The Common Application

by Eva Shimkus, Features Editor
graphic by Emily Zhang

Natalie* was accepted to Alfred University, Emerson College, Pennsylvania State University and University of Michigan. She said that despite her initial interest in Emerson, she is no longer considering it seriously.

“Their program in general is too specific and doesn’t have an on-campus art program that I could minor or double major in,” she said.

She said that Alfred University offered her the merit-based Presidential Scholarship.

“I was so surprised when I heard back,” she said. “Right now I’m considering them, but it’s hard to say where they rank on my list until I hear back from everyone else.”

Natalie said that she has also interviewed with Boston University (BU) and New York University.

“I talk about my portfolio and answer any questions they might have about any of the specific images, just going through one slide at a time and explaining what that image meant and what the process was behind the image,” she said.

Natalie said that despite having a strong portfolio, some interview questions have caught her off guard.

“During my BU interview, I got asked what artist inspires me which I wasn’t anticipating,” she said. “I had to make something up on the spot, which can be a little stressful because I’m worried about how I come off if I have to hesitate before I answer.”

Overall, Natalie said she is happy with her interview performances.

“I have a pretty strong portfolio,” she said. “I’m really grateful for that.”

Kurt* said that he was deferred from Northeastern University and is still waiting on the results of his early application to Emerson College. In the meantime, he said he applied regular decision to six schools, including Drexel, Harvard and New York Universities. 

Kurt said his preferred school would be Harvard, followed by New York University and his early action schools. 

“Harvard’s my hail Mary,” he said. “I don’t actually expect to get in, but I applied for the fun of it.”

Kurt said that he is focused on presenting himself as a team player in his applications.

“I’ve written about the DaVinci class, which is project-based learning and teamwork,” he said. “I also wrote about something I’m pretty classically notorious for, which is dropping into random classrooms and participating in their class for a day.”

In college, Kurt said he is excited to make new friends and explore the city.

“Also, the harder classes and increased volume of electives, of course,” he said.

He said he hopes the school he attends provides opportunities for travel.

“I want to see where they can send me,” he said. “Internships and jobs out of the gate are also really important, as well as alumni networks.”

Kurt said that he’s preparing himself for any outcome.

“It doesn’t really feel any different from the early applications for me,” he said. “I have the ‘hope for the best, expect the worst’ philosophy.”

Having been accepted to Harvard under the restrictive early action plan and UMass Amherst, Amy* narrowed down her list, applying regular decision to only Columbia and Stanford Universities. 

“I ended up deciding not to apply to Yale because I went on a virtual tour of the campus and I didn’t enjoy it as much as I thought I would,” she said.

Amy said her recent applications varied from her earlier ones, as they required shorter and more specific answers.

“I had to think outside the box about which aspects of my identity are most important to me,” she said.

Amy said that she applied to Columbia because of its core curriculum, which emphasizes literature, philosophy, history, arts and sciences.

“It makes the students really well-rounded on a variety of issues and topics and helps them get out of their comfort zones,” she said. “It’s also in New York and I enjoy how cultured [the city] is.”

She said that despite having been accepted to both of her early application schools, she would choose Stanford if she gets in.

“Stanford has been my dream school since I was nine or 10,” she said. “Knowing that I have a backup is helpful.”

Amy said that she is looking forward to starting college.

“Most people at college are looking for new people to meet and start a new chapter of their lives,” she said. “I’m excited to navigate that journey.”

*Names changed to protect students’ identities