To anyone that’s not a high school senior yet, the term “Common App”, short for “Common Application”, might be unfamiliar. Maybe it evokes memories of older siblings using it to apply to college. Perhaps it even brings back the frustration and confusion experienced when trying to use it.
But what is the Common App, you might ask. The Common Application is a single college application seniors fill out that contains everything from their GPA and their ethnicity to their parents’ alma maters. Once the entire application is filled out (which is a feat within itself) students select the colleges they want to apply to within that platform. They then fill out individual sections for those colleges, which may include a short essay, or supplement. Once all the sections are all filled out, just hit the magic button and - POOF! You’ve just applied to college! (Along with all the application fees).
Sounds easy, right? Wrong. While it may come off as easy, there are many other tasks within the Common App that are daunting and seemingly impossible. For example, students are expected to link their Common App and Naviance accounts together, waive their FERPA rights (essentially your rights to read the recommendations teachers wrote for you), and much more. Like many other students, I believe that BHS seniors could benefit from training by the counseling office in this area.
As a senior, I’ve seen many of my friends struggle through the Common App, with questions upon questions unanswered. I’ve experienced it myself; for example, what does a student do if a college they want to apply to is not listed on the Common App? While the majority of schools are on it, a notable few stand out as not being on that list, and a lot of these schools receive applicants from Bedford. Some of these schools include University of Maryland College Park, University of Alabama, Georgetown University, Elon University, MIT, and all public California universities, just to name a few. Common App “training” could have helped with this confusion, and with the separate applications that these schools require.
During junior year, BHS counselors make their way to the humanities classes in order to coach the upcoming seniors about the college application process in three steps. The first session is dedicated to navigating Naviance (which is incredibly helpful) followed by two others filled with light quizzes and games to introduce students to the process. The focus of these two sessions is to help students determine what college is right for them, and while that is an important part of this process, there is no need to dedicate two entire sessions to that one aspect. In my opinion, one of those sessions could easily have been swapped out for a Common App crash course.
If the counseling department does not see it fit to make that change, another possible way to train students could be during a nighttime seminar. BHS hosts a Financial Aid Information night every now and then for parents, so why not do it for kids as well, if they don’t want to take time away from class?
Clearly, finding time to teach kids about the confusing and daunting Common App is not the issue; it’s teaching them in the first place.
From the counseling department:
We appreciate this valuable feedback. As counselors, our goal is to provide students with as much assistance as possible and we have discussed the following possibilities to better help students navigate this complicated process:
- A Common Application Boot Camp in August.
- Have a Senior Only time during Open Office Hours and/or Advisory A from mid-September through October.
- In early September, counselors meet with Senior advisories to do work sessions on the Common Application.
The Common Application is not open to students until August 1st of their senior year. That is the reason for focussing on what options are available during Junior year. Seniors begin the process of applying in the Fall of their Senior year. Counselors meet with each student individually and encourage Seniors to schedule follow-up meetings. In addition, Open Office Hours is a great opportunity for Seniors to drop in with questions. We encourage Seniors to bring their Chromebooks so that they can access their common application.