The new college season officially opens today with the activation of the Common Application for 2016 admissions. Here are a few things to note as seniors begin the "data-retrieval" part of the process.
1. E-mail address.
Please choose an address that is appropriate -- no "firstname.lastname@example.org," please! You might consider creating a new e-mail address just for college apps, since you will undoubtedly put yourself on some junk mail lists along the way. Simply delete the address once you've settled on a college. Whatever e-mail address you use, be sure to check it daily.
2. Phone number.
This might seem simple, but think carefully before you list your cellphone. Do you really want to take that call from a potential interviewer when you are with a bunch of friends at Chipotle? And if you don't answer that unidentified caller, will you remember to check and respond to your voice mail later? A home phone is usually safer -- and parents can be more reliable about checking voicemail.
Admissions officers appreciate the standard format that the Common App offersfor information such as courses, grades, class size, rank and GPA. High schools are notoriously idiosyncratic in their transcript styles. But colleges will compare your official transcript with your Common App; anything you self-report should exactly match your school documents. That's why it's important to have a copy of your transcript in front of you when you fill out this information. List senior-year courses in order of difficulty, with AP classes first, followed by honors and then regular. And check with your high school counselor before choosing a "scale" for your GPA. A 4.2 weighted average is usually still considered to be based on a 4-point scale.
4. Test scores.
It is usually best to leave the ACT/SAT section blank, for several reasons. First, you will have to send official score reports anyway. Second, colleges have so many different testing requirements (including requiring all scores, super scoring and even test-optional), you are better off tailoring your choices for each college. Third, you may re-take one or more tests, making anything you report obsolete. AP tests are different, however, because they are entirely self-reported for application purposes. List them from highest to lowest, and feel free to leave out any scores you are not proud of. Strong scores will only enhance your application, even at test-optional schools.
The sooner you fill out the "data" portion of the Common App, the sooner you'll be able to turn to the more challenging Activities and Essays sections. If I can help with anything related to the application process, please call me at 847-660-8625, or click the button at the bottom of the page for a free consultation.