way around.
- One supplement could not be submitted without information completed in a section below a yes/no question, even though the “no” response should not have required further information.
- The Common Application itself, once it has been submitted to one school, cannot be changed for any subsequent submission. Say you decide to use an essay on hockey for ABC College. A week or two later, you came up with a much more brilliant idea on cricket and you’d like to use that for the main essay for XYZ University. Cannot be done. After the first submission, all areas of the Common App are greyed out and cannot be edited.
Most colleges provide information on their websites about how to submit corrected information if anything on the Common App was incorrect. Those corrections must be sent to the colleges; they cannot be submitted through the Common App interface.
Better to proofread a number of times before hitting the send button. And be sure to avoid these mistakes: 6 Worst College Application Mistakes.
Finally, here’s an excellent article by Unigo on how to make each application specific to that particular college, in How Much Should You Personalize Each College Application?
Even before my students add a college to their wish list, I have them complete an “Imagining I’m There” exercise picturing freshman year at that school. I ask them to consider the three Cs—classroom, campus, and community. What courses would they take and with which professors? Which organizations/activities would they join on campus? Which research and study abroad opportunities are of interest? Which school traditions do they want to maintain? How would they volunteer and get involved in the larger campus community? This information also should be reflected in each college application.
Ok, there are some good ideas for Pete to use in his regular admission apps and for Mod Squad Julie to use in a couple of years. Just don’t tell her yet; let her focus on basketball tryouts for now.
Update: Please see correction on this post here [as provided in comments below].
- How Has Technology Changed the College Admissions Process? (usnews.com)
- College application crunch (midlifebatmitzvah.wordpress.com)
- The Common App Threat (collegevideos.wordpress.com)