Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Guiding Your Students Through the New Common Application

By:  Patrick O'Connor Ph.D

It’s been almost a month since Common Application released their brand new application,
CA4.  With most schools still not in session, August has been a good month for a few students to test out the new version and come across many of the bugs and conflicts that are part of any new Web site, even one that’s been tested for a long time…

…and that’s good news for you and your students.  As you welcome your seniors back for a year of great growth, here are the key areas you’ll want to focus in on with the new Common App.  If you give your students a heads up on these, you’ll avoid a lot of confusion later on down the road.

FERPA Release  Students must sign their FERPA waiver as part of using Common Application.  This year, that waiver is on Common App for all users, and it’s pretty easy to complete.  Students to into their Common App account.  Under Education, they click the My Colleges section, and enter at least one college.  After that, they click Assign Recommenders, and the FERPA form will appear— they complete it by waiving their right, and they’re all set. 

As is always the case, it is important for students to know that once they fill this form and Submit it, the form cannot be changed, even if the student hasn’t sent in a college application.  Students will want to make sure to complete this early step correctly.

Copying and pasting essays from Microsoft Word  The other big issue that’s come up has to do with essays.  Most counselors tell students NOT to type their essays directly into Common App, and with good reason.  Using a word processing program allows the student to check for typing and grammar mistakes using the same tools they have access to for all of their other school work, and that increases the chances the college essays will be proofread correctly.

The challenge comes when students are trying to copy their essays into Common App from Microsoft Word.  Many students report that the essays seem to transfer over smoothly, but when they Preview the essay, they see blank spaces, missing lines, or computer code that turns some (or all) of their essay into hieroglyphics.

The easiest cure that’s been discovered so far is for students to Copy their Microsoft Word essays into Notepad, the very basic word processing program that comes on most PCs.  Once it’s Pasted into Notepad, the computer code from Word is cleaned off; students then hit Copy from Notepad and Past into Common App, and everything is fine. Common App will undoubtedly come up with a better fix, but for now, that’s the best thing to do.

Common App and Naviance  For high schools that use Naviance to keep track of student applications, the new Common App seems to be blending in well with Naviance.  At the same time, this is a new group of seniors, and every high school using Naviance has their own policies about how Teacher Recommenders and College Lists are added.  If you haven’t already done so, put together a list of Naviance procedures, and share those with your students—and set up a time in the computer lab after school to guide students through the challenges they may run into.

There are always a few bumps in the first steps of a new endeavor—either in applying to college this year, or going to college next year.  With a little patience, you can set the example of flexibility that will benefit your students for years to come.

1 comment:

  1. Save as an RTF - Rich Text Format [the universal format that works with any word processing program] also can work.