September 4 – The Not So Common App


When Gigi was a freshman, I volunteered to help out at the IB potluck dinner.  I was cleaning up with some other moms when one of them mentioned to another that UGA does not take the common app. “What’s the common app?” I asked. That’s really when it all started. When we stopped focusing on life in Marietta, GA and started working on a plan to get Gigi out of Marietta, GA.

It’s an odd transition. We were very family-centric up until that point, but suddenly school and school activities started winning out. Yes, of course, it is a natural progression, but it is still a noticeable and odd shift. Fortunately, I had access to many moms who had already gone through it and could offer tons of advice. Starting with the Common App.

The Common Application, known affectionately as the Common App, got its start way back in 1975 when Vassar, Colgate and a few other rather selective private schools decided to reduce redundancy and created one college application that could be used for admissions at all of their schools. The applications were perforated paper forms, if you can believe it, that could be photocopied and snail-mailed to the schools.

Fast forward to 2016. The Common App is used by more than 300 colleges and universities around the world. They ditched the paper copies and have made the process easily accessible online. The great thing is, students from every background can easily apply to any school they want. The bad news is, students from every background can easily apply to any school they want. If you want to know why Harvard, Yale, Stanford, etc. have acceptance rates of 5% and lower, it’s because of the Common App. It has driven down acceptance rates across the board.

Gigi has filled out the lion’s share of the application online. (Yes, you can start the process and save your work. I panicked at first, thinking once you started you had to submit.) You fill out the common questions, look up the school you are interested in applying to, click on its link, fill out that school’s specific questions, and submit your essays to the prompts. There are several Common App prompts. Most schools pick one or two and throw in their own prompt that reflects their particular interests.

Of course, it’s never as easy as it sounds. Some of the school-specific questions can come out of left field. Mike and I were both home at the same time the other day, so Gigi was asking us some questions required by an in-state school to prove residency. “When did you guys buy our house?” and “When did you register to vote in Georgia?” Huh? Like we’re supposed to remember that. It reminds me of going to the gyno and filling out their form. “When was your onset of menses?” Seriously? I have no idea!

Plus, some schools want transcripts, others don’t. Most require you to send your SAT/ACT scores, which is done through the College Board at an additional expense (I think you can send four for free, then there is small fee for sending additional scores. $11 or so. Gigi refers to this as a capitalist trap.) All in all, the Common App ain’t so common.

We’re getting closer, though! Gigi has picked her schools and met with her advisor one-on-one. We will meet with him soon as well, and then we’re off to the races in earnest! Oy! More on school selections next week!


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