What the 2017-2018 Common App Changes Mean for You
The Common Application, which is accepted by nearly 730 colleges and universities across the country and around the world, underwent a bit of a makeover this summer. Students who created a Common App account prior to August 1 will notice several enhancements to the application as they navigate their way across the online platform over the next few months. Some of the changes are minor, perhaps better viewed as timesavers or user-experience upgrades than major developments. But some of the modifications are significant and provide students ever greater opportunities for self-expression and reflection. Below are our picks for the 10 biggest changes to the 2017-18 Common Application.
1. Courses & Grades
Chapman University ● New York School of Career and Applied Studies (a division of Touro College) ● Ohio State University ● Purdue University ● The George Washington University ● University of Southern California ● West Virginia University
Students applying to at least one of the seven colleges above will be required to complete a brand new section of the application titled Courses & Grades (C&G). Located just under the Writing section on the application menu, C&G is essentially a self-reported transcript. Students (a) who have access to their high school transcript, (b) whose transcripts provide final grades, and (c) whose school operates on a traditional semester, trimester, quarter, or block schedule will be prompted complete detailed course information for all classes taken in grades 9-11. The first time you enter the C&G module, you’ll be taken through a Course Assistant Wizard. Here you must indicate:
- the grading scale used by your high school 100-1, A-F, etc.),
- the frequency which your grades are reported on your transcript (semester, yearly, etc.),
- the level of the class (standard, honors, AP, etc.),
- the number of credits you earned in each class (usually 1.0),
- and, finally, the course titles and grades themselves.
As long as you have a copy of your high school transcript close at hand, completing the C&G section is relatively straightforward. Of course, there are always special circumstances that slightly muddle the process, such as students who attended more than one high school during a single academic year, or students who earned high school credit while still in 8th grade. Not to worry, for the Common App’s Solutions Center has you covered! You can learn more about the nuances of completing the C&G section by watching these YouTube videos or searching for “courses and grades” on the Solution Center’s homepage.
Insider’s Tip: If you are not applying to any of the seven colleges listed above, do not waste your time filling out the C&G section. Colleges that do not require C&G won’t even be able to see the completed form on your application, so you can’t submit this self-reported information even if you wanted to.
2. Google Drive Integration
Students who utilize Google Docs to write and edit their essays may be pleased to learn there is now a process to transfer the contents of their Google Docs directly into the Common Application. Anywhere you’re asked to respond to an essay question, expect to see the Google Drive icon in the header just above the text box itself. After granting the Common App permission to access your Google Drive account, you’ll be able to transpose the text of your Google Docs into text fields of the application.
Insider’s Tip: Please note that any formatting features in your Google Docs that are not supported by a basic text field (such as colors, hyperlinks, charts, etc.) will be removed when the text is transcribed into the Common App. And sometimes, paragraph breaks or spacing issues appear during the transfer process. You will absolutely want to double-check your essay’s appearance in the preview screen of the Common App to ensure that the appropriate formatting has been preserved.
3. Preview Button for Supplements
Nothing helps a student spot application typos more readily than a careful review of the Common App’s preview screen. And up until this year, preview screens were only available on the six main pages of the Common App. Now, however, thanks to feedback from Common App users last year, the application’s developers have included preview buttons on all school-specific questions and writing supplement forms.
Insider’s Tip: The preview screen will only work after students have answered at least one question on a college’s supplement.
4. More Convenient Resend Button for Recommenders
Let’s imagine that you virtually invite a teacher or coach to complete a letter of recommendation on your behalf via the Common App, but they insist they never received the email. Instead of having to search for the original request deep inside the Recommenders and FERPA page of the application, students can now easily access a simple request button right on the main screen of the Recommenders page.
Insider’s Tip: Before you click resend, however, be sure to confirm that the email address you initially entered is correct. It’s possible that a mere misspelling (and not a hyperactive spam filter) is the reason for the missing email.
Coming up soon, we’ll reveal six additional changes to the 2017-18 Common Application. Looking for more tips and suggestions in the meantime? Check out our walkthrough of the 2016-17 application, which provides answers to frequently asked questions and more!