The Common Application: Key Updates for 2017 – 2018 Admission Cycle

By Elizabeth LaScala, PhD

Three million college-bound students and over 740 colleges use the Common Application, aka the “Common App,” to manage their admissions process. The Common App has been around for more than 40 years, moving from paper to the Web through four generations, each year adding new features and services that make it more user-friendly and less subject to glitches. This admissions cycle is no exception.

For the 2017 – 2018 cycle students may:

  • Share a “read only” view of their “application in progress” with their school counselor and/or college advisor. Up to three advisors may be invited to help online, review all information, and make suggestions before a student submits their application.
  • Choose from new and revised essay prompts. This year there are seven prompts, including one where a student may share an essay on any topic of their choice.
  • Upload resumes, graded papers, essays and more from Google Drive, avoiding the formatting headaches of a copy-paste. PDFs of your documents will appear as they do on a student’s computer, so they should be checked for spelling and grammar before being uploaded. Then click the Google Drive icon in the header of your text box to upload.
  • Preview buttons that let students read, then return to edit answers to school-specific questions and supplements. This helps prevent grammar and punctuation errors, or worse, mentioning the wrong school in an essay!
  • Internship and Social Justice are new selections on the Activities menu.
  • Use a ‘resend’ button to contact teachers, coaches and other recommenders who have not uploaded recommendation letters. Be sure you have the recommenders correct e-mail address.
  • Choose the gender with which they identify, rather than ‘sex assigned at birth.’
  • Seven colleges, including Chapman, USC, Ohio State, George Washington University and Purdue will allow students to self-report their grades. This feature may appear cumbersome, however, it does help students submit a complete an application earlier and faster. Students must enter not only course names and grades, but also include the grading scale used by high school, frequency in which grades are reported (semesters, for example), the class level (Academic, Honors, AP, IB, among others); and the number of credits earned. All of this is typically available on a one page high school transcript.

Most college-bound students use the Common App to apply to the majority of their colleges, especially public out-of-state and private schools on their application list. The new features, with more upcoming next cycle, make the college admissions process easier, and helps students produce stronger, more sophisticated applications that represent their passions, strengths and talents.