The New Common App: 2011-2012
With the newest version of the Common Application or “Common App” for 2011-2012, comes several major changes. We’ll discuss these updates below…
The biggest changes to the Common App include the following:
Common App “Demographics Section”
(1) A new section on “Language Proficiency”, p. 1 of Common App.
(2) Household “marital status” of “Civil Union/Domestic” Partners
Common App “Education Section”
(3) College & Universities section adding “including online” and
(4) A question of whether students were issued a transcript for this work
Common App “Extracurricular Section”
(5) Fewer activities are listed. In the previous version of the common application there were 12 spots open for students, now there are 10.
Common App “Writing Section”
(6) No word limit on the “Please briefly elaborate on one of your extracurricular activities…”
(7) A new range between 250-500 words on a “topic of your choice”
(8) A prompt asking to “attach a separate sheet if you wish to provide details of circumstances…”
Common App “Midyear Report”
(9) New privacy information related to Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act “FERPA”
(10) Questions about updates and new evaluation of the applicant.
Ross’ Commentary: the most notable updates to the common application include the Demographics Section, Extracurricular Section and Writing Section. If you’re a student applying to colleges, you must be aware of the updates.
The demographics section clearly indicates a policy shift towards making the application more “diverse.” Whether you agree or disagree with the update of “Civil/Union Domestic” Partners status, it does reflect a growing trend amongst college administrators to make note of a student’s background. Although it’s very unlikely to change the status of most applicants, it does suggest a potentially new kind of Affirmative Action in the college application process. Also, by adding a “language” component in the Demographics section – you’re seeing a trend that again points to college admissions offices trying to be more inclusive.
Regarding the Extracurricular Section – As I’ve said many times before, students should focus on fewer extracurriculars because college admissions officers are want to see fewer, but more substantive activities on your common app. This common app update reflects this sentiment. And keep this in mind as you’re selecting your own extracurricular activities; less is always better.
Regarding the Writing Section – Wow. This is a big update. Many students ask Top Test Prep all the time – “how long should my personal statement be…?” Well, now you actually have an answer. There’s absolutely no reason that one’s common application essay should be more than 500 words. Again, less is better – focus on writing a common application that reflects who you are, in less words.
What do these changes to the Common App mean for you as you’re applying to colleges?
They reflect two goals: (1) bringing diversity to the common application through the demographics section (Language + Marital Status) components, and (2) making the admissions offices have to sort through less information with a briefer writing section. With these changes, you should know that the college admissions process is rapidly evolving – both in a political and structural way.
If you have any questions about the college admissions process, definitely give us a ring – our phones have been ringing non-stop since the common app was released. Also, see below for an actual view of the common app!