Prepare for the 2016-2017 Common Application



High school seniors are just a week away from the Aug. 1 launch of the 2016-2017 Common Application or known simply as the Common App.

Over 600 colleges use the Common App as a universal undergraduate college admission application, and last year over 800,000 students submitted via Common App.

How it works is that you log into and create an account. Please remember to save your login information. Thereafter you: (1) complete the application online; this includes personal data, educational data, standardized test information, family information, academic honors, extracurricular activities, work experience, and the all-important personal essay (note financial aid information is not submitted as part of the Common App, instead you need to fill in a FAFSA if you are applying for financial aid; and (2) select the schools you want the application to be sent to; within the Common App, most schools  you select will also have their own supplement for you to fill out.

The application is very time-consuming, so if you are smartly endeavoring to get a jump on your applications, you can create your account now, and any answers you create prior to Aug. 1 will roll over to the 2016-2017 application, and your same login credentials will remain (good thing you saved your login info).

Although the 2016-2017 Common App launches on Aug. 1, earlier this year, The Common Application announced that the 2016-2017 personal statement essay prompts will be the same as the 2015-2016 prompts.

The personal essay is a 650-word statement where you get to express who you are to an admissions committee. It is a critical component of your application and should be taken very seriously and written over many hours, and many drafts. Here are the 2016-2017 Essay Prompts:

  1. Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story (Last year 47 percent chose this prompt).
  2. The lessons we take from failure can be fundamental to later success. Recount an incident or time when you experienced failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience? (Last year 17 percent chose this prompt).
  3. Reflect on a time when you challenged a belief or idea. What prompted you to act? Would you make the same decision again? (Last year four percent chose this prompt).
  4. Describe a problem you’ve solved or a problem you’d like to solve. It can be an intellectual challenge, a research query, an ethical dilemma – anything that is of personal importance, no matter the scale. Explain its significance to you and what steps you took or could be taken to identify a solution (last year 10 percent chose this prompt).
  5. Discuss an accomplishment or event, formal or informal, that marked your transition from childhood to adulthood within your culture, community, or family (Last year 22 percent chose this prompt).

Prior to submitting your Common App, be sure that you print preview your entire application and proofread multiple times! Once you submit there is no going back, so it is essential that the application is perfect prior to submitting. And, one final note on submitting- check the due dates for each school carefully (school specific due dates are on the Common App) and then do not wait until the last day to submit.  Technology can have glitches and waiting until the last day to submit means that you might experience tech issues, therefore miss submitting your application. When my brother applied for the 2013-2014 school year, the Common App had a problem the weeks leading up until the deadline and many students who were submitting hours before the deadline freaked out because the application would not submit.

Be responsible, and plan to be way ahead of deadlines. Good luck!

2 thoughts on “Prepare for the 2016-2017 Common Application

  1. Great column, Cece – very thoughtful. Please note that next week, a new tool will be available to help students with the Common App when they’re actually filling it out – it’s called You’ll be able to find it at Please sign up and we’ll notify you when it becomes available.

  2. Great column, Cece – very thoughtful. Please note that next week, a new tool will be available to help students with the Common App when they’re actually filling it out – it’s called Please sign up ( is the URL) and we’ll notify you when it becomes available.

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