The Uncommon App: The Complex Common App

The Common App: an inventive website making seniors believe that applying to college is easier than ever.

In the words of Stephen King, “the trust of the innocent is the liar’s most useful tool.”

Designed to streamline the college application process, the Common App provides a standard way of applying to schools. But, of the 4800 colleges and universities in the United States, a mere 500 actually participate with the Common App.

For participating schools, the Common App does cut the time students spend filling out applications in half.

“You fill everything out once and boom, you’re done,” senior Emily Schlottman said.

But not all schools accept the Common App.

Senior Tyler Evans is applying to four schools – Georgia Southern, Auburn, Georgia College, and Presbyterian College – and has yet to fill out the Common App. Instead, he has had to type and retype his activities, awards, and accomplishments – consuming time that could be better spent doing something else. Anything else.

While the Common App aims at simplifying the application process, individual schools often put up new hurdles with supplementary essays and questions. Senior Abbie Nash had to fill out 13 separate essays in addition to the Common App’s standard prompt.

“I think that colleges could use similar essay questions such as the two on the Common App. The supplements on the Common App pretty much defeat the purpose of offering a common way of applying to a lot of different schools,” college office counselor Ms. Martha Eubanks said.

“The idea was great, the implementation of it wasn’t,” college counselor and English teacher Ms. Mary Beth Gumbart added

The Common App is nothing if not thorough. The requested information is incredibly detailed – querying about your parent’s education, for instance – and the website does a good job of keeping the related information together. It even supplies green checks next to completed sections.

Entering all of that information, however, is tedious. You have to type your activities, honors, and awards as well as descriptions and years received, one at a time. Stratford seniors also complete a resume with this same information. But the Common App doesn’t have the option to simply upload a resume as a file.

The Common App doesn’t affect just students. Teachers also have to fill it out for student recommendations, including a checklist that asks them to rate students in categories like integrity and academic potential, as well as a line that asks them to list buzz words that come to mind in describing the student they are recommending.

“It over simplifies greatly because you have to reduce students to certain categories. You can attach a letter, which is what they should look at, but I have a feeling a lot of the colleges look at the checklist,” said social studies department chair Mr. Mike Kelley, who has had to fill out countless Common Apps. “It gives them an easy way out. I wish they just gave you – instead of a checklist – six or seven areas they want you to address in the letter.”