Seven 2014-15 Common Application Tips



The college application season is in session. Starting with the 2014-15 launch of the Universal College Application (UCA) on July 1, followed by the Common Application on August 1, individual colleges and groups of colleges have presented a variety of electronic applications and application requirements.

Online application submission can be a complicated process; be attentive to each set of rules and keep track of details such as system requirements, passwords, and user names.

Before starting, it would be wise to always read instructions and get familiar with each system’s process regarding individual applications. This cautious act will provide greater success when you attempt to submit your form.

Listed below are seven helpful tips for the 2014-15 Common Application:

1. Format. Last year, the Common Application became exclusively online. There is no good paper alternative, as each student experiences the application differently, depending on answers to questions activating drop down menus or other built-in “triggers.” The loss of the paper format is the direct result of the technology introduced through the CA4 last year.

           Hint:   Some non-exclusive Common Application members also provide        paper versions of their applications; college-specific or personal forms. These applications sometimes contain additional or slightly different information about the     application process, but they may be worthy of consideration.

2. System Requirements. The Common Application is accessed via a web browser over the Internet. To learn which operating systems and browsers are supported, click on “System Requirements” at the bottom of the main page of the application. Regardless of browser used, be sure that “cookies” are enabled and popup blockers are disabled. If you think you might need tech support, add to your safe sender list.


Hint: Don’t hesitate to change computers if problems persist. It’s sometimes easier to try an alternative rather than spend lots of time fighting system issues.


3. Registration. Before you begin the Common Application, you will need to register. If you registered before August 1, 2014, you will have to re-register for the 2014-15 application. You will need to come up with a password that is between 8 and 16 characters, has at least one upper and one lower case alphabetic character, and at least one numeric (1,2,3, etc.) and one non-alpha-numeric (*, &, $, etc.) character. And you will need to make sure you provide a working and appropriate email address that you check regularly. Registration is also where you provide permission for the Common Application to give your contact information to colleges. If you agree to this exchange, expect to receive mail from colleges on your list.


Hint: Placing a college on your “My Colleges” list may be a form of “demonstrated interest.”


4. Essay Prompts. One of the biggest changes in this year’s application involves the location of essay prompts on the Common Application. Some are clearly located in the section labeled “Writing Supplement,” but others could be tucked into member-specific “Questions.” In order to gain access or make sure you are seeing all essay or short answer questions, if offered, you must first complete all the college-specific questions.


Hint: Some of the college questions act as “triggers” for both the Writing Supplement or essay prompts in the body of the application. Don’t wait until the last minute to complete these questions as you may be in for an unpleasant surprise in the form of additional writing requirements.


5. Green Checks. Green checks are awarded once individual sections of the Common Application are fully completed. You will not be able to submit your application without all checks. Sometimes, a check may not immediately appear. If all required questions appear complete for a particular series of questions and the checks don’t automatically appear, try clearing a couple of questions and then click the continue button to save changes. Go back into the section, replace the answers, then re-click the continue button. Hopefully, toggling the system will solve the problem and you can submit with success.


Hint: If you see a green check mark for any section that you have not completed already, it is because that section is not required for submission.

6. FERPA Waiver. The Common Application recommender system offers counselors, teachers and others a tool for tracking students and submitting school forms online. But before this system kicks in, all applicants must complete the FERPA Release Authorization, which waives the rights of applicants to see letters of recommendations. Applicants at high schools not using Naviance to control the recommendation process may complete the FERPA Release Authorization from within their Common Application accounts by clicking the Assign Recommenders tab for any college on the My Colleges list [students in Naviance schools have a slightly different process]. Note that the waiver is completed only once and covers all current and future colleges and recommenders. Once a student invites a counselor or recommender, the FERPA section locks and cannot be changed. You cannot change your mind.


Hint: Applicants are free not to waive their rights to access letters of recommendation, but be aware that the choice to not agree to the FERPA release authorization could have a significant impact on what recommenders write and how colleges view your application.


7. Print Preview. The Common Application requires applicants to complete an application and begin the submission process before being offered the opportunity to Print Preview their work. Don’t panic and don’t be confused by what appears in text boxes or on the “working version” of your application. Simply work through an application, answer college-specific questions, paste in your personal statement and additional information, if appropriate, and invite your recommenders. Now you can begin the submission process. A PDF will appear which you can save and/or print out. If there are errors in the application you wish to correct, you may stop the process and go back and make corrections. However, after you have submitted an application, you cannot go back and make corrections on that document. You can only change it for future submissions.
Hint: Once you submit your first application, you will only have two opportunities to change your personal statement for typos and content—up to three separate versions are currently allowed by the Common Application. Universal Common Application does not have restrictions.


The Common Application uses Facebook and Twitter, in addition to the Help Center and a growing Knowledgebase to answer questions and keep applicants and their families aware of changes, revisions, and improvements to the application.

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