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Changes to the 2016-2017 Common Application

The college application, and the extent to which you are able to present yourself in the best possible light, is the medium through which you will succeed or fail in achieving your educational goals. You should stay apprised of changes in applications processes, especially in shared, widely used platforms such as the Common Application and the application of the Coalition for Access, Affordability, and Success.

To facilitate and simplify the preparation of multiple college applications by students, many schools now accept the Common App, which also includes supplements required by most top-tier schools. All of the Ivy League and many other highly selective schools use the Common App. This year, 48 new colleges and universities have joined the Common App organization. It now has nearly 700 institutions in the United States and around the world. New Common App members represent 22 states and 5 countries and include 11 public, 26 private, and 11 international institutions. Among the new members are George Mason, University of Indiana-Bloomington, Baylor, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Antioch, and Bard.

IvySelect recommends that you start working on your college applications later this summer. To help you be better prepared, let’s review the changes made to the Common App for the 2016-2017 admissions cycle.

One significant change will facilitate transferring from the current year’s App to the new one. In the past, students who set up an account before August 1 would lose that account and all of its data during the automated transition to the next year’s application format. Therefore, students needed to re-create their account and restore its data. This year, although the start date of the 2016-2017 admissions cycle is not until August 1, students may set up an account earlier to get a head start. This is due to a new feature called Account Rollover. Now, students who set up an account early will be able to retain their account and its data when the transition to the 2016-2017 version occurs on August 1. It should be noted, however, that certain types of information will not roll over and will need to be restored manually by the student. These include supplements that are unique to individual colleges and any files that have been uploaded such as letters of recommendations.

There will be no changes in 2016-2017 to the essay prompts that were used last year. For ease of reference, the essay prompts are provided below:

  1. Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.
  2. The lessons we take from failure can be fundamental to later success. Recount an incident or time when you experienced failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience?
  3. Reflect on a time when you challenged a belief or idea. What prompted you to act? Would you make the same decision again?
  4. Describe a problem you’ve solved or a problem you’d like to solve. It can be an intellectual challenge, a research query, an ethical dilemma—anything that is of personal importance, no matter the scale. Explain its significance to you and what steps you took or could be taken to identify a solution.
  5. Discuss an accomplishment or event, formal, or informal that marked your transition from childhood to adulthood within your culture, community, or family.

An ongoing discussion within the Common App organization has involved the extent to which criminal records should factor into the college admissions process, if at all. Student and civil rights organizations have pushed universities to drop questions about criminal records. Many of the nation’s largest universities don’t ask any questions about a student’s criminal record. However, a majority, including those using the Common App, still does. The Common App has recently announced that it will continue to require that an applicant indicate if they have been found guilty of a misdemeanor or felony, but the App has deleted confusing language that inquired about any other type of conviction. Their stated objective is to clarify what needs to be reported and what does not need to be reported by students.

Starting on the Common App for 2016-2017, students who don’t identify as either male or female will be better able to communicate how they wish to be identified. In the profile section, the App will ask students to identify the sex assigned to them at birth, but it will also include a “free-response” text block so students can indicate their preferred gender identity. In addition, there will be opportunities to express other gender-related information in the school-specific supplements of many member colleges.

College applications are a challenge for even the brightest of students. Your IvySelect college admissions consultant will counsel you on all matters to assure that your answers, while accurate, reflect on you in the most positive manner. Your answers will support the college admissions positioning strategy that was co-developed by you and your IvySelect consultant during the counseling process. This strategy remains at the core of everything we do to help you achieve your educational goals.