Jun 24, 2013

Electronic Applications go Off Line for Retooling

Johns Hopkins University
Both the Common Application and the Universal College Application (UCA) will be going off line this summer for the purpose of clearing the boards and retooling. 

And both will be back in action just in time for the official start of the 2013-14 college application season.

On Friday, July 12, at 11:59 pm Eastern Time, the 2012-13 Common Application will be closing in preparation for the August 1 debut of CA4—the new Common Application software.   

All current application accounts will be deleted, and students will not be able to save previously-entered information. For record keeping, students are welcome to download and print out a .pdf version of the application using the “preview” function.

Anyone applying to Common App member schools with rolling deadlines or deadlines after July 12 may still use the paper version and submit via regular mail.

Between June 24 and July 1, the UCA system will be unavailable because of scheduled annual maintenance. Accounts from 2012-13 will be deleted, and that data will no longer be available.

Students wishing to use the UCA to apply to any of several colleges still accepting applications for fall of 2013 can take one of two routes.  They may use the “Print Preview” function to print out the form before June 24 with already-entered information, and then complete missing fields by hand and mail the paper version to the college.  

OR, they can simply wait until July 1st, when the UCA goes back online for the 2013-14 season, open a new account, and complete the application electronically and specify a fall 2013 start.

While application providers get ready for the new year, rising seniors may want to get generally familiar with both electronic forms by visiting their respective websites.

Make note of which colleges use which form and determine where there may be some overlap on your college list.

Although it’s fair to say that the Common Application has a numbers advantage with 527 members, Harvard, Marquette, RPI, and Johns Hopkins University use both forms allowing the individual applicant to decide which best suits their needs.

And there are some technical differences between the two applications.

With the launch of CA4, the Common Application will have a new look and make use of “smart” technology to improve the “experience” of completing the application form.  UCA has been using similar technology for the past year and is already compatible with mobile/touchscreen devices.

And although the Common App and the UCA ask the same basic questions, there are some important differences. For example, the UCA is less directive than the Common App with regard to the personal statement and plans to retain a broad “topic of your choice” question.  The Common App has developed five specific essay prompts which may change from year-to-year. 

The UCA will allow the personal statement to be uploaded with word limits guided by character count; CA4 will only permit text-entry with hard cut-offs and limited formatting options.  UCA also permits uploads of resumes and other documents in the additional information section, while the CA4 restricts additional information to text-entry with little to no provision for resumes or research papers (only by college request in the CA4 Writing Supplement).

The CA4 also plans to limit the number of personal statement versions a student may create to three, while the UCA provides for unlimited application edits including changes to the personal statement. 

UCA also makes it possible for teachers and guidance counselors to “tailor” recommendations to particular colleges.  Tailoring will only be possible through the Common Application if paper recommendations are submitted.

The biggest difference between the two online forms, however, remains the availability of UCA’s live multimedia link, which is embedded within the form. 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!

For the record, you choose to submit one form or the other—not both!  And keep in mind many schools use their own electronic forms or forms developed specifically for use by state systems such as those in California and Texas. 

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