For those of you anxiously waiting, the Common Application is officially open and ready to use for this year’s college applications! Over the coming months, you will meticulously enter and review with a fine-tooth comb your personal, academic, and activities information. However, we want to focus on the section that just became available with the August 1st launch: Your Colleges!
It’s time to put your Admitster College List to Work!
We hope you’ve been using our College List Tool to research and create your personalized short-list of colleges and universities! Now, you get to take this list and put it into action! The first thing you will have to do is log into www.commonapp.org and create and store your username and password somewhere safe.
Then, you will want to click on “College Search”, where you can simply search for each school by name and add them to your list. Once you have added all of the colleges you like (you can add as many as 20), click Dashboard and you will see your college list– it’ll be called “My Colleges”.
For each college, you will see four things: Questions, Assign Recommenders, Submission, and Writing Supplement (obviously, submitting is the last thing you want to do!). In order to understand the requirements of each college on your list, you will need to click on each college, and do the following:
Start with the “Questions”: You want to carefully look at the Questions for each school. Here’s where you’ll see all the school-specific short answer questions, as well as prompts to enter things like your desired major or program. Oftentimes, entering a specific program (for example in engineering or the arts) will “trigger” some additional required questions and information. So it’s wise to enter in your major for each school (and maybe play with a few alternatives) so you can see you how a choice might impact what’s being asked of you in any given application.
Watch out for the “Other” Section: In many of the college’s Question section, you see something called “Other.” I’ve seen this section contain straightforward questions, such as an honor code. I’ve also seen it be a somewhat hidden repository for longer supplementary essays. Some unfortunate students have not noticed these until they go to submit applications. Therefore, you should click through every single section, no matter how small it seems, making sure you don’t miss a thing!
Preview each Writing Supplement: Most of the time, this section includes the supplementary short essay questions. For example, you might be asked to elaborate on an extra-curricular activity, or explain your interest in the school. For strategies on crafting your responses, read this blog post.
However, oftentimes, colleges might have more extensive essays that are just as long as your college essay! You’ll be wanting to get to work on these quickly, as it may impact your topic selection for your Common App essay (as you generally should not write about the same topic in two essays).
Don’t over-rely on the Dashboard View: This is a helpful tool, for sure. It’ll have a symbol for each school that requires a writing supplement. As we’ve learned, since these supplements sometimes appear in the Questions section, the Dashboard might inaccurately not list a writing supplement for each school. Again, this is why you need to carefully go through every section!
While the Dashboard presents application deadlines for each college, these are for regular decision admissions only. You will be responsible for tracking any earlier deadlines, such as Early Action, Early Decision, and Merit Aid scholarships.
Know when to work off-line: For any written content beyond the essentials, I’d highly suggest moving off the website and onto a separate document. You don’t want to accidentally submit rough drafts or lose work during a crash!
Word Count and Character Count: As you manage these written components, pay careful attention to the directions on each prompt. Most questions will have a clear word count (very rarely is it unlimited). However, many short responses will often have a character count, or even a line-count. This implies that they are looking for precise responses (I’ve helped more than a handful of students edit an eloquent 250 word short essay to a pithy 250 character statement.)
So, now that you’re in this year’s application- have some fun, poke around, and most importantly, get organized. If you start to feel overwhelmed, we are here to help you succeed! Our college advisers have expert knowledge of each school and their requirements, and can give you the extra support you need to submit impressive applications to each school on your list! Remember, we offer a free consultation to any new client (rising seniors- we’re looking at you!).