Both the Common Application and the Universal College Application (UCA) will be going off line during the second half of July for the purpose of clearing the boards and retooling. And both will be back in action on August 1—just in time for the official start of the 2011-12 college application season.
On Friday, July 15, at 11:59 eastern time, the 2010-11 Common Application will be closing for maintenance. At that point, all accounts will be deleted in preparation for the August 1st launch. Students will not be able to save information already entered, but they are welcome to download and print out a copy of the application using the “preview” function.
Students applying to Common App member schools with rolling deadlines or deadlines after July 15 may still use the paper version and submit via regular mail.
The UCA will temporarily go off line on Monday, July 25th. During the next seven days, enhancements will be added to already-available application tools. For the curious, a preview of the 2011-12 application is on the UCA website.
Students wishing to use the UCA to apply to any of several colleges still accepting applications for fall of 2011 should use the “Print Preview” function to print out the form before July 25 with the information they have entered, then complete the missing fields by hand, and mail the paper version to the college.
Now is the time to get familiar with both electronic application forms. Make note of which colleges use which form and determine where there may be some overlap on your college list. Locally, Johns Hopkins University, St. Mary's College of Maryland, and Towson University will be using both application forms for 2011-12.
For the record, both applications ask similar questions, but there are some subtle differences.
For example, the UCA is less directive than the Common App with regard to the personal statement, and the language around “disciplinary history” is slightly less threatening. The 2011-12 Common App, however, gives applicants more opportunity to provide information concerning proficiency in multiple foreign languages and allows colleges to ask probing questions around "future plans" if they choose.
The biggest difference between the two online forms, however, remains the availability of UCA’s multimedia link, which is located within the form and not in a supplement. Students using the UCA may easily link to online content without sending application readers scurrying around for CD’s, DVD’s, or portfolios. And that's a good thing!
Although application supplements will not be available from either the Common Application or the UCA until the official August 1st launch, colleges have begun the process of posting 2011-12 essay questions on their websites. Students wanting to get a head start on those essays can search websites or contact colleges directly. And keep in mind that the main Common App and UCA essay prompts are not changing for next year.