Dr. LaScala responds: The Common Application (www.commonapp.org) is a single online application used by over 400 colleges to streamline the college application process. The 2010-2011 Common Application went live just before midnight on August 1st and within 24 hours nearly 25,000 individuals (mostly students, counselors and parents) had registered with the site. Its major advantage is it allows students to focus upon crafting their essays rather than filling out the same information on multiple applications (such as listing extracurricular activities and high school coursework). Use of the Common Application is free, but students must pay each college's separate application fee. The website has a useful tutorial to help students learn how to use the application.
The Common Application requires a short response of not more than 150 words describing one activity in which the student is involved. The application also asks for a personal essay (250-word minimum). There are 6 personal essay prompts to choose from and they are intentionally not specific so the student can feel free to respond in a personal, unique and insightful way. This essay is truly intended to give the student a chance to share whatever he or she feels is important with the colleges.
The Common Application has grown in size over the years and now most colleges require supplemental information. These supplements are institution-specific and take the form of short answer questions and/or one or more additional essays. Supplements are not optional and your application is considered incomplete without them.
Elizabeth LaScala, Ph.D. is an educational consultant and certified college admissions advisor. Her goal is to help the freshman college applicant as well as the transfer student and their families understand the admissions process, research college and career options, create a balanced college list and submit strong and cohesive applications. She is familiar with local high schools and has guided three daughters through the college admissions process in addition to more than 300 clients. Dr. LaScala is an active member of NACAC, WACAC, and HECA and earned a certification in College Admissions and Career Planning from University of California at Berkeley. Contact her at (925) 891-4491 or firstname.lastname@example.org.