Common Application: Beginning the Process


Maeve Bradley and Bentley Frost

With the fall senior semester looming for the class of 2023, the phrase “time flies” is finally starting to make sense. As the junior class begins the college application process, many wonder the do’s and don’ts on starting their college search.

The notorious Decision Day filled the hallways with different colored shirts and mascots as seniors made their final commitment to a school they will attend in the fall. 

Their long year consisting of writing, submitting, and dreadfully awaiting decisions has come to an end; therefore, signifying the start for the rising seniors.  

College applications can be an extremely intimidating process, especially considering how unknown the procedure really is. Since this process is fresh in the minds of the class of 2022, they have important advice for those applying to college this upcoming year.

Although the application is somewhat different for each college you apply to, here are the basic elements:

  1. Common Application
  2. Essay(s)
  3. Transcript
  4. Test Scores
  5. Teacher Recommendations
  6. Extra-Curricular

Because of the high-stress level that comes along with putting together your application as a whole, many seniors emphasize the importance of working ahead. 

“Have your common application essay complete before senior year starts, so you can make sure it is to the best of your ability,” said senior Tricia Gray. 

The fall of senior year is a hectic time many should prepare for., “just filling out the family and activities portion over the summer made it a lot less stressful so I could focus on the supplements for individual colleges when the school year started,” senior Lauren Milanak said. “Giving yourself enough time to finish is very important.”

Time management is going to be your best friend to relieve stress. “Some colleges have 200-word essays for common app questions, but if you focus you can usually finish it in 45 minutes,” said senior Ben Winebrenner. 

The essay can be one of the most intimidating portions of the application process, however, it is one aspect that is unique from every other applicant, and it should be taken seriously.

“Write an essay that’s super personal to you, colleges are looking for you to stand out. The essay section of the application is an opportunity for you to showcase your personality,” said senior Luisa Hanse. “So when writing your essay remember to be yourself and be vulnerable.”

“Finding the right topic or theme for your essay can make it one of the most difficult parts to start,” said senior Julia Grum. “If you’re having trouble finding something to write about, try going through experiences in your life that aren’t especially ordinary. It could be humorous or emotional, try to find something that would help your essay stand out in a crowd.”

During COVID, many schools gave the option for students to go test-optional due to the circumstances of the pandemic. Some colleges have decided to stay test-optional this upcoming year, while others have gone back to requiring students to submit their test scores. 

According to Fairtest, more than ⅗ of colleges and universities are staying test-optional for the upcoming 2023 year. 

That being said, students have the choice to submit their scores based on personal performance or test center availability.

Although there is no penalty for utilizing the test-optional policy, it’s undeniable that submitting scores can give students an advantage. It is just another aspect in your application that stands out to admissions officers. 

“Having the option to go test-optional was a great asset,” senior Summer Webb said. “You could submit your scores to some colleges and not others, whichever you thought would give you the best presentation to a college.”

Extracurriculars and outside activities are crucial to making your application. Whether it’s school clubs, sports, or work opportunities, having a good selection is important. If you have not accumulated a strong list, take this summer to add to your record.            

“If you’re looking for things to do over the summer, specifically search for leadership opportunities,” said senior Abi Gunther. “It shows that you’re able to take initiative and work well when put in an authority position.”

Another aspect to think about when you begin to create your list of colleges you would like to apply to is whether or not you would like to apply Early Decision to a university. Deciding early to a college just means that you are making a full commitment to attend that university and withdraw all other applications if accepted when you first apply. 

Deciding early on to a college can help your chances of getting into a specific university. “If there’s a school you really want to go to I would recommend an early decision,” said senior Molly Bondoc. “It shows the college that you really want to go there, and lets them know that they’re your first choice.”