You look at your computer screen, staring at all the different tabs open for University of Texas, University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) and Georgetown. All of these schools have different applications, and you switch from tab to tab, filling in the same information over and over again.
“I have to fill out different essays and they all want different information that I have to fill in multiple times,” Sophia Corde ’15 said, also noting that she might drop one of the schools she is applying to because it is hard for her to try to manage all the different websites.
Looking at the application used for public colleges in Texas, such as University of Texas-Austin, applicants fill out a separate application, write a required essay,and then choose a supplement to write from four different essay topics. These essay topics include, “Describe a circumstance, obstacle or conflict in your life, and the skills and resources you used to resolve it. Did it change you? If so, how?” and, “Describe a setting in which you have collaborated or interacted with people whose experiences and/or beliefs differ from yours. Address your initial feelings and how those feelings were or were not changed by this experience.”
According to Missy Ketley, a secretary in the guidance department, there are a few key popular colleges that Staples students apply to that do not use the Common Application: University of California-Berkeley, Georgetown University, McGill University and University of Texas-Austin.
According to Annie Huerta, the Senior Assistant Director of Admissions at UCLA, by having their own application, UCLA can target a certain audience of students who are informed and familiar with the programs that UCLA can offer them. This approach also helps attract students that are truly interested in UCLA.
Georgetown University speaks a similar sentiment, writing on their website that they have their own application because it keeps the applicant pool at a reasonable size, enables them to offer each applicant an alumni interview and allows counselors and teachers to submit “personalized letters of recommendation for their applicants.”
Tyler Byrd ’15 thought about applying to Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and decided not to because MIT is not on the Common Application. The MIT application requires five essays, an interview with an alumni and two recommendations.
“Having a separate application was actually the deciding factor for me not to apply,” Byrd said. “They literally have an 8 percent acceptance rate, and that’s from a pool of kids who took the time to write those [five] essays.”
For some students, whether or not the school is on the Common Application is not a factor.
“It really wasn’t that important to me that a college be on the Common Application because to me it’s more about what a school has to offer than what I need to do to apply,” Shelby Cataldo ’15, who is only applying to one school that is not on the Common Application, said.
Deborah Slocum, a school counselor at Staples High School, recommends to see if you can pick a topic that would fit with both the Common Application essay and the application for the other college because the topics can be “remarkably similar.” There is still the possibility that the student might have to write different essays.
In addition, Slocum said that many schools on the Common Application require supplements, so “there is really no difference between that and having a different [essay] question on a different application.”
For students stressed, Slocum has some advice.
“My most important piece of advice is to break things up into chunks,” Slocum said, adding that she recommends creating a calendar with deadlines because “when you look at the whole picture, it’s really overwhelming.”