May 21, 2010

Test Driving the NEW Common Application

High school juniors are invited to take a sneak peak at the newly-revised 2010-11 Common Application by downloading a “preview” form from the Common App website. Although this year’s launch date has been pushed back to August 1st, you’re welcome to take a test drive and get familiar with the form and its contents before tackling the real thing this summer.

For the most part, the new Common App pretty much looks like the old. There are, however, a few subtle and not-so-subtle changes in information applicants will be asked to provide. For example, the new form requests the highest degree an applicant intends to earn and inquires about additional language proficiency, sibling grade level, and religious preference (optional).

But the most significant changes involve revisions to the Academics and Activities sections. Under Academics, applicants will be asked to “self-report” class rank, class size, GPA, “scale,” and whether grades are weighted. Note that students in school districts such as Fairfax County, which do not rank, can simply answer “not applicable.”

In addition to grade information, applicants now need to provide a series of individual “best” test scores. This section doesn’t exactly square with how the College Board administers and some colleges interpret the terms of “Score Choice,” but keep in mind that official score reports will continue to be the key documents for providing this information.

The format for reporting AP, IB, SAT Subject, and TOEFL scores has also changed. Although not clear on the “preview” version, the online application will have appropriate menus covering all options.

The new Common App combines Extracurricular Activities questions into 12 opportunities to list “principal” extracurricular, volunteer, and work activities in order of importance. While you really need to complete this section, it’s still alright to attach a resume in case you run out of room.

Although essay topics have not changed from last year, the new form specifically asks applicants not to “customize” the long essay for individual colleges. Students are counseled that colleges wanting customized responses will ask for them in those pesky supplements.

And finally, the 2010-11 version of the Common Application provides for the online submission of the NACAC fee waiver request.

Without “drop down” menus, the preview version of the new Common Application is a little difficult to navigate. You can, however, access the old form online between now and July 1, to practice answering some of the basic questions and get a feel for how the software works. Be aware that anything you enter in the old form will be erased once the new form becomes available on August 1, so this exercise is only practice.

No comments:

Post a Comment