ppt file here - Brenda Ward Consulting

Brenda Ward,
Retired Verona Area High
School Counselor
How to Conquer
the Common Application
Write an Effective College Essay
Will you use
the Common Application
or the Apply Wisconsin
There is a difference!
So…What is the Common Application?
 A standard application vehicle used by
over 500 member colleges
 Submitted electronically
 For use with holistic admission
And Who Uses the Common Application?
 Many highly selective universities and
private colleges
 Many public colleges and universities do
 UW-System schools DO NOT use the
Common Application
Why Use the Common App?
 Student completes once, sends to many
 Recommenders & counselors submit
 “Dashboard” manages and tracks
requirements and task completion
What Is Included in the Common App?
• Personal Data
• Educational Data
• Standardized Test
• Family Information
• Academic Honors
• Extra-curricular activities
(10 maximum)
• Work Experience
• Personal Essay (650 words)
• Application Fees
• Teacher Recommendations
• Secondary School Report
• Supplemental Essays
• Arts Supplement
*Transcripts are sent by counselor upon request by student; most colleges
require test scores to be sent directly from testing agency
How to Submit to the Common App
including CollegeSpecific Questions,
Application Fees
Submitted by
Supplement, Arts
Supplement Sent
Separately by
Secondary School
Report, Test Scores,
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!
Assigning Recommenders
 Student submits e-mail addresses for
 Student submits an e-mail address for high school
 Recommenders receive e-mail from the Common
 Counselor receives an e-mail alert; counselor
submits reports
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
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)
The UW-System electronic application
Essay time!
Take a deep breath, do
a little yoga, maybe a
few stretches
to warm up because…
It’s time to
start writing!
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
Warning! More Essays Ahead…
Before we review the five
Common Application essay
prompts, be forewarned:
essays may also
be required.
General Advice for the CA4 Essay
1. Be authentic
2. Be concrete
3. Be reflective
4. Be fresh
5. Be enterprising
6. Be careful
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
 Tell a story and reflect on it
 Think small--avoid long chronologies or timelines
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?
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!
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
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
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
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.
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
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.
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,
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 UWGreen 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
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?
But what about the CA Supplemental Essays?
 Some may not require
 Some will have short
answer questions
 Some will have both
short answer questions
and another longer essay
(500 words or so)
Some Short Answer Prompts
Lake Forest
How would you describe yourself
in a 140-letters-or-less Twitter
Tweet or Facebook Status Update?
UNC-Chapel Hill
1. My theme song:
2. Best thing since sliced bread:
3. Super power I’d most like to have:
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)
In keeping with Rice's long-standing
tradition (known as "The Box"), please
upload an image of something that
appeals to you.
Longer Supplemental Essay Prompts
Many colleges will
ask for an additional,
longer essay (about
500 words)
These prompts often
have common
themes or purposes
Common Prompt Type: More About You
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.
Common Prompt Type: What about Us?
Prompts Inspired by College Culture
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.
Prompt Type: Quirky
University of
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:
mantisshrimp.uchicago.edu What might they
be able to see that we cannot? What are we
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
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?”
Good luck on your applications!
Brenda Ward, Independent Educational Consultant
Individual Guidance for College & Career Success

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