The Common Application, a college application service first created in 1975, has helped billions of eager high school, transfer, and adult students take the first step to reach their educational goals. What first started out as a paper booklet designed to streamline the college application process has grown into a modernized online platform.
The founders of Common Application set out to simplify the college application process, and colleges with “like” requirements, including Vassar College and Colgate University, joined a group of another thirteen private institutions to make applying to college less repetitive. Today, there are over 1,000 colleges utilizing The Common Application, including all Ivy League colleges, over 250 public universities, 12 historically black colleges and universities, and over 400 colleges that do not require an application fee. Although the vast majority of these colleges are within the United States, students can also apply to membered colleges in Canada, Europe, China, and Japan.
With Great Options Comes Great Responsibility –
With over 1,000 colleges to choose from in one online application portal, how do you narrow down your choices?
Well, doing your research is key. Before jumping to add your list of colleges to the Common App., you should have a good sense of the types of institutions you are looking for, considering your intended major, size of the campus, geographic location, campus community, cost, and other key deciding factors. You should create a balanced list of options with both reach and attainable options. Seek guidance from those available to support you, including your Solomon Admissions Consultant, college/guidance counselors, teachers, and family members. Visit colleges when possible, but if traveling to do so is not a possibility, take advantage of online opportunities such as virtual information sessions and tours. Also, attend recruitment and engagement programs hosted in your area, interview with an alumnus if given the opportunity, and meet with the admission representative visiting your high school. There are many ways to collect the necessary information to create a college list that makes sense for you.
It’s important to take responsibility, ask yourself tough questions, and apply to college with a mature mindset. Understand that college acceptance rates are becoming more daunting each year, and you need to prepare by being both hopeful and realistic. Pay close attention to the information colleges are sharing. Many will publish their applicant pool profile and acceptance rates from the previous admission cycle.
After all of the necessary information has been collected to create a sensible college list, Common Application allows each student to apply to a maximum of 20 colleges under one created profile.
Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should
Although Common Application allows students to add 20 colleges to their “My Colleges” tab, many professionals in the field would agree that actually applying to 20 colleges is excessive.
Remember, just because you complete the initial general profile questions in the Common Application and upload your personal statement, there is a strong chance you are not done with your application. Many colleges, especially top-tier and other selective colleges require significant additional information, including a number of supplemental essays, sometimes more than five.
These supplemental essay questions, ranging in word limit, are created to gain a better understanding of your character, interests, and how they align with the college’s institutional goals. Without having a clear understanding of what those exact goals are each year, you are expected to be creative and authentic in your responses, all of which take a great deal of time. Simply cutting and pasting one college's supplemental essay to another’s leads to your responses reading as general and boring.
Moral of the story? Don’t simply apply to a large number of colleges for the sake of collecting acceptances, or rejections. The already stressful process will become longer and more draining. Instead, take my advice and do your research, giving significant thought to your overall goals and needs. If done correctly, a balanced list of colleges typically ranges from 8 – 12 colleges, and although this will still involve a significant amount of work, you will have a healthy range of options.
If you ever need assistance with your application, the consultants at Solomon Admissions Consulting are standing by to help! Contact us today!