Jul 21, 2016

In preparation for the August 1 launch of its 2016–17 application, the Common Application will be going off line for a little retooling on Thursday, July 21, 2016, at 5:00 p.m. EDT.

Unlike in previous years, information already entered onto the Common App within the Common App tab will “roll over” and be ready and waiting for students continuing with their applications after August 1, 2016. Information that will roll over includes entries within:

· Profile
· Family
· Education
· Testing
· Activities
· Writing

Information that will not roll over includes:

· Answers to college-specific questions
· Recommender invitations
· Forms submitted by recommenders
· Your Release Authorization and FERPA selection
· Responses to questions that have been changed or removed

Previously submitted applications and recommendation forms will not be saved. If you would like copies of these materials for your files, you must save or print them out by clicking on the .pdf icon next to colleges listed on their “dashboards.” Obviously, this needs to be done before the Common App goes temporarily dark on July 21.

Note that the icon will not appear if you did not complete the application process for any of the colleges remaining on your dashboard. You can only save submitted applications.

Students still finalizing plans for fall 2016, who wish to apply to Common App member schools with rolling deadlines or deadlines after July 21 should contact individual colleges for instructions on how to submit applications. Many of these colleges have their own electronic applications posted on their websites, which applicants are free to use.

Also, students who applied during 2015–16 through the Common App by creating a “First Year” account will be able to change their account to a Transfer account, if they wish. Although the complete application will not roll over, the responses entered into the Common App tab will still be there.

On August 1, the Common Application will magically reappear with a few minor tweaks and changes that will hardly be noticeable. Students will be able to use their same login — email and password — to access their accounts. They will be asked a couple of questions to get started and then they will be good to go.

For the record, most U.S. colleges and universities contract with individual application providers other than the Common Application. Their timelines for opening accounts, completing forms, and submitting applications will vary. And you have to do your research to discover which colleges accept which applications.

For example, the Universal College Application (UCA) already went live on July 1, with at least 46 member institutions, many of which are prepared to accept applications immediately. And the Coalition application will be available sometime the last week in July, with about 56 members ready to launch individual applications on timelines they independently establish.

If you are California dreaming, you are welcome to begin filling out the form used by the entire University of California system on August 1. The completed application must then be submitted between November 1 and 30.

And if you’re applying to one of the colleges in the Texas system, you will be using the ApplyTexas form, which goes live on August 1.

As long as you’re researching application options, you can begin gathering essay questions or prompts for 2016–17. The Common App and the Coalition application have remarkably similar prompts for their personal statements, while the UCA is much less directive in approach and essentially asks applicants to write an essay on a topic of their choice as well as to provide a short (100 to 150 words) activity description. Cappex, the latest entry into the application market, has its own prompt but anything you write for the other three applications should work here.

Be aware that while the Common App and the UCA allow a 650-word essay, Cappex wants no more than 600 words and the Coalition strongly recommends something more along the lines of 500 to 550 words. Other colleges may want even shorter personal statements.

In other words, it may be in your best interests to go shorter rather than longer! In any event, there’s no reason not to begin brainstorming one or more of the questions to have ready for August 1.
But for many colleges, the personal statement is just the beginning. You may also be asked to write for each school on your list anywhere from one to as many as seven or more college-specific essays or short answers, the prompts for which are also slowly rolling out for 2016–17.

These pesky, but very important, questions can usually be found on individual college websites or by subscribing to aggregating services like All College Application Essays or College Essay Organizer.

There’s a good deal to keep you busy between now and August 1. So much, in fact, that you probably won’t even miss the Common App for the nine days or so it’s off line.

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