Common App Changes for 2019-20
As the higher education community waits with bated breath for the annual Common App launch party on August 1st, the rumors are flying about what revolutionary changes to the popular application platform might shock the world in the coming days. It’s being reported that some of the most hardcore fans are already glued to their laptops, clicking refresh repeatedly on the website, obsessed with being the first to get a glimpse of this once-in-a-lifetime reveal. Others are physically lining up outside of a nondescript office complex in Arlington, Virginia where the Common App is headquartered, hoping to squeeze inside information out of interns returning from their coffee runs.
Okay, maybe that’s a bit dramatic. Perhaps it is more accurate to say that guidance counselors and those they counsel—namely, rising college-bound seniors—have a mild curiosity as to how the Common App has changed from previous years. As luck would have it, the details of those updates and upgrades are already known to the public.
The list of notable changes include…
Changes to the Common App Activities Section
The draconian character limits aren’t going away and the number of entries isn’t changing, but the activities section should be a bit friendlier this year. The following alterations are being made toward this aim:
- There will be a reminder to students to list their activities in the order of importance—the Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally of the application realm.
- New language encouraging non-traditional activities like family responsibilities and various forms of community engagement.
- Better communication of character limits to applicants (again, they are not changing).
For more detailed guidance on how to master the activities section of the Common App revisit our piece from this past spring.
New Content in the 2019-20 Common App
In an effort to impart more college knowledge to Common App consumers, the platform will now be offering the following:
- A step-by-step procedural guide to the college application process.
- Links to member-college websites, school-specific application requirements, and virtual tours of campus.
- An updated version of the Common App Ready toolkit for counselors.
- An expanded roadmap for returning students, veterans, community college students, and transfer applicants.
Common App Essay Prompts Remain the Same
The essay prompts used during the previous 2018-19 admissions cycle have not changed one iota. The list of prompts themselves, advice for selecting the best prompt for you, brainstorming, and ultimately writing your masterpiece can be found here.
Technological/Functionality Changes to the Common App
The website promises to have a brand new look, but—of greater interest to us—they are promising an improved user experience on mobile devices and tablets. Additionally, the organization claims to have increased their capacity to integrate third party counseling platforms beyond just Parchment and Naviance. Software providers such as BridgeU, MaiaLearning, Cialfo, and Folderwave will be more efficiently integrated onto the site.
Get a Head Start on Your Common App
For soon-to-be applicants, particularly those applying in the early cycle, the heat and pressure of admissions season will be here before you know it. Utilizing the final months of summer to familiarize yourself with the Common App platform and begin work on the essay portion of the application as well as the activities section is a good idea. Happy exploring!
Dave has over a decade of professional experience that includes work as a teacher, high school administrator, college professor, and independent educational consultant. He is a co-author of the books The Enlightened College Applicant (Rowman & Littlefield, 2016) and Colleges Worth Your Money (Rowman & Littlefield, 2020).