Updates to The Common Application For The 2015-2016 School Year

writing essayAs a high school student, you may have heard about this thing called the “Common Application.” The Common Application is just that; it’s a single undergraduate college application that you can use to apply to over 550 colleges (if you should so choose, however we don’t recommend that you apply to that many!).

The Common Application was created over 40 years ago as a tool for students to access college applications. In the 2014-2015 application season, over 857,000 different students from over 26,000 high schools submitted more than 3.7 million applications to the 500+ member colleges. In addition, teachers and counselors submitted over 14.3 million recommendations and over 913,000 fee waivers were utilized. There are a few updates for the next academic year:

Key changes to the Common Application in 2015-2016

  • Added 69 new colleges who accept the Common Application
  • You can print by page rather than waiting until the end to to print the complete application
  • You can now enter 15 AP courses instead of just 10 AP courses
  • How you search for your high schools
  • The FERPA waiver
  • Essay prompts
  • Writing requirements
  • Special Circumstances
  • Application support feature

How you search for your high schools

In the past, students would search for their high schools by the name of the high school. If you couldn’t find your high school by name, you could manually input your high school. While this solution would allow you to continue the application, the problem was that the Common Application system had no way of connecting your application to the correct high school so that your counselor and recommenders could upload their documents. Going forward, you will now be able to search for your high school by CEEB code so that you can be sure that you have the correct high school on your application and so that all of the components of your application can be seamlessly integrated.

The FERPA Waiver

There has always been a great deal of confusion around waiving the FERPA Release (or not). Most students assume that it’s correct to NOT waive your right to review all recommendations and supporting documents, but most colleges and high schools will want you to waive your rights. It used to be that if you selected the incorrect option the first time, you could not change the option once you realized the error. Going forward, you can change your FERPA selection at any time prior to the recommendations being submitted.

Essay Prompts

The essay prompt that asked about “a place where you feel perfectly content” was replaced with a new prompt that focuses more on analytical skills and intellectual curiosity. The other prompts remain the same with the exception of a few small wording changes. The new prompt is as follows:

“Describe a problem you’ve solved or a problem you’d like to solve. It can be an intellectual challenge, a research query, an ethical dilemma-anything that is of personal importance, no matter the scale. Explain its significance to you and what steps you took or could be taken to identify a solution.”

Writing Requirements

Colleges can now choose whether or not they require the personal essay. This means that you will have the option of choosing to send your essay to a college that does not require it, or not sending the essay to a college because they don’t require it. The Common Application made a couple of adjustments so that it’s much clearer which schools require essays and which do not.

One other big change for the upcoming year is that you now make unlimited edits to your essay rather than the 2 edits you were limited to before. According to the Common Application, “the essay will remain editable for all applicants, at any time.”

Special Circumstances

For explanations for education interruption, disciplinary situations, or criminal history, the information used to be collected in one general text field. Going forward, these explanations will be collected as independent explanations so they’re not all lumped in under one prompt.

Application Support

Currently, you can access many help items via the Applicant Help center. This knowledge base has extensive information that is searchable and provides many of the answers to frequently asked questions. Going forward, you will have access to an Applicant Chat and solution center 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year! This may come in handy if you find yourself working on the applications late at night, on the weekends, or over holidays!

For more information about the Common Application directly from the organization, follow the Common App blog! Best of luck in your college applications!

If you would like to learn about your strengths and areas for improvement as well as how to improve your college profile, complete our free profile evaluation form and get personalized advice on your profile!

By Jennifer Sohn Lim, Assistant Director of Admissions at Veritas Prep.