In the know: The Common App
August 1st, 2017, marked the opening of the Common Application to high school seniors. It also marked the beginning of a mad-dash to understanding college applications and pre-collegiate terminology.
The Common Application, referred to as the Common App, is a resource used by many, but not all, colleges and universities across the nation. Through the process, students complete one application online and submit it to multiple schools of their choice, so long as the school accepts the Common App. It is important to note that there are some colleges that require additional materials separate from the Common App, such as extra essays and course grades.
With the Common App live, students at LPHS are already working on the process of applying to college. Some have been doing so for nearly a month.
“I started it [the Common Application] at the beginning of August. I’m applying to Butler and Purdue, and I’m applying early action, so the deadline is November 1st,” Emily Wilmsen, senior, said.
If “early action” is a foreign term, it is best to start learning application types sooner rather than later. Some colleges offer multiple forms of admission, and all forms have different guidelines and deadlines.
Early action requires an earlier submission of the college application near the middle and end of fall; students receive their acceptance status a few months earlier than normal, usually around December. Regular decision has deadlines toward winter, and acceptance statuses are released a few months after the deadline, usually around March. Early decision is generally the same deadline as early action, but early decision is binding. Once you are accepted for early decision, you are obligated to go to the college you have applied to ED.
While it seems ideal to get a head-start in applying, Jennifer Hunt, LPHS guidance counselor, advises students to take their time.
“Students often rush through the application and don’t remember that their application is a judgment of what they submit, not on them as a person. Slow down, double check your work, and be yourself,” Hunt said.
Slowing down is not the only way to help yourself in the college application process. Many seniors overload themselves with extra activities their senior year in the hope that doing so will make them stand out. David Toth, former LPHS student and current Notre Dame freshman, has a better idea.
“What makes you stick out is being involved in maybe just a few activities that you really are good at and/or spent a lot of time on. Anyone can join a club or play a sport; the people that stand out from the rest are the ones that develop the activity into something greater or change the way the game is played,” Toth said.
Many counselors and admissions committees across the nation advise students to be great at a few things rather than mediocre at many. Involvement is important to colleges, but so too is greatness. When a student compacts seven extracurriculars with four AP classes, he risks losing a perfect GPA- and many universities would rather see an individual excel rather than crack under unnecessary stress.
The counselors at LPHS are all eager to advise students on college applications and the workings of the Common App. Colleges and universities often offer their own admissions counselors to be of service to potential students, as well. Students should take their time, not overload themselves with extra activities, and use the resources available to them. Students should not be afraid to ask for help from counselors, teachers, parents, and past graduates.
“Those are the best people to consult – someone who has accomplished what you want to accomplish. They know what’s best and how to get there,” Toth said.
Most importantly, students should consider the schools on their list and the reasons they are there.
“Think about why you’re applying to the places you are and how your time there will be spent. The best college for any person is not Harvard or the second best college in the US. Where you feel at home and where you feel that you can thrive is the best place to go. Consider that very carefully as you apply to college,” Toth said.
With the Common App live, the pressure is on, but there is no need to panic. Seniors should take time to decide what admission plan they want, where they want to apply, and how they truly stand out from their peers. In less than a year, efforts and the pressure will pay off.