The new changes to the 2017-18 Common App for colleges mirror features found in the Coalition App. Competition often creates innovation and the Common App has some much-needed updates. The Common App changes this year will benefit high school students and make the application more user friendly.
While these changes will be welcomed by students, it’s too early to tell whether or not they will bring with them glitches in the application system. Here are some possible complications that could arise as high school students attempt to use each new section.
Detailed Course and Grade Section
Previously, in order for colleges to see a student’s previous years’ class schedule, they either had to request it or wait and view it on the official transcript. Now a college can view a high school student’s academic performance before the arrival of the transcript. Students input their own grades and can view their own academic performance while in the Common App. This is an option that the Coalition App currently provides as well.
This consolidates the grade-reporting process within the Common App and allows colleges to have detailed information provided by the students themselves. It’s still not clear whether this option will be required or optional, but students should always provide as much information as possible when applying to colleges.
2. Integration with Google
Recognizing that many high school students use a cloud platform to create and collaborate on assignments, the Common App has added this feature to its 2017-18 version. This allows students to upload essays and high school resumes directly from their Google Drives into their applications.
It is possible that students will experience formatting and other glitches that sometimes happen with cloud documents. These changes could mean problems for students, but until the application is widely used, we won’t know about technical problems. HIgh school students will be able to write, revise and proofread documents easily on any computer before uploading them to the application. Since many students use school or public computers, this function will make it easier for them to complete the process. This is another functionality that is similar to the one offered by the Coalition App.
3. Adviser Access
The Coalition App pioneered this type of application management capability; and the Common App followed. High school students who receive support from independent counselors, advisers and other mentors will be able to allow them access to their application in order to view their work and comment on their progress. School-based counselors were already able to view a student’s progress if invited, but this new function allows students to invite others. This gives a student a larger network of support and will benefit those who don’t have a strong college-counseling network at their schools. It remains to be seen, however, if there will be a cap on the number of invitees or if anyone (such as a friend or relative) will be required to divulge the nature of their relationship to the student.
4. Spanish Language Translation
The “key information” in new Common App will be translated so that students, parents and other family members can better understand the entire application process. This new tool will also be a great help to counselors. This enhancement is unique to the Common App and will most certainly benefit a great number of Spanish-speaking families.
5. Essay Prompts
In order to improve the effectiveness and content of the college essay prompts, the Common App surveys high school students, teachers and counselors and the colleges for input.
Last year’s Common App saw no changes to the prompts; the previous year saw only minor tweaks along with the addition of a new prompt. This year, there are a few revisions and some new prompts.
These Prompts are the Same
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.
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.
These Prompts Have Been Revised
The lessons we take from obstacles we encounter can be fundamental to later success. Recount a time when you faced a challenge, setback or failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience?
Reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea. What prompted your thinking? What was the outcome?
Discuss an accomplishment, event or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others.
These Prompts are New
Describe a topic, idea or concept you find so engaging that it makes you lose all track of time. Why does it captivate you? What or who do you turn to when you want to learn more?
Share an essay on any topic of your choice. It can be one you’ve already written, one that responds to a different prompt, or one of your own design.
If you need help or have questions about applying to college, follow the Common App on Twitter, join the Common App Facebook group. You can ask questions on either Twitter or Facebook or by contacting the Common App Help Center.