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What You Should Know About Common App's Annual Refresh

Attention! Attention! If you are a rising high school senior, mark your calendars. The Common Application will be offline from July 28th through July 31st for its annual "refresh."

During this time, the application and sponsor colleges' supplements will be updated. You won't be able to access your account during this time. On August 1st, Common App will launch the 2020-2021 application and supplements with all the expected changes in place.

For those of you who have already begun filling in the sections of the application, your responses are supposed to roll over. However, I would hold off on filling in the "Activities" section of the application as this section will feature changes. This year, students will have more characters to describe the role and organization's name of each activity listed. More characters is never a bad thing. However, most students need more characters to describe what they do rather than the organization's name. 
If you really want to work on this section while Common App is offline, I recommend listing your top ten activities on a Google document. Give yourself 50 characters to describe the role you have (President, Captain, etc.), 100 characters to describe the name of the club or organization (National Honors Society or Girls Varsity Tennis), and 150 characters to describe what you actually do in that role/activity.
I would avoid filling out any college supplements until August 1st too. Information on individual college supplements will not roll over.

In the meantime, there is plenty to do if you are looking for something to keep you busy:

  • Students can put the finishing touches on their main college essay. The Common App essay prompts did not change this year and were announced at the beginning of 2020. (Still need a topic? Check out my free guide.)
  • As I mentioned above, create a Google document for your activities. This can help in ordering activities properly and describing them in the most powerful way before inputting this information into Common App.
  • Make sure to do virtual tours and virtual information sessions for all the colleges on your list to ensure that you have an initial sense of whether to keep the school on your college list. Most colleges do not have campus tours and information sessions available just yet.
  • If you have been impacted by COVID-19, Common App will be offering a new space for a student to comment on or explain these last several months. Draft a response of 250 words or less on a Google document. You can copy and paste your response on August 1st or later.
  • Go to the colleges' admissions websites to find out if they have announced their supplemental essay prompts for the 2020-2021 admissions cycle. If they haven't, you will have to wait until August 1st when Common App launches.
  • If you know a college's supplemental essay prompts, get started writing those essays first!

Related reading: Ten Tips on Filling Out College Applications

Usually, Common App takes a week to refresh the platform. I am grateful the application will only be offline for four days this year. Use this time productively as it is always smart to get as much done on the application process before the school year begins.