Common App Updates for 2017-18

April 17, 2017

Flowers blooming, the crack (or ping) of the baseball bat, the storing away of sweaters and jeans and the end of hibernation for piles of t-shirts and shorts—April is a time of change and transition. So perhaps it is fitting that the Common App picks this time to announce its updates for the upcoming admissions cycle.

With juniors beginning their college visits and the march toward summer break picking up pace, the reality that the 2017-18 application is just around the corner becomes increasingly apparent. To help you get ready, we review the most significant changes to the Common App that are sure to affect everyone applying to college next fall.

Essay Prompts

Out of the seven prompts for the 2017 admissions cycle, five are either brand new or significantly altered from last year’s form. Visit our blog post from February to get a detailed breakdown of all changes to the Common App essay prompts along with advice for how to craft your most unique and compelling story.

Google Drive Integration

With so many high school students now using Google Drive and Google Docs as commonly as us (relatively) old folks used Trapper Keepers, Mead notebooks, and #2 Dixon Ticonderoga pencils, the Common App has made it easier to directly upload cloud-based documents into their applications. In addition to being more convenient across the board, the folks at the Common App hope this will help improve access for lower-income students who may not have a computer at home.

Self–Reported Grades

Beginning on August 1, 2017, the process of self-reporting one’s grades to colleges is about to get a whole lot more efficient. Rather than doing this individually for each institution that requires it, students will be able to fill out their self-reported transcript as part of the Common Application, saving time and meaningless labor. This new “Courses and Grades” section was added at the behest of students and counselors, who have long desired a streamlined method of inputting transcript information.

Schools Joining Common App

Another 40 colleges and universities have agreed to join as Common App members for the 2017-18 cycle, bringing the organization’s total membership to 740 schools. Notable additions include Farleigh Dickinson, Appalachian State, Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, Kent State, the University of Missouri, UNLV, the University of Houston, the University of Oregon, and the University of Wyoming. For a complete list of new members, visit the Common App site.

Keeping up with the Coalition Application?

Some changes to the Common App seem to mirror innovations put forth by the Coalition Application (for a complete overview of this organization revisit our earlier blog post). For example, the Common App will now allow counselors belonging to community-based organizations to have equal access to a student’s account as their high school counselor counterpart (say that three times fast, or better yet—don’t). Thus, advisors working with students, presumably from lower-income/minority/first-generation backgrounds, will be able to better assist their students with the application process. The Coalition Application grants such access to outside counselors beginning as early as 9th grade.

Also with an eye toward increasing access, the key information on the Common App will now be available in Spanish. This upgrade will be of obvious benefit to Latino students, their families, and counselors.

Bottom Line

The improvements with self-reported transcripts and Google Drive integration will save many applicants time and headaches this fall. The most Enlightened College Applicants will pay special attention to the revised essay topics and will begin brainstorming which prompt will best allow them to compose a winning narrative.