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2016-17 Common Application Overview

The 2016-17 Common Application opened August 1, marking the official start of the college admissions season. We’ve taken an in-depth look at this year’s Common Application and have the ultimate Common App guide and overview for the class of 2021.

Essays
The main Common Application essays have remained the same as last year. There have been some changes, however, to the school-specific supplemental essays. You can take a look at some of those here.

Here are the 2016-17 Common Application essay prompts students will need to address:

  • Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.
  • The lessons we take from failure can be fundamental to later success. Recount an incident or time when you experienced failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience?
  • 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 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.
  • Discuss an accomplishment or event, formal or informal, that marked your transition from childhood to adulthood within your culture, community, or family.

Tip: Use the essay to tell colleges something new about yourself! The Common Application essay prompts are broad enough that you can write about a number of topics that reveal something that can’t be found anywhere else in the application. Take time to brainstorm relevant essay topics and write a few drafts before the start of the school year.

New Member Colleges
The 2016-17 Common Application has, by far, the most robust list of member colleges, with close to 700 schools using the Common Application for admission. This spring 48 new colleges joined the Common Application for the 2016-17 admission season, including Baylor University, University of Wisconsin – Madison, and more.

Tip: When creating your balanced college list, make a note of how colleges want you to apply. While close to 700 colleges accept the Common Application, some schools, like MIT, use their own application platform and DO NOT accept the Common Application.

Auto-Save
The Common App will now auto-save students’ work in an open section every 90 seconds. Students can also manually save changes by hitting the “upload” button when working on the application. This will help save a lot of time and heartache, as students have a smaller chance of losing work.

Tip: Save! Save! Save! Don’t rely on auto-save, alone. Update and save your application after entering any new information, and don’t work on your essay in the Common Application itself. Work on it inside of a Google doc, Word doc, or other platform, so you’re able to save backup copies should you need them.

Score Reporting
With the introduction of the new SAT this spring, this year’s seniors are the first to have the chance to apply with new SAT scores. Since many students may have already taken the previous SAT and want to apply with those scores, the Common App will allow students to report scores from both the old and new SAT.

Tip: Pay close attention to your score reporting, as it may be confusing with the option to report on two different SAT scores. Double check that you’re entering the correct information in the correct fields.

Gender Identity
The Common Application and Universal Application made headlines earlier this year, as they announced changes to their gender identity questions within the applications. Now, students have the option to provide additional information about their gender identity in a free-response box within the Common Application.

Tip: Use this space if needed! If you’re not sure how to address gender identity in your application, speak with your college or independent counselor about the best course of action.

Updated Search Criteria
Searching for colleges within the Common Application is getting more in-depth, with students able to filter colleges by writing requirements, testing requirements, application fees, and more.

Tip: While this is a great search function, don’t use it to finalize your balanced college list. While this information is important, things like writing and testing requirements don’t tell you much about whether or not a college is a great-fit.

Account Rollover
Students who created a Common Application account over the summer will have the option to “rollover” their profile to this year’s application, allowing them to save any personal information they’ve already filled out. Previously, accounts created before the Aug. 1 launch date were discontinued when the new application opened, causing students to lose all application information. Now, when students login after Aug. 1, they will have the option to rollover their accounts.

Tip: Pay close attention to the instructions when logging in for the first time to roll over your account. The Common Application will ask you a few questions before granting you access to the new application, so make sure to carefully read everything in order to ensure your account is properly transferred.

The 2016-17 Coalition Application
The Common Application isn’t the only college application platform that launched recently. The new Coalition Application also opened at the end of July, offering applications for a handful of colleges during the initial launch. This year, only 56 colleges plan to use the Coalition Application, with most colleges accepting both the Common App and the Coalition Application for the 2016-17 admissions season.

Here’s our guide to the 2016-17 Coalition Application.

Tip: Unless you’re applying to one of the few colleges that are only using the Coalition Application, we’re advising students to only use the 2016-17 Common Application for admission.

Do you need some help with your college applications this fall? Contact us today for more information on our college counseling services for high school seniors.

Reminder: We’re hosting a Twitter chat Thursday, Aug. 4, 2016 at 8 pm ET to answer your questions about the Common Application, admission essays, and more! Tune in by following the #ChatIvyWise hashtag on Twitter!