View Full Version : What is this Common App thing?

11-12-2015, 12:21 PM
In light of Muddylilly's Accreditation (http://www.secularhomeschool.com/homeschooling-middle-high-school/17570-accreditation.html) discussion in the Middle/High School section of the forum, I am wondering if any of your kids are utilizing the Common Application (https://www.commonapp.org/) to help with the getting-in-to-college process?

(long way off from needing it here but am just curious if it's truly helpful to a homeschooled kid, if it's a money hole, or really is worthwhile in streamlining things. 600 institutions is a lot of schools but I believe there are like 3,000 4-year colleges/universities in this country so that number seems kind of small?) TIA

11-12-2015, 12:51 PM
My niece used this when applying recently. Seems like the streamlining thing is what is going on here.....both for the student applying and the schools. I could be wrong, but if the school that you're applying to says to do it, you don't have a choice.

I also don't recall her or my sis in law complaining about it for any reason.....

ETA: oh, just read that you asked specifically about hs kids....DUH, me! My niece is PS'd :) Maybe Carol can chime in here!!!

11-12-2015, 01:46 PM
Whether or not you use the Common App depends entirely on whether the college you are applying to requires it.

It's not so much "a tool to help your kid get into college"....as it is "a tool colleges use to process applications efficiently".

U of M required the Common App...so Elle did it.

The Pros: You can use a single application and a single set of essays to apply to multiple schools within the Common App network of participating schools.

The Cons: You're probably applying to schools outside the Common App, too....so you'll still have to do multiple sets of essays...lol.

There's no fee for registering with the Common App. But most colleges do have application fees...and those costs are passed on to you when common app submits your applications. I think they pad the fee a little to give themselves a fee for processing all of this in the right format for the schools.

Typical cost of submitting a college application depending on the school... is $25-$90. U of M's was $75.

If you can prove financial need, Common App has a fee waiver that you might qualify for. Most colleges will waive the fee for kids with financial need, but you have to jump through the hoops to prove it.

Whether or not your college uses Common App...you'll probably still have to pay an application fee.

(and now I'm going to contradict myself....sometimes colleges, in an effort to attract talent, will send academically strong kids application fee waivers. Particularly kids who score high on the ACT/SAT. Kind of a..."Hey, apply to us so we can show you what we can give you! Won't even cost you anything!" kinda gesture.)

11-12-2015, 01:55 PM
Thanks, ladies. Still wondering about the whole homeschooler-applying-to-4-year-college thing, and wondering if Common App is just "well this college I like needs it so I will do it" or (am probably answering my own question here) if homeschoolers are so different, applications-wise, that Common App is useless...that homeschooled kids are just not common enough! hah.

I'll wait for Carol. :)

11-12-2015, 02:07 PM
I know Carol's son just applied to several schools that require the Common App. She'd definitely be the person to ask about any differences in the way Common App works for home schoolers.

I know there's a Common App code number for home school. That said, I'm not sure how home schoolers handle the parts that need to be filled out by the school counselor.

Here's an article with some good info on completing the Common App as a Homeschooler:

CA4: The New Common Application for College (http://www.pahomeschoolers.com/post3198.shtml)

11-12-2015, 02:51 PM
DD didn't use Common App last year, but DS has this year. Ok, so here goes the novel....

Crazymom is correct in that, as a homeschooler, the student doesn't get to choose to use the Common App (CA) or not. It's the university's choice. DS applied to five schools: 4 use the CA, one does not.

For the student:

There are five main essay choices to pick from to answer. These topics are usually posted on the CA website in the spring, and they don't change much. Pick the topic that best suits you as the student, as every college you submit the CA to will get this essay. This year the essay has a 650 word limit.

However, all four colleges DS applied to had their own 'writing supplements'. Some were quite short and easy--why us and why your major. Some (Stanford!!!) were extensive and at times downright weird. "If you could go back to some historical time, what would it be and why" or "write a letter to your future Stanford roommate." Word limits are anywhere between 50-500 words, depending on the essay.

Then there are various questions about desired major, if there are family members who have attended, etc.

For the parent/counselor:

As the parent, you will be writing almost as much, if not more, than your student.

First, you will be uploading a transcript. Although some of the universities did NOT want course descriptions, some did. You cannot tailor what they get, though. So I made one huge PDF of transcript and course descriptions. The transcript part had "course descriptions follow", so those that want to see them can have them, but those that don't can just ignore that part. The transcript part for DS was 2.5 pages while the course descriptions were 12--all in size 10 font.

You will also write a "School Profile" which is hysterical. It included our "Mission and Philosophy" or why homeschool, demographics of your school, average SAT/ACT scores in your area, I incorporated what our public school district area is like, including test scores to show generally what kind of place he is coming from and how he compares. Also included are graduation requirements, so I just listed Indiana's and pointed out that he exceeded those requirements. Finally, there is a paragraph on curriculum, where I discussed that he used a combo of home taught, online and MOOC, and dual credit classes.

The worst part, I think, is writing the Counselor Recommendation. Of course I think my kid is terrific, duh. Anyway, my approach was to pick 2 or 3 descriptors of DS (that I suspected or knew his other recommenders would pick up on as well). Then I gave very specific, detailed, and verifiable evidence of these traits. For DS I hit upon initiative, tenacity, and loyalty--all with examples. My intro paragraph also discussed a bit of how we determined a best homeschooling curriculum for him and why. It ran just a little more than one page. In my case, I was able to use the fact that I've taught and tutored hundreds of students and could honestly make some valid comparisons. Try to find something along those lines, if you can, to give your words some weight. Could be co-op kids you've taught, teenagers you've worked with, etc.

This is a lot, I know. Feel free to ask about anything I've missed. The Common App had me quite nervous before I started, but I scoured the internet for examples of all these components and that was quite helpful. I suggest that as the parent, start putting the transcript together as your student STARTS high school, and start working on the School Profile and Counselor Letter the summer before senior year. DS started his part on August 1st when it opened and finished at the end of Sept. He didn't want it to interfere with everything else he's doing during the school year. And it's soooooo much less stressful to know it's all done!! Also, proofread, proofread, proofread!

11-18-2015, 03:05 PM
Carol-will you be MY guidance counselor and hold my hand when the time comes to do this? lol. It literally keeps me awake at night sometimes...

11-18-2015, 03:11 PM
Carol-will you be MY guidance counselor and hold my hand when the time comes to do this? lol. It literally keeps me awake at night sometimes...

Meee tooooo Groovymom!! So glad we have sages still here and willing to share this info. I am 7 years out and still get a bit freaked...

11-18-2015, 03:29 PM
Carol-will you be MY guidance counselor and hold my hand when the time comes to do this? lol. It literally keeps me awake at night sometimes...
I was thinking the same thing. I see a possible new business opportunity for you!

A bit OT, but...There is a woman in our area who is a 'college counselor'. My sister pays her a lot of money when her children hit 7th or 8th grade. (They go to PS.) According to my sister, the counselor helps them choose the 'right' classes and activities to ensure the best college acceptance. e.g. She had my sister fight to get her son in advanced math classes - higher than the advanced math he was already in. I think it is a bit crazy and it stresses me out; but my sister thinks it is great. We'll see, her children are not in college yet.

11-18-2015, 03:56 PM
Carol, You could be the secular "Lee Binz" :)


11-19-2015, 06:03 AM
Oh, we'll all figure it out. It's surprising what you can get accomplished when those deadlines loom!

(And you're just plain tired of waking up in a panic almost every night.....)

11-21-2015, 03:30 PM
How did I miss this post? My oldest is in college application mode and he had to fill out three applications, the Common App for all private schools, the UC app for the University of California, and the CSU application for the California State System. You don't get to decide to use the Common App, the college does. There is another app called, I think, the Universal app but not all the colleges use it, but almost all private schools use the Common App so if you are going to apply to private schools the decision has been made. As for cost, each school chooses the fees that you will have to pay, you don't pay for the common app, you pay for each individual school when you hit that submit button. They range from free to a about $75. For my son he will be applying for Reed which costs $0 all the way to Harvard which was $75. Same app, different price.

The Common App is actually a very good thing. In the old days you had to send an application to each college, that means filling out the exact questions over and over and over. Now, for all private schools, you fill out the application section one time! Each school has supplemental sections but the base application is the same, and that is a time saver.

There is also a place on the common app for the student to invite people to give letters of recommendation, the student puts in an email and the recommender gets a link (we played with this to test it out). Then the reccer fills out the letter, and the student can add different reccers to different applications as needed.

My son turned in his first Common App, application on Oct 28th, in time for the early action (EA) deadline on Nov 1. The results will be out by Dec 15. He took a shot at Harvard. The application required the Common App, including their essay, a supplemental section on the common app specific to Harvard, and then, because we are asking for financial add, I had to add the CSS profile which is a financial aid form through the College Board (the SAT people) for all private schools. Guess what! I had to pay to fill out my financial aid form!!!!! Total cost to apply to Harvard? $101. Considering their acceptance rate is so low (last years Early Action was 16%) it was basically like paying $101 to the lottery.

As for the homeschooling aspects, this time around my kid is a traditional student so I didn't have to worry, but when my homeschooler comes around, having the charter will make a big difference. Not only will they fill out the counselor section, they will also be helping me get my son his accommodations for the SAT/ACT due to learning disability, and I will have several options for teacher recs which I would not necessarily have without the charter. He will have a teacher who has known him for several years to fill out the forms.

11-21-2015, 04:03 PM
Oh and just to whine and complain. My son counted the number of essays he has to write for colleges. Approx 25! They range from 150 words to 650, but still. So far he has his main essays done, the main Common App, 1.5 UC essays, and a supplemental essay for Harvard which he will also use at Harvey Mudd and Stanford. Between now and Jan 1, if he keeps all the schools on his list, he has to do about 22 more essays. Stanford is the worse with about 11!!! Seriously, this is stupid and ridiculous. Why does one school need 11 essays???? Because he goes to traditional school he has to do this outside his regular school work. At least when my homeschool kid starts the process, I can try to accommodate his workload a bit and perhaps make some of these essays part of the curriculum...

11-21-2015, 04:33 PM
So exciting to hear about all these applications:) Please keep us updated on acceptances, and where they choose to go!

Best wishes to your kids for exciting, prosperous, and happy futures!

11-21-2015, 04:59 PM
I second CM's sentiment!! :)

11-21-2015, 05:46 PM
Oh, and this is a step by step on how to apply for college.

Be sure your speakers are on!

College (http://www.ryanschoen.com/college.html)