The Common App is Live: Tips for the 2016-2017 Season


The Common App went live around 8:00pm on July 31, giving rising seniors a head start on the August 1 projected launch time. And it's a good thing students have those extra hours, as once again, the Common App is likely to mislead students who expect the essay questions for any given college to appear on the Writing Requirements section of a college's supplement. While the Common App will often say that there are essay questions, other times it will indicate nothing, leading applicants to believe there are no essay questions associated with a school.

Stanford is a great example of this. The top-ranked university has 7 short-take essay questions and 3 medium-length essay questions, all of which actually appear on the Questions page (where typically the college lists standard questions about academic interests and your biographical data), so make sure to go through each page and answer every question on the supplement so as not to miss anything. Also note that some questions--often called stealth questions for good reason--only appear when you've selected a particular program or major.

And that's only the beginning. As usual, there are hundreds of program-specific, special applicant and scholarship essay questions that don't appear on the supplements at all and aren't even mentioned there. Take New York University and University of Southern California as examples. You just have to know they exist and find them on your own (hint: clear several hours unless you use College Essay Organizer!).

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