But I’m particularly proud to share this year’s edition because I got to help write it. And to celebrate, I want to share a few things that will help take your application from common to extraordinary.
1. Be Yourself
A lot of students start to feel anxiety at having to boil themselves down to the six sections of the Common App. Every individual question becomes loaded with meaning, and I watch kids twist themselves into knots over issues they’ve never thought twice about before. I always tell them the same thing: just answer however feels truthful and accurate for you. Whether it’s about your gender identity or ethnicity or religion, I can’t promise that no schools will judge you based on your answer. But I can promise you that the right schools will be excited about you exactly as you are.
2. Be Careful
The beginning of the Common App feels pretty straightforward; you’re plugging in your name, your address, your phone number. That can feel like no big deal and students start to go on autopilot. But I’ve seen kids forget to capitalize their last name because they’re used to autocorrect fixing everything on their phone. Or accidentally writing in their old phone number even though they moved four years ago. Some of those things can be changed, but some of them are locked in once you create your application. And that’s the easy stuff. Things like the FERPA release authorization are more complicated and require close attention. The good news is, you can work through the Common App gradually, saving and coming back to tackle new sections when you’re ready.
3. Be Creative
This is especially important in the Activities section. I ask my students to imagine that they are an admissions officer, that they’re the one reading application after application after application for months at a time. I ask them to think about reading dozens of resumes a day with activity descriptions written like they went through a corporate-speak generator. And then I ask them to imagine what it would be like if one of those descriptions said, “I’ve played soccer since I was 6. Weekend tournaments are my favorite part, even with the multiple hexagon-shaped bruises I’ve received.” The admissions officer would probably laugh – or at least smile – and remember what teenagers sound like. So don’t be afraid to show your personality, your sense of humor, your quirks. Think of your Common App as the beginning of a conversation.