Is the Common Application Easy to Complete?

by Neil Chyten / Article #1661

As with so many things in life, there are easy ways to do things and there are right ways to do things. Whether you are shooting a jump shot, running a marathon, studying for a test, or writing a research paper, there are right ways and wrong ways to proceed. On one level, completing the Common Application is simply a matter of filling in basic information. However, done correctly, the Common Application provides ample opportunities to exhibit one’s strengths and strength in your case for admission. Therefore, understanding all aspects of the Common Application can profoundly impact one’s likelihood of acceptance.

First, let’s clarify that there are two aspects to the Common Application. The first is information that is common to all colleges. This comprises all the categories and questions that fall under the central tab of the Common Application. The categories include Profile, Family, Education, Testing, Activities, Writing, and Courses and Grades. Additionally, each of the first four of these categories, has 3-7 subcategories, and the last three categories require significant work and strategy to fill out correctly. Parents and students often have confusion over how exactly to fill out information within these categories. Questions often arise about college courses taken while in high school, which activities can and should be listed in the “Honors” section, the “Future Plans section”, which test scores to enter, gender identity and more. The most important categories under the common application tab are Activities and Writing. In the Activities section you can list up to 10 extracurricular activities which may range from an internship to being captain of the sports team. The Writing section is where you find the infamous Common Application Essay, or Personal Narrative, as well as two optional prompts.

The second aspect of the Common Application is college-specific information. The information you enter here goes directly to individual colleges, and there are dramatic differences from college to college. Each college has its own questions, ranging from single word answers to long essays. Furthermore, the number of essays and short answers required varies from 0 to more than 20. Also, there are vast differences between colleges in terms of their requirements and opportunities to provide additional information in the form of additional essays (sometimes related to your choice of major, department, scholarship, honors program, or school) as well as videos, resumes or portfolios.

Getting back to the question that is the title of this article, “Is the common application easy to complete?” the answer is “No.” This article merely lists some of the components that comprise the Common Application. Consider that each of these components warrants its own article in terms of how to correctly address it. The common application is anything but simple, and those who treat it as such are losing out on countless opportunities to strengthen their college admission candidacies.

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