Thursday, March 7, 2013

The Common Application has a New Look

Brought to you by: Lone Star Ed Consulting , CEO Lauren Kahn, MA    512-294-6608                                                    

Lauren Kahn is an educational consultant located in Austin, TX and helps families find colleges and school placements for students throughout the country.

As we enter the season of college acceptances from the regular decision pool, not far behind is the rush of juniors who realize it is time to concentrate on their upcoming college application process.

In Texas, we have the ApplyTexas process which most Texas residents complete in order to gain acceptance to Texas  A&M, Texas State, and / or the University of Texas system, among others. In addition, we also have what most people refer to as the foundation application, the Common App. It is a generic application filled out online by students that more than 300 universities accept. Recommenders are also very familiar with it as well. Of course, there are the supplements that must be submitted in addition.

The Common Application has taken on many makeovers over the years, but this time it will actually be so simple that even those that are inept with technology can figure it out. Although the new updates won't take effect until August 1st, we can take a sneak peek now.

Nancy Greisemer, another educational consultant, has summarized and commented on some of the upcoming changes to the Common App.

In a series of advisories dubbed “First Look,” the Common Application today began the process of formally introducing the CA4—the next
generation of the Common App, set to launch on August 1, 2013.

After a two-year, $8 million development process, the new
Common App boasts of a more modern, simplified user interface offering many of
the features requested by member colleges, counselors, and applicants.   

To accommodate these changes, application
operations, maintenance, and support will no longer be outsourced to a
third-party technology company.  By July
2014, all technology and staff will be entirely housed within the Common
Application—a tremendous undertaking by any standard.

In the meantime, here is a sneak peek of some of the basic
changes CA4 will offer starting this August:
  • CA4 will be an online-only application.  It will no longer be available in paper form
    or as a downloadable document for mailing (counselors and teachers will still
    have the option to submit on paper).
  • The Arts Supplement will be replaced by for
    colleges having an "exclusive" arrangement with the Common Application (no competing
    applications)—a perk of membership.  All
    other members may “host” their own arts forms if needed.
  • The Athletic Supplement will be discontinued.  Information about athletic participation will
    be collected on the application and available to coaches if admissions offices
    choose to forward it.
  • The process of providing “alternative” versions of
    applications to individual colleges will be simplified.  Students will be able to make unlimited edits
    to the application with the exception of the essay.  The essay will allow for three submitted
    versions with corrections and updates permitted. 
  • In CA4, college-specific questions will be collected in two
    separate areas—the Member Page (an expanded and customized version of the
    current Future Plans section) and the new Writing Supplement.
  • The Writing Supplement will collect short-answer or
    essay-length responses to specific questions along with submissions such as
    resumes, research papers, and graded assignments for colleges wishing to invite
    them. Students will submit using either uploads or text-entry—depending
    on the college’s preference. Note that the “extracurricular” short answer
    question will be moved here as an option for colleges.
  • College-specific questions on the Member Page and Writing
    Supplement will go online August 1, with the launch of the system each year—no
    more delays on the part of colleges.
  • The required essay will offer 5 specific essay prompts and
    will enforce 250- to 650-word boundaries.
  • In addition to the essay, the CA4 will offer two additional
    writing opportunities—additional information for applicants wishing to report
    circumstances or qualifications not reflected elsewhere and a separate required
    section based on responses to questions about discipline, criminal
    history, etc.
  • Outside of the optional Writing Supplement, all written
    documents will be text-entry only.
    Students can compose their responses directly in the application or
    cut-and-paste a response from another word processing program, and the CA4 will
    allow for basic formatting (bold, italics, underline, and accented
  • The CA4 will introduce a new form for non-academic
    evaluations that can be submitted by peers, coaches, clergy, instructors, or
    others.  Each member college will decide
    whether they want them or not.
While many questions remain, the “First Look” memos resolve
a number of lingering questions about application basics.  If colleges want them, uploads for resumes will be permitted. Counselors may tailor recommendations by submitting paper
forms, and the process for editing or changing the form has been simplified.  Essays will allow for basic
formatting, and everything will go online at once on August 1.

How well the new software will work on Apple products
remains to be seen, but the emphasis on mobile/touchscreen devices is a good
sign. YES!!! We all know how much time high schoolers spend on their phones. Now, they can be doing something productive while on the phone besides Facebooking and texting.

In the meantime, the Common Application is working with
various membership organizations to provide training sessions and answer
counselor questions—all to ensure a smooth start on August 1.

I recommend all juniors begin writing their essays for their personal statements in July. The prompts for this next application season 2013-2014 have been announced. Say good bye to the "topic of your choice" essay and hello to more structure and thought provoking questions.

The new Common Application has released five new essay prompts for the 2013-14 admissions season, Inside Higher Ed reports.

Here are the new essay prompts:
  • 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.
One of the keys to a successul college admissions process is time management.  College consultants help students stay on track with their college applications and find colleges that match their interests and strengths.
I believe there are several schools that are ideal for each candidate and it is what you make of your college experience. In order to give yourself the optimum number of choices for college, have several people that you revere, review your college applications. 

Lone Star Ed Consulting offers essay and resume editing services, college selection assistance, and can provide rush services for a fee.  Please download my registration form or email me at if you are interested in learning more about my educational consulting services.

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The information was provided by Lauren Kahn, CEO of Lone Star Ed Consulting. If you would like more information about Lone Star Ed Consulting's college planning services, please e-mail Lauren Kahn or call her at 512-294-6608. You can also view LSEDC's brochure here.


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Thank you for your comment. Your input is greatly appreciated. - College News from Texas - Lauren Kahn, M.A.

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