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What We Love About the Common App This Year

Elyse Krantz

Written by Elyse Krantzon August 27th, 2019

I became interested in the college admissions process after serving as a student tour guide in the admissions office of my alma mater. After graduating, I accepted an admissions counseling position at Bennington College in Vermont where I evaluated applications and reviewed art portfolios from students across the country. Three years later, after pursuing my master's degree in New York City, I joined the admissions staff at Barnard College where I served as a senior admissions officer. At Barnard, I directed Long Island and Boston recruitment in addition to managing the College's alumnae interview program, coordinating admissions statistics, and editing various college publications. Having also served as an alumni interviewer for Dartmouth College and visited over 75 colleges, I feel especially well-equipped to help students prepare for admission interviews and campus tours.
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It’s sleek. It’s modern. It has a snazzy new blue and white color scheme. But there’s so much more to love about the 2019-20 Common App. Below are some of our favorite Common App elements that have students everywhere shouting from the rooftops, “This is why applying to college can be fun!”
  • More Flexible Activities Page: To help students realize that colleges sincerely care about what keeps applicants busy outside of the classroom, the Common App is openly encouraging applicants to list more than just school clubs on the Activities page. Family responsibilities and community engagement in particular are two options that are being highlighted as activities that “count” in the college application process. (And they do!)
  • Streamlined College Search Tool: We love how easy it now is for students to search for and add colleges to their Common App list. On the College Search tab, simply type in the names of all of the colleges you’re interested in (separated by commas, of course), scroll through the results below, and click on the plus (+) icon to add the schools to your list. Alternatively, you can search for one school at a time. Click the (+) button and then search for your next school. It’s that easy!
Common Application College Search
  • Colleges That Care: We’re excited that a handful of colleges are asking a new question on their supplements this year. As a result of Harvard University’s Making Caring Common project and its subsequent Turning the Tide report, the Common App created an essay prompt to allow students to showcase leadership skills and responsibilities that have been developed as a result of caring for other individuals. The original question – which is slightly modified by some colleges – asks, “Who in your life is depending on you? What are they depending on you for?” So far, we know that Barnard College, Harvey Mudd College, Marquette University, and the University of South Carolina include this optional question on their supplements. To learn more about the “caring question,” be on the lookout for our September 17 blog that will devoted to the topic!
  • Ey/He/She/They/Xe/Ze: While an increasing number of colleges have been allowing students to list their preferred pronouns on their Common App supplements in recent years, there seems to be an even higher number of colleges including some kind of pronoun question on their 2019-20 applications. Just like the gender identity question found on the Profile section of the main Common App, these supplement-based pronoun questions are entirely optional. It’s wonderful that so many colleges are making this extra effort to get to know their applicants and are helping all students feel welcome and included in this process.
  • Customized Deadline Countdown: After students select a start term (usually fall or spring) and an admissions plan (early action, early decision, regular decision, rolling, etc.) on their supplements, they can easily track all of their application deadlines on the Dashboard tab of the Common App. Applying Early Decision to the University of Virginia? With an ED deadline of October 15, you only have a few weeks to go. Three cheers for efficiency!
Common Application Dashboard
  • Help Desk With a Heart: The Common App’s Solution Center – your go-to destination for any kind of technical Common App question – is comprised of an incredibly responsive, helpful team of experts who are available to support applicants 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Think I’m exaggerating? I’m not. My average response time after submitting a help desk ticket through the Common App is just a few hours, and this includes those instances when I’ve requested support late at night or over the weekend. If you need help finding your high school name, or accidentally selected the wrong year of graduation on your registration form, the Solution Center is there for you!
  • Priority/Scholarship Deadlines: On what is likely one of the Common App’s most underutilized features – the college information page – students can find special deadlines that may be required for specific majors or scholarships. Consider the University of Southern California. The application deadline listed on USC’s college information page just shows a single deadline option of January 15 for regular decision. But if you read a little further, you’ll note that December 1 is the priority deadline for students seeking merit scholarships or for applicants applying to select performing arts majors. You can access a school’s college information page on the My Colleges tab; it’s the first link underneath the college’s name in the left-hand menu. Thanks for the tip, Common App!
Common Application College Information To learn more about other features of the updated 2019-20 Common Application, be sure to read our earlier blog: What to Know about the 2019-2020 Common App. Common App Resources CTA


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