Bradshaw: College Common Application changes coming
January 26, 2012 2:14PM
Updated: February 28, 2012 8:10AM
Dear Mr. Bradshaw — My older sister just completed her college applications, and had a really stressful time. She applied using the Common Application for most colleges and was in tears over the deadlines and the number of essays she had to write.
She would have given up if it wasn’t for our parents helping out and keeping track of everything. It was the most stressful time of her life. My question is, what will I have to look forward to when I apply in 2013?
Dear Student — Many students say the college application process is the most stressful time in their lives. If you apply to 10 colleges, several dozen essays must be written — almost all having word limits and even some with character and space limits. Pay close attention to the prompts, and approach each essay with extreme care. Each section of the application receives a score, and your success or failure could hinge on making just one mistake fewer than the other candidates.
Most colleges use the Common Application, which streamlines the process by allowing the 456 member colleges to share basic information about you. Name and address, test scores, extracurricular activities and primary essays have only to be entered once and the Common Application is sent to all the colleges on your list.
Most colleges also require that you fill out a supplemental application to the CA in an effort to individualize the admissions process for their school.
The whole process is demanding and, for many students, confusing. The stress factor goes up because you must complete all of this during the first semester of your senior year. The good news is, in 2013, there will be a big change in the CA. Known by its preliminary name as Common App 4.0, the new application should take some of the stress out of applying.
Applicants long have struggled with the quirks of the current form. The new CA will be easier to complete. For example, the application now displays all the questions in a particular section on a student’s computer screen — as many as several dozen at a time. Only a fraction of these questions may be relevant to the student. The new 4.0 will change the display so only one question at a time (or, at most, a handful) will be visible, and the particular answers to each will determine what subsequent questions will be asked.
Tablets such as iPads may not be supported, at least initially. But, as with the current version, students will be able to check the status of their applications on a cell phone or iPad.
The proposed changes should help make your experience a bit easier than your sister’s.