The Common App for 2011/2012 is Live

That's right. The wait is over.

The Common App went live yesterday officially beginning the application process for the class of 2016. The Common App, now totaling 456 schools, has added 45 new members this year, including Caldwell College, Howard University, and St. Mary’s College of Maryland.

College Essay Organizer is now in the thick of the updating process, keeping track of all the new changes and supplemental essay questions for you. Expect hundreds of updates by the end of the week!

We continue to receive feedback on how College Essay Organizer is the perfect partner for using the Common App. It instantly delivers not only the supplemental essay questions, but also the department-specific questions and scholarship questions, which are often not included in the Common App. Check here for some great tips on how to use College Essay Organizer and the Common App to write winning essays.

Tips for Personal Statement and College Essay Writing

Now that we've talked a bit about the essay topics you should consider and those you should avoid, let's talk about your actual writing, and how to easily improve the impression you're making on the admissions officers who will see your pieces.

After a cliched topic, the biggest problem you'll want to avoid is writing in generalities. This note applies to many elements of an essay, but overall, it means that you should identify something that is of importance to you and to talk about it with commitment. Make sure that you are addressing the most specific elements of it that you understand, and that you're focusing on the decisions and actions you made during the event you're writing about.

Avoid phrases like "she's always there for me" or "looking around the room, I realized..." Avoid phrasings that don't tell us what someone is actually doing, saying, or feeling.

Here's a short list of writing suggestions to improve others' sense of your writing:

  • Take a risk
  • Show, don't tell
  • Use specific details
    • General: My uncle Mike has been a huge influence in my life.
    • Specific: My uncle Mike was the man who told me my brother had broken both his legs skiing in the Alps. Mike was the man who took me to the father-son picnic when my dad was ill. And when I found myself in need of help that late Friday night that would forever change my life, it was Mike’s number I dialed.

There are a whole lot more here at CEO's guide for what to do in a college essay.

We would love to hear your ideas or other good examples in the comments.

The Journal of College Admission Writes on New Technologies

Where does the road in that logo roam? To new technologies, my friend.

The Journal of College Admission, a publication that discusses the National Association for College Admission Counseling (or NACAC), recently put out an article called "Using Technology in Undergraduate Admission: A Student Perspective."

It points out that nearly all students are using various forms of technology to guide them through the admissions process. In fact, the article mentions that, "One survey found that 88 percent of college-bound prospective students would be disappointed or possibly eliminate a school from consideration if the institution's web site did not meet expectations."

We encounter many college websites that are more complicated than they need to be, especially in their organization of honors, scholarship, and departmental essays, so we commiserate with applicants who are frustrated by this. Lucky for you, CEO's goal is to design a simple technology that provides a solution while streamlining your efforts to simplify and organize the process. Glad to have you with us as we head into the new application season.

Common Application for 2011 Is Live - New Schools Added

That's right. It says 35 years.

The Common App has updated for the class of 2015. This year's application features twenty-nine new schools, including Columbia University, the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, UConn, and three SUNY schools - Maritime College, Morrisville State College, and Potsdam.

As in past years, many schools require supplements to the Common App, which means additional writing, sorting, and organization. CEO is right on the edge of these releases and we make sure our application information is up to date. So as these supplements are made available, we'll have them here, and your Essay QuickFinders and Essay RoadMaps will update automatically to reflect the latest information for the schools you've selected.

Make the most of these early releases and get your writing done ahead of time! Remember that CEO is a great resource for finding scholarship and honors programs, too. That's cash money and respect! What else could you ask for?

One of the reasons schools make these requirements known so far ahead of time is to allow you to explore the departmental and honors requirements so many of them have without getting overwhelmed. Too often we hear about students who choose not to apply to programs or even entire universities just because of the application workload! That just won't do. So use CEO's tools as much as you can and keep your eye on the prize.

Congratulations Rising Seniors!

Class o' '32

We really did not do as much for the class of 1932 as we could have.

Congrats to those of you wrapping up your junior year this month! And to those of you with a little bit more to go, hang on, you're almost there.

Finishing your junior year is all about getting the hardest classwork behind you. The most important exams and papers - even the SATs - pass quickly, leaving what looks like a cakewalk: senior year.

The last big push of work comes this fall with your college applications. We've posted before about the need to diversify your selection of schools, and to help you do it, we've set up a whopping 20% discount for all juniors who sign up for CEO's Essay RoadMap before July 1.

Head on over to our juniors page and have at it!

And in the meantime, enjoy prom, your summer vacation, and whatever summer plans you've got. We'll be updating our requirements throughout the summer as they become available and answering all your questions about how best to handle the application process through the end of the year. Stay tuned.

Washington Post: Applicants Apply to Many, Many, Many Schools

Washington Post. Get it? A post? Me neither.

Washington Post. Get it? A post? In Washington? I guess? You have no idea how long we spent looking for an image to put here.

This terrific article over at the Washington Post describes in detail the process that CEO simplifies every day. Top applicants, facing ever-increasing odds against their getting into top schools, diversify their applications and increase the chance they'll land an acceptance from a school at or above their academic level.

Sounds like a plan, right? And why not? There are plenty of horror stories to be had in that article. Perfect SATs. Top grades. Conservatory-level piano skills. A deferral.

But what the Post doesn't address here is that if the process is being made easier and top schools are becoming ever-more selective, what's the downside to applying to more schools?

There isn't one, except for the cost of the applications, which is far outweighed by the potential reward of ending up at a school that brings you up academically, and eventually, professionally and financially.

Take a look at the last line from the article: "I'm feeling it was really smart of me to apply to so many," she said, "because now I have enough options." Speaks for itself.

And with CEO, you can get this work done before that rerun of Seinfeld comes on.

Keep your eye on the ball and you'll see that tools already at your fingertips like CEO make this task easier than ever, often at a very low cost.

CEO, Home of the World's Fastest College Essay Requirements

I would say it's Monday and we should take it easy, but I can't. We at CEO love speed. That's why we designed the first technology that generates your college essay requirements in an instant. An instant. That is so fast.

Here are some other speed-mongers who whose abilities, while not necessarily as speedy as CEO's, will amaze you. Behold.

New York Times: Applications To Elite Universities Rise Again

...Maybe don't apply early here.

...Maybe don't apply early here.

A brief article posted last week by the New York Times' Education desk confirms that applications to elite American universities rose again this year despite economic hardship. But as always, the number of available spots isn't budging, so the selectivity of those schools continue to increase, and the need for applicants to diversify their applications increases.

Though it might seem dire, there are a number of pieces of good news to take from this. Selectivity increasing at the top means that those schools are stronger than ever. It also means that schools that used to be considered good (or at the very least, good enough) are also improving. Better and better students will find themselves at lower-tier schools, thus raising the quality of the student bodies there.

And what really makes this whole thing not as bad as it seems is that the tools at your disposal have never made applying to school easier or more efficient. Though you'll definitely need to apply to a broader selection of schools to increase the chances you'll be somewhere that satisfies you, tools like CEO can make that task a much more manageable one, often times requiring no additional work from you.

Knewton Blogs: The Most Important Parts Of Your College Application

Today's blog post comes courtesy Josh Anish over at Knewton. Enjoy!

I tutored for years before joining the tremendous team here at Knewton. And during those salad days spent lugging the Big Blue Book around Gotham, parents always asked me to prioritize the components of the college application for their students. Here was/is my unscientific answer that I nonetheless feel strongly about, ranked in order from greatest in importance to least.

Josh From Knewton, Sayin' Hey.

Josh From Knewton, Sayin' Hey.

1) Grades. There’s no substitute on your college apps for a strong GPA. Colleges are looking for good students, and the best way to show that you’re a good student is, well… to get good grades. Obviously you should strive to have an impressive GPA throughout your high school career, but if you had a few slip-ups early on, don’t worry too much; colleges give more weight to your performance during your junior and senior years.

2) SAT score. Love ‘em or hate ‘em, the SATs still mean something. The SAT is not an intelligence test; students’ scores can jump up to 400 points if they prepare diligently and correctly. Hence the need for a good SAT course.

3) Personal statement. This is your one shot to really introduce your personality to an admissions board. It’s like you’re running for President and you’re on national TV at the convention: You get a podium and only a few minutes to make your case to the voters. The task of organizing all the admissions essays you need to write is a notoriously difficult one, but the good folks here at College Essay Organizer provide a tremendous tool that is extremely helpful.

4) Extracurricular activities. These might have ranked higher a decade ago (before Rushmore came out), but now they’re in their rightful place at #4. The marketplace is very crowded, and you can only start so many clubs. Nevertheless, colleges really want a vibrant campus, filled with students trying and doing new things. Show focus; do a couple of things and do them well. Don’t spread yourself too thin and/or try to preen for admissions officers.

5) Teacher recommendations. The challenge here is to choose your recommenders wisely. Colleges have seen great recommendations of all shapes and sizes, and a sweet letter surely works in your favor. It is more important, however, to be cautious of a bad or— more likely—a lukewarm recommendation. In short, play it safe and ask the teachers who really seem to have taken an interest in you, instead of the aloof teacher who has a reputation for writing flowery letters.

Josh Anish is the Senior Editor at Knewton. He’s getting fired up to help students with their SAT prep.