Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes for the Common App

We just returned from the annual conference for the National Association for College Admission Counseling -- a gathering of admission deans, high school college counselors, financial aid officers, and others who come together to share ideas about everything from scholarships and access to net price calculators and NCAA eligibility.

At one of the sessions we attended, Common Application, Inc., executive director Rob Killion and director of outreach Scott Anderson unveiled the specifics of an $8-million overhaul of the online system that now has 488 colleges and universities as members. As of August 1, 2013, the three million students who use the Common App will see a new, technologically enhanced version -- Common App 4.0. An improved interface and infrastructure will make it easier to use and hopefully reduce the technical issues students often confront. But there will also be other changes that will affect students.

Some of these changes users will likely see in the facelift include:

  1. "Topic of your choice" will no longer be included as an essay prompt.
  2. New essay topics that will likely change each year.
  3. Essay length remains at 250 to 500 words but the minimum and maximum will be enforced with students seeing an error message to make adjustments.
  4. Students will see fewer questions per screen and their answers will determine the subsequent questions they are asked to complete so they won't see -- and be confused by -- questions that don't apply to them.
  5. A streamlined fee waiver system will allow students to make just one request that will cover all colleges.
  6. Resume attachments will no longer be able to be uploaded though colleges can add that option if they choose.
  7. Progress checks and pop-up boxes will show students where they stand in completing the application.
  8. Common App 4.0 will be web-only. No paper copy will be available. 

Another change that's still being contemplated would allow students to submit questions online -- such as whether to check more than one box regarding ethnicity or race -- to a group of rotating college counselors,. (The form allows technical questions already.)  

We'll keep you updated as the plans for Common App 4.0 progress…

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