Common Application

The Coalition for Access

The Coalition for Access

A number of colleges don’t like the current admissions process.

What ignited their angst and reform desires was the launch of the new Common Application (called CA4) in 2013, which was so buggy that early application deadlines had to be extended, and worse, many colleges were exclusively tied to the Common Application: they had no alternatives.


Changes to the Common Application 2015

Changes to the Common Application 2015

For this coming admissions season, the nonprofit Common Application is under a new interim CEO, Paul Mott, and he is intent on eliminating “pointless friction.”

Consequently, the Common Application is reaching out to its applicants and its college members with a more hassle-free and productive application.


Common App 5

Common App 5
On August 1st, Common Application 5 (CA5) launched. After two weeks of application writing, it appears to be stable. It only took 5 minutes to find the registration screen after initially landing in the CA5 Knowledgebase off Google. I consider that reasonably intuitive. To date, over a dozen students I’m working with have uncovered most of the supplements they were looking for. The stability alone is a relief after the crashes of CA4.

Using the Universal College Application (UCA)

Using the Universal College Application (UCA)

The UCA application site,, went live on July 1st; feature-rich, stable, reliable, dependable and efficient—UCA launched a full month before the Common Application is scheduled to flip on the switch.

Yet before you rejoice or yawn, let’s recapitulate last year’s launch of the Common Application’s new version called CA4.

More than an SAT Score

On April 16th the College Board released sample questions from the 2016 ‘New’ SAT which were received with much fanfare by the SAT test-training world.

The questions and new essay format, though curriculum based and seemingly ‘more relevant’, still measure convergent thinking: the ability to assess multiple strands of information to arrive at one best answer. Convergent thinking alone, however, does not measure a student’s creativity or intellectual curiosity. To gain a fuller picture of a student’s creative capacity, measuring divergent thinking, the ability to develop multiple approaches to a problem, needs to be included.

One measure of divergent thinking is the Torrance Test of Creative Thinking (TTCT). The Torrance test was developed by Paul Torrance in the 1950s and includes questions that encourage a multiple of responses, such as how many uses are there for maple syrup or what type of world would there be without electricity?

Divergent thinking skills measured by the Torrance test are a much better indicator of creative achievement in art, music, writing, science, government and business than IQ tests are. Back in the 1950s Torrance performed his own study over a period of seven years across every student attending two Minnesota elementary schools. The students took the TTCT every year along with a traditional IQ test. In 1999, when these scores were reviewed, the divergent thinking scores were three times more effective at measuring creative achievement as compared to IQ test metrics.

Creativity, however, is just one variable in college success and beyond. In 1983 Torrance also pulled together a list of other characteristics that were ‘consistently better predictors of creative achievement, far surpassing virtually all aspects of scholastic achievement, even school grades and IQ test scores.’  The key characteristic according to Torrance is “falling in love with something—your dream, your image of the future.”

Once a person has become passionate about achieving something, other characteristics emerge including ‘love of work’ (once you’ve fallen in love with something, pursuing it is no longer work); ‘persistence’ as now you’re pursuing something that spiritually demands achievement; ‘purpose in life’; diversity of experience; high energy; creative self-concept (self-identity); risk taking; openness to change; and becoming accustomed to non-conformity, or ‘being a majority of one.’ Composites of these characteristic are found to regularly outweigh IQ Tests or Divergent Thinking in lifelong creative achievement.

Consequently, a means of measuring long-term creative achievement is needed. Scott Barry Kaufman in his Scientific American 12 March 2014 article, ‘Imagining a New College Entrance Examination,’ analyzed the limits of convergent, divergent thinking and concluded both, by their very natures, limit the multiple paths ‘to intellectual achievement’. His recommendation is that students, from the first day of high school, develop a portfolio of achievement. In it they can place anything that shows imagination, originality, intellectual curiosity, how they led a class or interpreted a theory…this, in effect, would recreate their achievements and share with the admissions office what they deem important. In short, make a case as to why they are college ready.

This might be perceived as overwhelming to some admissions offices, but the best colleges already do this to some degree. Harvard’s supplement to the Common Application contains an essay prompt asking to tell it something that hasn’t already been mentioned somewhere else in your application—it also asks for an abstract of any independent research conducted. Bard College offers an innovative online essay exam. RISD requires a candidate submit a drawing of a bicycle, and each UC Application contains two personal statements totaling 1000 words (UCLA alone read over 85,000 such applications this last admissions cycle.) 

The point is most schools, to truly evaluate a candidate, cannot rely on standardized tests—simple performance markers from a specific place and time. Whether the New SAT takes hold and gains mandates from states is almost immaterial. It’s merely another form of measuring convergent thinking. Your true measure is the actions you take and the activities you perform throughout your high school career and your life.  


Answering the ‘Why Us?” College Essay Question

  • The Importance of the ‘Why Us?’ Essay question
  • Improves your Candidacy and Knowledge of College
  • Takes 3-5 Hours to Write
  • Use ‘Evernote’ or another Note-taking Tool to Research

In many of the supplements to the Common Application you are likely to run into some form of the question ‘Why Us?” Here is the 2011 University of Pennsylvania rendition:

“Considering both the specific undergraduate school to which you are applying and the unique aspects of the University of Pennsylvania, what do you hope to learn from and contribute to the Penn community?”

If you answer this question well it will:

  1. Tell the admissions office that you’ve done your homework as to how you plan to exploit the university’s resources to the best of your ability.
  2. Give you a grasp of the specific college, department, and majors of interest along with the outstanding faculty members whose courses you might wish to take, or whom you might wish to have mentor you in undergraduate research projects.
  3. Expose you to special programs you may never knew existed such as dual major possibilities, or interdisciplinary studies.

Treat this question lightly or attempt to answer it without doing the necessary research and you might jeopardize your admissions chances. Furthermore, this question is asking what you know about the school in question, and what unique qualities it has that cannot be found anywhere else. If you respond by saying that you like Penn because it has a low student to faculty ratio, a solid reputation, or a location in a ‘dynamic’ urban area, you’re using broad generalities that don’t differentiate University of Pennsylvania from dozens of schools that share these same qualities. To answer it well, you need to know the University of Pennsylvania well, particularly its departments, student clubs, and extracurricular areas of interest. 

Expect to take around 3-5 hours of research and writing to gain familiarity. I’ve worked with a number of students, and none have produced a worthy essay in less time. The word limit for this essay is 500 words: squeezing everything into this limited space is not easy.

Let’s assume that you’re an applicant interested in economics which means you want to find out the ‘unique aspects’ of Penn’s offerings for potential economics majors; you also want to approach your search with a list of what it is you ‘hope to learn’ upon graduation. Honestly, it’s hard to imagine a more meaningful exercise when evaluating any school on your list. To get the process started:

  1. Use a note taking program to capture what you run into on the web. Microsoft’s One Note isn’t bad; if you don’t have Microsoft Office, then download Evernote—it’s free, it’s easy to use, and it will save a lot of time.
  2. Read the Penn write up in the Fiske Guide to Colleges. It discusses strong departments within the school, special programs that are offered, and gives a general overview of the campus and student life.
  3. Read the write up on (the annual charge for access to over 200 college write ups is $25—they’re constantly updated). It reviews the strengths and weaknesses of the Penn curriculum. It also gives insights into the insidious presence of ‘political correctness’ in various departments.
  4. I then would go to the website of the Economics department in the School of Arts and Sciences, and explore the majors offered, their requirements, internships, research opportunities, special seminars…

For the University of Pennsylvania one student ended up with over 15 notes on the PPE (Philosophy, Politics, and Economics) major. Most were from the University of Pennsylvania website which detailed the program, the honor’s thesis, the Benjamin Franklin Scholar program, study abroad, internships, and undergraduate research opportunities. He then went on to explore specific extracurricular activities.

To write anything cogent for a “Why Us?” prompt you must do the necessary homework. If not, you’re likely to sound unsure. You need to have a self-confident tone that is a bit assertive. Lastly, the more you learn about Penn’s resources and programs, the more excited you’ll become about attending; you want to capture that spark of excitement in your essay, and hopefully, in your life.  

대학 에세이, “ 지원하는가?” 답하기

  • 이 질문의 중요성
  • 가고 싶은 대학에 대한 지식을 높이기
  • 3-5시간을 들이자
  • 리서치에서 ‘EverNote’등의 메모기능을 이용하자

Common Application의 보충자료의 대부분은 여러 가지 형식이지만, 한마디로 “왜 지원하는가?(Why Us?)이다.  2011년 University of Pennsylvania의 설문은 다음과 같다.

여러분이 지원하는 단과대학과 U. Penn 독특한 특성을 고려할 , 여러분은 이곳에서 무엇을 배우고자 하며, 어떻게 대학에 공헌할 있는가?

제대로 대답하고자 한다면 다음을 고려해야 한다:

  1. 여러분이 최선을 다해 대학의 자원을 어떻게 탐구할 것인지를 공부했다는 것을 입학심사관에게 말하자.
  2. 단과대학, 학과, 전공을 따라 우수한 어떤 교수의 과목을 수강하고 싶으며, 리서치 프로젝트을 위해 어떤 지도교수와 같이 연구하고 싶은지를 말하자.
  3. 여러분이 몰랐던 특별한 프로그램 (예를 들면, 이중 전공, 학문간 연구 등)에 관심을 가지게 됨을 말하자.

이 질문을 가볍게 취급하여 리서치를 않는다면, 입학의 기회는 어렵게 된다.  더욱이 이 질문은 여러분이 대학에 대해 무엇을 아는지, 또한 잘 알려지지 않은 대학의 독특한 특질을 아는지를 묻는 것이다.  만약, 여러분이 Penn이 교수 대 학생 비율이 낮고 명성있고 다이나믹한 도시에 위치해 있으므로 좋아한다고 한다면, 수십 개의 다른 비슷한 특징을 가진 대학과 구별되지 않는 평이한 일반성을 말한 것이다.  대답을 정말 잘 하기 위해서는 U. Penn에 대해 각 학과, 학생 클럽, 특활의 범위 등 자세히 알아야 한다.

그러므로 3-5시간을 투자하여 리서치를 해야 한다.  필자가 경험한 바로는 어떤 학생도 이보다 짧은 시간에 훌륭한 에세이를 쓰지 못했다.  또한 단어수가 500으로 제한되어 있다:  모든 것을 제한된 양에 채우는 것은 쉬운 일이 아니다.

 만약 여러분이 경제학에 관심있는 응시자라고 하자.  그러면, 잠재적인 U Penn의 경제학 전공자로서 이 대학의 독특한 점을 찾아야 한다.  또한 졸업 때까지 무엇을 배우고자 하는지에 대한 리서치를 해야 한다.  솔직히 말해서 대학을 정확히 평가하는 것이 쉽지는 않다.  다음의 과정을 따르면 가능하다. 

  1. 웹싸이트에서 캡쳐하는 메모장을 사용하라.  Microsoft의 One Note도 좋다; 만약 프로그램이 없으며, Evernote를 다운로드하자.  사용하기 쉽고 공짜이고 많은 시간을 절약해준다.
  2. Fiske Guide to College에서 유펜에 대해 읽자.  이 대학에서 강한 학과, 제공되는 특별 프로그램, 캠퍼스와 학생 생활에 대한 개요를 알 수 있다.
  3. 에서 대학에 대한 write up을 읽자 (200개 대학에 대한 글이 있으며, 계속 수정되며, 연회비는 25불이다).  여기에서 유펜의 커리쿨럼의 강,약점을 알 수 있다.  또한 학과에 대한 여러 소문에 대한 정확한 이해를 할 수 있다.
  4. 필자라면, School of Arts and Sciences에 있는 경제학과의 웹싸이트에서 전공에 따른 요구조건과 인턴쉽, 리서치 기회, 특별 강좌에 대해 알아보겠다.

유펜에 대해 한 학생은 PPE(철학, 정치학, 경제학)전공에 대해 15장의 노트를 만들었다.  대부분 웹싸이트에서 찾은 것으로 프로그램 소개, honor’s thesis, Benjamin Franklin Scholar program, study abroad, 인턴쉽, 리서치 기회 등 이었다.  또한 특별 활동에 대해서도 조사하였다.

“왜 지원하는가?”에 대해 설득력있게 설명하려면, 필요한 과제를 해야 한다.  그렇지 않으면, 여러분의 설명은 설득력이 없게 들린다.  단호하게 자신감을 가져야 한다.  끝으로, 유펜의 자원과 프로그램에 대해 많이 알면 알수록, 여러분은 더 가고 싶어질 것이다; 여러분의 에세이에서 이런 흥분의 빛이 빛난다면, 여러분의 인생도 빛나게 될 것이다.

Intellectual Curiosity and College

Intellectual Curiosity and College

According to the IECA’s (Independent Educational Consultants Association) ’Top Ten Strengths and Experiences Colleges look for in High School Students,’ number nine is “Demonstrated intellectual curiosity through reading, school, leisure pursuits, and more.

The Application Evaluation Process: A General Overview

The Application Evaluation Process: A General Overview

During the 2010-2011 admissions cycle, over 1.8 million Common Applications were submitted to its 414 member colleges. With this coming application season, the Common Application will have 461 members including such new schools as USC, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and now St. Andrews of Scotland, the alma mater of Prince William and Kate. With such vast numbers of applications firing out across cyberspace, or through the mail, one has to admire the abilities of admissions offices to carefully evaluate all the applications flooding their offices.

Writing the Common Application Supplements

Writing the Common Application Supplements

If you’re applying to the Ivies, Stanford, or many other selective schools, there is a good chance you’ve already come face-to-face with the Common Application. Some of the 414 member schools, such as Washington & Lee or Carleton College in Minnesota, have no supplements, in which case you merely submit the main application, with one short and one long essay and, from an essay standpoint, you’re ready to apply. 

There is, however, another type of essay that challenges students, and it’s usually found in the school’s supplemental application. It’s a matchmaker essay, a persuasive essay where you tell the school why you love it, and it should love you.

Unfolding the Common Application

Unfolding the Common Application

The college admissions process creates untold stress. Just the effort to get organized is tough. There are numerous details and losing track of any one of them might lead to a sleepless night: teacher recommendations, counselor recommendation, transcripts, test scores, mid-year reports, secondary school reports, art portfolios and, athletic information. This is a lot to keep track of.