August 1st marks the start of college application season. Starting this day, first-year and transfer college applicants across the world can simply sign up for a Common Application account to apply to up to 20 schools from their list of 527. These schools span 47 states, seven countries, and include 81 public universities and 446 private schools. Also, this year marks the release of the fourth generation of Common Application online called CA4, which simplifies the online interface and offers updated features.

The Convenience Factor

With the Common Applicationanyone can apply to tons of American and international universities. This is where students can discover and apply to colleges, answer the application questions, write essays, keep track of deadlines and sent applications, and even manage letters of recommendation. When college’s receive applications via the Common Application, it is also all digitized, making it easier for admissions office staff to organize and keep track of all the applications. Since, the Common Application is 100% digitized this year, that means that it is greener, and applicants do not have to print out papers for each separate college and mail it to the college. The only party that needs to do the printing will be the college, which cuts the amount of paper needed substantially. Also, the Common Application reduces the amount of forms students have to fill out for every college they apply to. Instead, there is the convenience factor of a “common” portion of an application that is sent out to every college a student choices to apply to. Hence the name ‘Common Application’.

With the Common Application, a student can choose from over 500 recognized institutions all over the world to apply to. From Adelphi University to Yale University, small-liberal arts colleges such as Pomona College to public research universities like Colorado State University, and from John Cabot University (Rome, Italy) to Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences.

So What Exactly is the Common Application?

For the student, the Common Application consists of five to six parts, with parts one through four being the “Common” portion:

  1. Personal information (name, demographics, residence, parents and siblings information, future plans, ect.)
  2. Education/Academics (senior year courses, class rank, GPA, standardized test scores, academic honors, etc.)
  3. Extracurricular activities and work experience
  4. Writing section (One of the five essay prompts, additional information, disciplinary history)
  5. College-specific supplements (If that specific college has one; supplements can range from short answer questions to additional essay questions to simple check-boxes or drop-down answers)
  6. Signature page (“Honesty and Integrity” statement, Early Decision contract if applicable)

Other parts of the Common Application include:

  • Teacher Evaluation(s)
  • School Report, Mid-Year Report, Final Report (completed by an invited school official)

With a new Common Application this year, also comes new essay topics (250-650 words):

  • Some students have a background or story that is so central to their identity that they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.
  • Recount an incident or time when you experienced failure. How did it affect you, and what lessons did you learn?
  • Reflect on a time when you challenged a belief or idea. What prompted you to act? Would you make the same decision again?
  • Describe a place or environment where you are perfectly content. What do you do or experience there, and why is it meaningful to you?
  • Discuss an accomplishment or event, formal or informal, that marked your transition from childhood to adulthood within your culture, community, or family.

Don’t worry, you only have to choose one. Deadlines vary by school. Why not get started now?

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