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Posted at 10:53 AM ET, 08/ 1/2010

Common App for college admissions is live online today

By Valerie Strauss

The 2010-11 Common Application for colleges and universities is live online today, meaning that summer vacation is ending for thousands of rising high school seniors who will now start seriously on their college admissions journey.

For those families who don’t know what the Common Application is, here’s the drill: The Common Application is a not-for-profit organization that provides an admission application – online and in print – that students may submit to any one of 414 member schools -- 47 of them public institutions -- that accept it.

It was hoped when the Common Application was developed in 1975 that it would ease the admissions process for students by reducing the number of separate applications a student applying to numerous colleges would have to complete. As it has developed, many colleges still require additional information, including more essays.

There are all kinds of things that kids have to consider today that their parents did not when applying to colleges. One of the more amusing ones is a teen's e-mail address. Does a kid want a college to know that their e-mail address is

Here are the essays, with instructions, that are on the application:

Personal Essay. Please write an essay (250 words minimum) on a topic of your choice or on one of the options listed below, and attach it to your application before submission. Please indicate your topic by checking the appropriate box. This personal essay helps us become acquainted with you as a person and student, apart from courses, grades, test scores and other objective data. It will also demonstrate your ability to organize your thoughts and express yourself.

*Evaluate a significant experience, achievement, risk you have taken, or ethical dilemma you have faced and its impact on you.
*Discuss some issue of personal, local, national or international concern and its importance to you.
*Indicate a person who has had a significant influence on you, and describe that influence.
*Describe a character in fiction, a historical figure, or a creative work (as in art, music, science, etc.) that has had an influence on you, and explain that influence.
*A range of academic interests, personal perspectives, and life experiences adds much to the educational mix. Given your personal background, describe an experience that illustrates what you would bring to the diversity in a college community or an encounter that demonstrated the importance of diversity to you.
*Topic of your choice.

Additional Information: If there is any additional information you’d like to provide regarding special circumstances, additional qualifications, etc., please do so.

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By Valerie Strauss  | August 1, 2010; 10:53 AM ET
Categories:  College Admissions  | Tags:  applying to college, college admissions, common app, common application, getting into college  
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Next: Ed policies ignore science on how/when kids learn


I hope readers do not mind reference to this important article to the NY Times.
When 81% Passing Suddenly Becomes 18%
New York Times

At some schools, the drop was breathtaking. At Public School 85 in the Bronx, known as the Great Expectations School, there was a literal reversal in fortune, with proficiency on the third-grade math test flipping from 81 percent to 18 percent. At the main campus of the Harlem Promise Academy, one of the city’s top-ranked charter schools, proficiency in third-grade math dropped from 100 percent to 56 percent.

In New York City, charter schools, a touchstone of school reform, had been outperforming traditional schools on state tests. But due to steep losses, they are now even with traditional schools on the English test, though they maintained an advantage in math. Statewide, the proficiency rate for charter schools is now one point lower in math and 10 points lower in English than at traditional schools.

Much of the city’s progress in reducing the achievement gap between minority and white students was eroded by the new numbers, revealing that more black and Hispanic students had been barely passing under the old standards.
Recalibrate scoring of state tests in New York to reality, and suddenly the evidence of the effectiveness of all of the "reform" elements of Race To The Top vanish into the air.

Public charter schools are no more effective in improving education than public schools.

State standardized tests are not effective in either evaluating improvements in education or evaluating teachers.

The common state standard that New York has had for decades is not sufficient to improve public education.

Time to start looking at what hinders education in the Title 1 poverty public schools in urban areas and develop targeted policies and ideas regarding the real problems instead of the pie in the sky ideas of Race To The Top that have already been shown to be ineffective.

Posted by: bsallamack | August 1, 2010 2:08 PM | Report abuse

Common Application is kind of misleading. One would expect to see all colleges on the so-called "Common Application." Reminds me of Common Core Standards. Since it's unlikely that all states will adopt them, they fail to meet their billing as "national standards." It's just double-speak when a process or requirement is billed as being all encompassing but really isn't.

Why is the Common Application good enough for Yale but not for California State University (CSU) or University of California (UC)?

Posted by: stevendphoto | August 1, 2010 2:53 PM | Report abuse

This is useful in not having to fill out multiple different forms for different universities.

As far as essays I am surprised that college student that view themselves as entrepreneurs are not offering internet services with fees to provide an essay for applicants.

Will we shortly see private prep companies for assistance in the admission essay?

Posted by: bsallamack | August 1, 2010 3:42 PM | Report abuse

Never fear, bsallamack -- there's a thriving business in "assistance" for admissions essays, not to mention the thriving underground business in "cheating" on admissions essays.

Basically the rich win, as usual.

Posted by: wlrube | August 1, 2010 3:48 PM | Report abuse

@stevendphoto: The Common App requires member schools to use a holistic review process for all applicants. I don't think the Cal States' or the UCs' "eligibility index" really qualifies.

Posted by: jhartvu | August 1, 2010 4:51 PM | Report abuse

Of course.

Posted by: axolotl | August 1, 2010 9:23 PM | Report abuse

I used the common app two summers ago now. I disliked it. It did not make things simpler, because each school required different information anyway, and it made it more difficult to just knock things out one school at a time. I also had issues with their interface and the way it actually worked, and I'm fairly computer-literate.

Do they use the same essay topics every year? Those were the same choices when I used it...

Posted by: sarahee | August 2, 2010 12:12 AM | Report abuse

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