The Common Application

by Eva Shimkus, Features Editor
graphic by Emily Zhang

Natalie*, whose first deadline is Dec. 1, said that she has written her personal statement and filled out most of the Common Application, but is still working on her supplemental essays. 

Natalie said that her personal statement focuses on her process in discovering her passions.

“It’s taken me a long time to figure out what I want to do,” she said. “It’s about how I figured out what’s more important in life: my interests or what my parents want me to do.” 

As an aspiring theater production and design and technology major, her admissions decisions will also rely heavily upon the strength of her portfolio.

“I’m hoping my portfolio makes me stand out because there aren’t that many people who apply with artistic abilities in mind. I have two schools that don’t require portfolios for theater, but I’m just going to send it in as an additional document, just to give a little extra something,” she said. “I hope artistic skill is enough.”

Natalie said her portfolio consists of set designs, projections and lighting from technical theater, in addition to observational sketches and paintings to demonstrate her creativity.

Natalie is considering Northeastern University for its combined major program, which would allow her to merge her interests in theater and arts education. 

“Art degrees are very time-consuming, so it’s hard to double major in them,” she said. “With a combined major, it’s really helpful to be able to put together all of your requirements.”

With the University of Michigan, Syracuse University, Northeastern University and the State University of New York at Purchase as some of her top choices, Natalie said she is hoping to attend a school that will provide her with opportunities for her future career. 

“Syracuse has a semester where you live in New York City and have an internship there,” she said. “What I’m looking for is ways to get in the field professionally.”

Anthony* applied early decision to Middlebury College, where he said he hopes to pursue a math or science major while running for the cross country team. 

Over the summer, Anthony said he learned more about Middlebury from an old track teammate who now attends the college. 

“Every sports team has its own community, and obviously it’s great to meet some friends right off the bat, but Middlebury in particular seems to try to incorporate everyone,” he said. “From the stories that I’ve heard, they tend to have more of a community than other sports teams at the school, which has appealed to me to be in a close-knit group.”

Anthony said that since Middlebury is a Division III school, his application decision relies on his academics rather than his athletics. 

“You get in for academics then you can either walk onto the team, or if you’ve been talking to coaches in the past, you get in for academics, then you join the team later on,” he said. “It’s not that you get into the school because you’re on the team.”

He said that applying through this process has kept him better informed.

Anthony said that he has visited Middlebury twice, and both times he left with a favorable impression.

“I have two older siblings, so I’ve seen a couple of college campuses in the past,” he said. “We visited it during a snowstorm while the students were away for February break, and I ended up liking it a lot, and it set the bar really early on.”

Although Middlebury is his top choice, Anthony said that he is prepared to apply to his other top choices, including Colby College, Tufts University and Wesleyan University.

“If I get rejected, I would get back up and start applying to some other schools, and luckily I’ve been talking to some coaches at other schools as well,” he said. “I have a group of schools that really appeal to me, as well as their running programs.”

Amy* applied early action to UMass Amherst and restrictive early action to her top choice, Harvard University. 

An aspiring law student with an interest in psychology, she said that she wanted to highlight her passion for advocacy in her applications.

“I’m talking about my growth as a leader because I started activism when I was pretty young, so I talk about how I’ve grown, how I’ve changed and how I’ve expanded my horizons since then,” she said.

Amy said that the legal studies option at UMass was one of her favorite aspects of the school.

However, Harvard offers the competitive environment she is looking for.

“My sister used to go there, and it’s always been somewhere I’ve really wanted to go because I’m someone who really enjoys competition,” she said. “I feel motivated when I’m surrounded with people who have the same passion for what they do as me, and I feel like Harvard can offer me that.”

With her early applications submitted, Amy said she thinks she has presented herself well to colleges.

“Looking back, there were a few essays that I could have written better, but overall I feel like I got all the criteria down, and I’ve managed to show who I am and what I’ve done to colleges,” she said. “I don’t feel completely confident, and I’m kind of nervous about the results that come out in December, but at the moment I’m glad I can destress and not think about college applications anymore.”

To younger students thinking about the college process, Amy said she would recommend staying true to yourself.

“Don’t stress about whether or not you’ve shown your accomplishments or how many extracurriculars you’ve done,” she said. “Focus on who you are as a person, your personal story and your strengths, and just be genuine as opposed to trying to seem impressive.”

Kurt* applied early action to Northeastern University and Emerson College. 

In college, he said he plans to double-major in business marketing and film writing. Kurt said although his interests seem conflicting, they are intertwined. 

“The part of business I want to go into, marketing, is all about how to tell a story. Screenwriting is just telling a story in a certain medium,” he said. “Every job is an extension of telling a story.”

Kurt said that working on his family business inspired him to seek a career in business.

“I had so much fun working in the business that I decided this was something I wanted to do for a longer time,” he said.

In his applications, Kurt said he wanted to emphasize his real-world experience and creativity.

“I have helped my parents with social media campaigns, editing images, research into international distributions and cost and market analysis for new product lines,” he said. 

Kurt said that he was drawn to apply to Emerson and Northeastern because of their unique travel opportunities.

“Northeastern has another business program where you get to go to China. Because I’m part Chinese, I figured it would be really nice to spend some time where my family came from,” he said.

He said that Emerson also offers a similar program, where he would earn a liberal arts degree in Switzerland for two years and then return to Boston to finish a business major.

“It combines both areas of study I was really interested in,” he said. “Emerson also has a great graduate program, so I thought that would be a good fit for me.”

Kurt said he is preparing regular decision applications to Bennington College, Ithaca College and New York University.

*Names changed to protect students’ identities