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Brenda Ward, Retired Verona Area High School Counselor

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1 Brenda Ward, Retired Verona Area High School Counselor How to Conquer the Common Application and Write an Effective College Essay

2 the Common Application or the Apply Wisconsin application?
Will you use the Common Application or the Apply Wisconsin application? Many students are confused and think that the Common Application refers to the electronic UW-System application. There is a difference!

3 So…What is the Common Application?
A standard application vehicle used by over 500 member colleges Submitted electronically For use with holistic admission processes Colleges that rely primarily on test scores, class rank, and grade-point averages to admit students usually do not require essays or supplementary student materials. These colleges and universities do not use the Common Application.

4 And Who Uses the Common Application?
Many highly selective universities and private colleges Many public colleges and universities do not UW-System schools DO NOT use the Common Application Over 500 colleges and universities use the Common Application although the UW-System colleges and universities do not use the Common Application. Minnesota public colleges also use their own application and NOT the Common Application.

5 Why Use the Common App? Student completes once, sends to many
Recommenders & counselors submit once “Dashboard” manages and tracks requirements and task completion “Dashboard” is an excellent organizer and information source for students who will be applying to multiple Common Application schools.

6 What Is Included in the Common App?
Personal Data Educational Data Standardized Test Information* Family Information Academic Honors Extra-curricular activities (10 maximum) Work Experience Personal Essay (650 words) Application Fees Teacher Recommendations Secondary School Report (Counselor)* Supplemental Essays Arts Supplement The items listed in red are the components of the Common Application that are submitted as the initial application. Teacher recommendations and Secondary School Reports are submitted by teachers and counselors respectively. Supplemental essays and arts supplement are sent by the student after the original submission of the Common Application. *Transcripts are sent by counselor upon request by student; most colleges require test scores to be sent directly from testing agency

7 How to Submit to the Common App
Common Application, including College-Specific Questions, Application Fees Submitted by Student* College-Specific Writing Supplement, Arts Supplement Sent Separately by Student Secondary School Report, Test Scores, Transcripts, Recommendations Submitted Separately This is another graphic that illustrates the steps in completing the Common Application, and what is submitted by whom.

8 Help Is Available for Common App Users
The Common Application web site features a “Help Center” with tips and eLearning videos There’s also a facebook page… And the Common App tweets! The Common Application has improved its help resources tremendously. The eLearning Videos are highly recommended. Because the CA4 is a new version of the electronic Common Application, there have been some glitches. For instance, recommenders were getting a blank page when trying to submit with a Chrome Browser. These glitches have or are being corrected. To receive updates, counselors may wish to “Like” the facebook page.

9 Assigning Recommenders
Student submits addresses for recommenders Student submits an address for high school counselor Recommenders receive from the Common Application Counselor receives an alert; counselor submits reports It is a good idea for students to ask teachers if they are familiar with the Common Application process. If the teacher is not familiar, the student or counselor may need to provide assistance with the process. Students should alert their teachers to expect an from the College Board. Spam filters may sometimes cause problems!

10 Managing Applications and Requirements
My Colleges provides essential information and requirements for all of the colleges on the student’s list Dashboard monitors student progress toward completion of requirements for each college/university on the student’s list “My Colleges” and “Dashboard” offer good tools and up-to-date information for students. The underlined words should hyperlink to the Common Application pages if you have the Common Application opened on one of your computer screens.

11 UW-Madison Recommendations
“Recommendation letters are strongly recommended but are not required. It can be helpful in our admissions review to know more about you from the viewpoint of a counselor or teacher who can attest to your academic ability. Letters could also come from an employer, coach, research mentor, or community leader. Remember that quality is better than quantity and a total of two is sufficient.” (UW Madison web site) UW-Madison has taken some steps to formalize their recommendation process with an electronic submission process. This is the preferred submission process, so students should provide the submission link to the teacher when requesting recommendations.

12 The UW-System electronic application
This page can be linked to the electronic US-System application and is an optional slide.

13 It’s time to start writing!
Essay time! Take a deep breath, do a little yoga, maybe a few stretches to warm up because… It’s time to start writing! Shameless—this slide is an opportunity to feature my favorite little doggy Ozzie!

14 Common App…That’s One Essay, Right?
Yes, the new Common Application requires only one essay! Not to exceed 650 words Not college-specific Formatting is limited Up to 3 revisions The essay may not be less than 250 or more than 650 words. Students may revise their essay on the Common Application site three times, after which the essay is permanently locked. Students are advised to do all writing and editing on a word processor, then cut and paste to the actual Common Application.

15 Warning! More Essays Ahead…
Before we review the five Common Application essay prompts, be forewarned: Additional college-specific essays may also be required. You may wish to clarify with students that although the initial Common Application features only one essay, specific colleges may require additional essays even when applying through the Common Appllication.

16 General Advice for the CA4 Essay
1. Be authentic 2. Be concrete 3. Be reflective 4. Be fresh 5. Be enterprising 6. Be careful Be authentic: Know yourself and be true to you Be concrete: Think of your essay as a snapshot or film clip—telephoto rather than a wide angle lens…tell a story and provide detail Be reflective: Show how you think and what you value rather than provide a synopsis of accomplishments Be fresh: Aim for originality and creativity, but do no harm! Be enterprising: Take advantage of the opportunity to provide new information or new perspective Be careful: No grammatical, spelling, or formatting errors

17 Prompt #1: Background Story
Some students have a background or story that is so central to their identity that they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story. Why is this being asked? Most open-ended, allows student to control topic and present what best defines him or her The strategy: Consider what is central to your identity—your defining characteristic(s) Tell a story and reflect on it Think small--avoid long chronologies or timelines

18 Prompt #2: Experiencing Failure
Recount an incident or time when you experienced failure. How did it affect you, and what lessons did you learn? Why is this being asked? Failure is a universal experience; reaction to failure is unique The strategy: An opportunity to show confidence It’s a story—you are the protagonist Describe your evolving reaction to failure…What was the lesson or take-away?

19 Prompt #3: Challenge a Belief
Reflect on a time when you challenged a belief or idea. What prompted you to act? Would you make the same decision again? Why is this being asked? Challenging accepted ideas is often a bigger part of college than it is in high school The strategy: Disucuss the belief/idea you challenged Cite what prompted you to act Reflect on whether you would make the same decision again Beware: Arrogance!

20 Prompt #4: Place or Environment
Describe a place or environment where you are perfectly content. What do you do or experience there, and why is it meaningful to you? Why is this being asked? Shows how the student reacts in an optimal external world The strategy: Consider context. This is your “zone” environment Place yourself interacting with the environment Make the place or environment yours—attach meaning

21 Prompt #5: Transition from Childhood
Discuss an accomplishment or event, formal or informal, that marked your transition from childhood to adulthood within your culture, community, or family. Why is this being asked? Colleges value cultural, geographic, and family diversity and are interested in personal values The strategy: Consider small, symbolic events or accomplishments as well as more formal ones Link to a shared value of the larger group Reflect on your acceptance of the transition/values

22 What is UW-Madison looking for?
We focus first on academic excellence— courses, grades, and test scores. Beyond academics, we look for qualities such as leadership, concern for others and the community, and achievement in the arts, athletics, and other areas. We’re also seeking diversity in personal background and experience and your potential for contribution to the Wisconsin community. . Our admission counselors review each application individually and are looking for students who demonstrate strong academic ability, as well as leadership, community service, creativity, talent, and enthusiasm. We also consider personal characteristics that will contribute to the strength and diversity of our university. These two passages are taken directly from the UW-Madison web site and reveal much about its admission process. The initial sorting of candidates, generally between potentially admissable and non-admissable is based on courses, grades, and test scores. The next review of potentially admissable candidates takes considers the factors listed in these two passages.

23 UW-Madison personal statement
1. Consider something in your life you think goes unnoticed and write about why it's important to you.

2. Tell us why you decided to apply to the University of Wisconsin-Madison. In addition, share with us the academic, extracurricular, or research opportunities you would take advantage of as a student. If applicable, provide details of any circumstance that could have had an impact on your academic performance and/or extracurricular involvement. This first prompt allows for a wide variety of responses. Students will find that their Common Application essay can often be modified to fit this prompt. Students must take care to avoid providing any information that can be accessed from other parts of their application. This question is asking the applicant to talk about that which hasn’t been addressed elsewhere in the application. Opportunity! Be enterprising!

24 UW-System college-specific statements
UW-Eau Claire: Please tell us about the particular life experiences, perspectives, talents, commitments and/or interests you will bring to our campus. UW-LaCrosse: Please tell us about the particular life experiences, talents, commitments and/or interests you will bring specifically to our campus that will enrich our community, and why you are interested in the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse. UW-Oshkosh, UW-Platteville, UW-Stevens Point, UW-Whitewater: Please tell us about the particular life experiences, talents, commitments and/or interests you will bring specifically to our campus that will enrich our community. UW-Green Bay: Please tell us why you think you are a good fit for UW- Green Bay, and why UW-Green Bay is a good fit for you. You may include personal skills, traits, talents, interests, and experiences that will enrich our campus, as well as aspects of UW-Green Bay that are especially important to you. Please tell us if there are special circumstances or personal challenges that have had an impact on your previous academic record, and that you would like us to take into consideration as we evaluate your admission application. What have you learned from your experience, and how will it influence you as you pursue your college education? Sample prompts from other UW-System colleges. Again, the prompt is looking for information not available elsewhere on the application.

25 But what about the CA Supplemental Essays?
Some may not require supplements Some will have short answer questions Some will have both short answer questions and another longer essay (500 words or so) The next few slides focus on the supplementary essays to the Common Application, those college-specific essays that have been provided by and will be submitted to only one college or university.

26 Some Short Answer Prompts
Princeton Please tell us how you have spent the last two summers (or vacations between school years), including any jobs you have held. (About 150 words) Lake Forest How would you describe yourself in a 140-letters-or-less Twitter Tweet or Facebook Status Update? UNC-Chapel Hill My theme song: Best thing since sliced bread: Super power I’d most like to have: Sample short answer prompts---notice how the supplemental prompts tend to be “quirkier” and more personality-driven. Rice In keeping with Rice's long-standing tradition (known as "The Box"), please upload an image of something that appeals to you.

27 Longer Supplemental Essay Prompts
Many colleges will ask for an additional, longer essay (about 500 words) These prompts often have common themes or purposes

28 Common Prompt Type: More About You
Beloit: What should the Admissions Committee look for in you, beyond your transcript and scores? Stanford: Please briefly elaborate on one of your extracurricular activities or work experiences. (150 word limit.) Yale: In this essay, please reflect on something you would like us to know about you that we might not learn from the rest of your application, or on something about which you would like to say more. By now the agenda of these kind of questions is clear: tell us more about you!

29 Common Prompt Type: What about Us?
Northwestern What are the unique qualities of Northwestern - and of the specific undergraduate school to which you are applying - that make you want to attend the University? Michigan Describe the unique qualities that attract you to the specific undergraduate College or School (including preferred admission and dual degree programs) to which you are applying at the University of Michigan. How would that curriculum support your interests? Colleges also want to know what the student knows about them. This requires some real research on the part of the student. If the student hasn’t visited the college or university, then the student should review the school’s web site thoroughly, paying particular attention to courses and programs in the student’s field of interest. General answers won’t cut it! Beautiful campus, great football team, nice location—not what the college wants to hear. They want to know what you know about their academic offerings and programs. Why are you interested in Carleton College?

30 Prompts Inspired by College Culture
Boston College St. Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Society of Jesus, encouraged his followers to live their lives in the service of others. How do you plan to serve others in your future endeavors? University of Virginia  The Honor Code at U.Va. states that students will not lie, cheat, or steal. This strengthens our Community of Trust. What would you add to the Honor Code and why? If a college asks a question like this, it’s because the tradition or value is very important to the educational experience on that campus. Students should do what they can to understand the culture of a camps—again the web site or campus visits as resources. Colorado College The Block Plan at Colorado College has a tradition of innovation and flexibility. Please design your own three-and-a-half week intellectual adventure and describe what you would do.

31 Prompt Type: Quirky UNC-Chapel Hill University of Chicago
What do you hope to find over the rainbow? The mantis shrimp can perceive both polarized light and multispectral images; they have the most complex eyes in the animal kingdom. Human eyes have color receptors for three colors (red, green, and blue); the mantis shrimp has receptors for sixteen types of color, enabling them to see a spectrum far beyond the capacity of the human brain. Seriously, how cool is the mantis shrimp: What might they be able to see that we cannot? What are we missing? Lawrence University Why Lawrence? It's a short question seeking a short answer: 47 well-chosen words - give or take a few - should work. Some colleges like to be unique. This is usually an invitation for the student to step outside the box, too.

32 This Is What Colleges Want to Know
Colleges want to know more about you Colleges want to know how much you know about them Colleges want you to strut your stuff— show them how you think, create, investigate, learn, lead, reform, or perform No matter what the prompt is or how it is phrased, colleges are really looking for these three things.

33 Wisdom from A 17-Year-Old Blogger
…Remember that you're a person, and that I'm a different person, and that the answer lies only with you. And, yes, I do realize that that makes the process hard, and complicated, and maybe even annoying. But it also makes it interesting. Danny Licht, "What Is the Best College in America?”

34 Good luck on your applications!
For frequent updates, tips, and invitations to free workshops, like brendawardconsulting on facebook Or visit her web site: Brenda Ward, Independent Educational Consultant Individual Guidance for College & Career Success

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