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Common App for Dummies

Classes have started and students are not yet overloaded with homework (hopefully), but seniors are already worrying about something more important: college applications. According to a poll sent to Forest Hills Eastern seniors, 63.5% of seniors are not totally sure how the Common Application works and only 12.5% have completed their application (37.5% have not even started). Counselors have already visited English classes to explain the process, but for those who were not there—or not paying attention—here is a recap:

Early decision and early action applications are usually due by November 1st, and regular decision application due dates vary. The difference between early decision and early action is that early decision requires the applicant to attend if accepted, but early action does not. Counselors recommend applying as early as possible to offer the greatest chance of acceptance. They also recommend asking teachers for recommendation letters as soon as possible; it would be best if the student has already asked his or her teacher in person. Teachers may want a resume with all extracurriculars, jobs, volunteer opportunities, hobbies, and any other personal qualities and meaningful experiences that would make their letters more personal. This is where they can write about things that may not be on the application. Then, students can request specific teachers on the Letters of Recommendation page under the “Colleges I’m Applying to” section on Naviance.

On the Common App website, applicants can search and add their colleges to their dashboard to start the process, and then fill out each section of the Common App. Each college has a section for their own separate questions, and sections are checked as they are completed. The website also shows any additional requirements from the colleges, as well as deadlines. Students should also link their Common App account to their Naviance account by putting in their email and birth date; however, they must first fill out the FERPA Release information first, choosing whether or not to waive their rights to view their recommendation letters. Counselors and colleges recommend waiving view rights to show to the student trusts his or her teacher enough to write a good letter without supervision.

Students can also find essay topics listed under the “Writing” section. According to the poll, 43.8% of FHE seniors have not started their essay, and only 18.8% have finished. Students can write about any meaningful experience: trips, family tragedies, important moves, aspects of identity, or even mundane experience with a lesson learned. Essays should have some sort of epiphany, whether it is very clear or more subtle in the essay. For compelling essays, English teachers recommend starting with an exciting introduction, using parallel structure and other literary devices, highlighting an admirable quality, focusing on a personal story (rather than one about someone else), and tying in the conclusion to the introduction. Essays should also be edited by teachers, parents, peers, or any others to ensure submitting the best possible essay.

Seniors were also asked what colleges they are applying to; the top three were Michigan State University at number one with 60.4% of respondents applying, followed by Grand Valley State University with 43.8%, and the University of Michigan with 41.7%. When asked why she wants to attend MSU, Marine Avequin said “It has many great programs including pre-med programs which is what I am interested in. Not only is it a good school, it is close to home which will make it easier to visit my family on weekends.” Good luck seniors!