Common App Announces Changes

Common App ChangesBy: Susanna Cerasuolo, M.Ed.
The Common App announces major changes for new version 4, 2013.
In a packed-to-capacity ballroom, high school guidance counselors and college admissions officers from around the world scribbled furious notes, alternately applauded and gasped collectively, and strained to hear every word issued from the pulpit, er, podium. No, it wasn’t a premiere of a new gripping melodrama by Ang Lee, nor was it a presidential debate—it was 4 guys from the Common App announcing sweeping changes to our very lives.
At the NACAC conference in Denver this past weekend, representatives from the Common App announced the major changes they are making to v4, to be released in July or August of 2013
The biggest changes include (with my commentary):

  • No more pdf printable view of the Common App (yikes, scary)
  • No more Topic of Your Choice essay (not sure if that will work, guys…)
  • No more upload main essay; copy/paste into box with strict limit (interesting…)
  • Copy/paste box (for text) instead of upload (resume) for Additional Info section (panic sweeps the East; counselors in the West say “What?”)
  • Fewer questions per screen (kids rejoice)
  • Combined submit and pay step (counselors issue a collective “thank God”)
  • Streamlining process to release college supplement pages sooner (can I say, WOO-HOO!!)
  • Streamlined system for fee waivers—once counts for all now (yay!!)

For those of you wondering who is making these changes to the app, here are some fun facts about the CA troop:

  • 30 people total
  • Based in Arlington, Virginia, but working remotely from several states
  • No physical building (but they want to get one this year)
  • Non-profit organization
  • 13 support people serving all of us in admissions, and doing a fine job!
  • No call center, because online is faster
  • Led by a volunteer Advisory Board that consists of high school counselors and college admissions personnel
  • Numbers of users and apps submitted going up every year

I was a little concerned by the 500-word essay limit they issued last year at the request of the colleges (totally understandable) BUT, as I have prodded and sheep-dogged the kids in that direction, I have found that anything really can be said in fewer words. Hmph. Go figure. Meaning and even persuasive power have not been sacrificed to the gods of “please-save-my-eyes-and-my-mind-I’m-an-admissions-officer-and-I-can’t-even-read-a-menu-these-days”.  And the kids are still standing. Huzzah!
As the Common App moves forward into considering v5, these are the things I, one of their biggest fans, would like to put on the wish list:

  • Use character count for everything, everywhere (not words ever…too confusing)
  • Submit *once* for Supplement-Payment-Signature (not twice)
  • Bring back print preview pdf (for kids who don’t have internet access)
  • Release all supplement pages, and the Common App, on July 1 (so kids can write before school starts and homework hits)
  • Consider live chat support
  • Make the major’s section on the Future Plans page specific to each college (so kids don’t go willy-nilly choosing Journalism for schools that don’t even offer it, etc)
  • Move the Select Teachers for rec letters function up on the screen, above the fold, because kid users don’t scroll (strange generational phenomenon, I’m sure currently under study at Stanford, where they study everything)
  • Lower the number of apps kids can submit (20 is unnecessary; 10 is fine)

These are my proposed changes, does anyone else has suggested changes for v5? If so, post your opinion in the comments section at the bottom of the page.
It was great to hear from the Common App crew at this standing room only event—seriously, counselors were being turned away and you might have confused our enthusiasm with a pre-teen Justin Beiber autograph session.  (Ok, maybe we were a little quieter, but we definitely needed the security people who kept making sure we met fire code in the enormous ballroom.) I’d joke about NACAC charging admission fees for this event in future, but that isn’t even funny.  Maybe they could sell t-shirts, though.
Until July 1, 2013, and the Fall NACAC conference in Toronto when we might even learn about a conceptual v5 (eh?) let’s enjoy our last hoorah with v3, as one sips a fine wine and says goodbye to an old friend.  Here’s to v4!


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