Dear Estelle. We were encouraged to use the common application this year by our high school counselor rather than struggle with individual applications for each school. We were told it would make the whole application process much easier. Even some public universities like Colorado State are using the Common Application. Are there any drawbacks to using it? Haley M., Overland High School senior
My recommendation to students has always been to use the Common Application whenever possible and this year is no exception. One major drawback, many colleges require specific supplements in an effort to personalize information for their institutions. This adds extra, time-consuming work. However, I believe the advantages of the Common Application far outweigh the disadvantages. At least the main portion of the application doesn’t need to be rewritten.
In an effort to streamline the Common Application several revisions have taken place this year resulting in some confusion and some directions are difficult to follow.
Here are a few of the areas, which have created confusion:
- Editing the application for different schools i.e., changing the name of a major or to include/exclude SAT scores. Directions are available on the online application.
- The lengths of the essays, both short and long. The long essay has a minimum of 250 words. While there is no maximum I recommend that it not exceed 500-600 words; the short essay should not exceed 150 words.
- What about the issues of courses not showing up on the printed version? Will the colleges be able to see them? Apparently they will.
- The inability to include complete information on the activities page. Many applicants use a résumé as a supplement to showcase their accomplishments.
Reading the instructions carefully helps to eliminate some doubts, but as one of my colleagues stated so aptly, “Too bad the Common, which is a great instrument, has its own idiosyncrasies that are adding to the anxiety that so many experience.”