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5 Tips for the 2020-21 Common App

It's been a few days since Common App launched their 2020-2021 platform and I am taking in the subtle changes they have made.

There are not many changes, but I wanted to give students some tips as they begin to fill in their applications.

1. One of the biggest changes this year is the addition of the "COVID-19" section for students to explain how they have been impacted by the pandemic.

If you are curious where to find it, the new section is part of "Additional Information," which is located at the bottom of the "Writing" tab. There is a space which allows a student up to 250 words to provide any details they want. I would suggest a few bullet points if some very meaningful activities, events, or competitions were canceled. If the student's family suffered medically, financially, or in any significant way, I would use the 250 words to write a few short paragraphs on exactly how they have been impacted personally. Remember that the new COVID-19 section is optional and students do not have to use it unless they have been negatively impacted beyond the norm.

Related reading: Dear Colleges, Here's What the Class of 2021 is Up Against

2. Students will be pleased to find more characters to work with on each activity listing they add to the "Activities" section.

While most students would do anything for more characters in the description line of each activity, Common App now provides 50 characters for the role the student holds and 100 characters to list the organization or club's name. It used to be that a student only had 50 characters for both the role and organization's name. This often forced a student to use abbreviations or leave something off. I have already helped a few of my private clients navigate this section and the extra 100 characters definitely helps!

3. For the "Honors" section, students now have the slightest convenience to click "Add another honors" if they have multiple honors to list.

It used to be you had to indicate the number (up to five) of honors you wanted to list right off the bat which made it slightly cumbersome if you wanted to add an additional honor. Honestly, this change is so subtle. I am hoping next year Common App decides to add the "up" and "down" arrows to this section to be able to easily maneuver the order of honors just like the "Activities" section without having to completely redo it every time you want to make a change.  

4. The member colleges' supplements have also been updated.

This allows a student to apply to specific colleges that accept the Common App. Be on the lookout for any changes to these supplements. Some colleges have added more questions or essays, while others have eliminated them (usually to increase their applicant pool!). 

5. This is not new, but a handful of colleges make it look like they don't require an additional essay (which increases their applicant pool).

Yet they may ask the student to write an "optional" essay once they submit their application. Hamilton College and a few other schools do this. 

Navigating the Common App is still fairly straightforward compared to other application platforms. It is also the most widely accepted application. But if a student prefers the Coalition Application and the colleges on their list permit it, feel free to use that platform instead. In the meantime, I will be providing little tips along the way as students fill out applications. I've done this millions of times while students are just doing this for the first time, so I am happy to help!