It’s about that time of year when we start fielding questions about timelines, essay topics, and the Common App. It’s also the time of year when students find every excuse in the book not to keep things moving regarding the college process. The dreaded task of studying for finals might even seem more appealing than creating your Common App account, or perhaps you’ve deemed rewatching every season of Game of Thrones more important than opening up the Common App homepage.
There is exactly one requirement for the Common App essay: it must be 650 words or less. That’s it.
We are in a war with prompts. Yes, you read that right, we can’t stand them. We hate having to follow them, and we comply only as far as is absolutely necessary. Why? Because college essay prompts have a way of bringing out the worst in the very people that they are supposed to be helping. It’s as if they were purposefully written to produce bad writing, which is the exact opposite of what we want from our students.
We get this question a lot, particularly this time of year. Juniors are just peeking their heads up after (or during) finals to ask: what lies ahead? When should you start to complete the 2018-2019 Common Application? In short: yesterday. Are you behind? Yes.
The personal statement of the Common App essay is our favorite part of the entire application. We think it’s one of the best opportunities for creativity in the college application process. That said, we know that students don’t feel the same way. They’re focused on writing “what the colleges want to hear” when in reality the colleges don’t want to hear anything specific. Internalize that: there is no right answer. There is no code. They just want to get to know you. To that end, the best college essays are those that say the most through a story. We learn more about people through compelling stories than anything else, so we always advise that our students illustrate their personalities through the lens of a small story.
Let’s continue our journey investigating the ins and outs of the Additional Information section of The Common App. To review: the Additional Information section is a section that every applicant can find a use for. Its purpose is to give you a space to elaborate upon parts of yourself that you think an admissions reader should know that you did not have room for elsewhere in the application.
The elusive Additional Information section on The Common Application isn’t something that is often talked about, so we’re going to break it down for you. This is the beginning of a series on the Additional Information section where we’ll go in-depth on why it’s there, how to use it to your advantage, and how not to use it. Let’s start with the basics:
Frank Bruni recently wrote a satirical piece about Stanford having a 0% acceptance rate. Although Stanford received many qualified applications, Bruni wrote that none of them fully impressed the admission staff. With no “Olympic gold medalists” in the applicant pool, Bruni sarcastically comments that they’re hoping for better applicants next year. Although this article acts as a commentary on how outrageous the college process has become, we received many emails from concerned parents asking how this was possible. Since the college process has grown so competitive, people actually thought it was possible for Stanford to accept zero people. To make matters worse, the most recent acceptance rates have hit historical lows across the board. These decreasing acceptance rates have become exponential in the past years. With this insight, it makes us wonder how these statistics are formed. The reality of college acceptance rates is that they are incredibly inflated.
It excites our students to find out that a school they’re applying to doesn’t have a supplement. Although supplements serve a very important purpose, they can be tedious to write because of the time and research involved in making them unique. We went through the top 100+ schools on the US News and World ranking and found all the schools that don’t have supplements. If you’re on the fence about applying to a certain school on this list, then this might be the factor that makes you apply. However, we don’t recommend applying to a school simply because it is supplement-free.
The Common Application (Common App) has been a staple of the college application process for more than forty years. The Common App has done an excellent job of streamlining the application process and made it easy to apply to multiple schools. While not every college uses the Common App, it has become the choice of most top colleges in the recent past. However, in the past few years, there has been criticism of the Common App.