The Common Application

by Sarah Feinberg, Features Editor
graphic by Emily Zhang

After submitting more than 15 applications to theater programs, Zoe* passed prescreens at both University of Miami and Pace University, and is now preparing for auditions in January, which involve singing, dancing and performing monologues. 

Zoe said that while live auditions can be intimidating, she is excited.

“It’s easy to get stuck in that cycle of judgment and jealousy, but I’m used to doing that kind of audition,” she said. “I’ve been preparing for this for months, so I’m ready to go out there and do my thing.” 

Zoe said that she is looking for a school with a specialized theater program.

“Michigan’s program and the alumni network [are phenomenal],” she said. “Coming out of these top schools, you’re set in the professional world because you’ve already made so many connections.”

Zoe said that starting early is essential to prevent the application process from becoming overwhelming.

“Take it day by day, and just start as early as possible to get everything done on time without being stressed,” she said.

Evan*, who is interested in studying design, said he completed his common applications portions of early action applications, which required an art portfolio of approximately 20 pieces and essays for the Nov. 1 deadline. 

Although the art portfolio can be time consuming, Evan said that he enjoyed compiling his pieces.

“It’s something that I’m passionate about and can show my genuine self through,” he said.

Evan said that it is important to rely on a support system and manage time well during the stressful application process.

“I remind myself that I am doing the best I can, so even if it is not what I imagined, I can only do what I can do,” he said.

Evan has applied early to Northeastern University, Syracuse University and University of Michigan. He said that he feels relieved to have finished this stage of the process, as he begins to prepare applications for the regular decision cycle for schools including Carnegie Mellon University and Occidental College.

“It feels less stressful once you see the finish line and once it gets closer to that deadline.”

Heidi* said that she has decided on a school to apply early decision to after she’s been in contact with recruitment coaches for Division III running programs. She is also planning to apply early action to University of Massachusetts Amherst.

Heidi said that once she brainstormed moments that were personally significant, the essay writing finally came naturally.

“If you don’t have an idea at first, don’t be worried because one will come to you, and it will be worth it,” she said. “It’s a better story now and it’s the most ‘me.’” 

To narrow down her top choices, Heidi said that visiting schools both in-person and virtually helped give her a sense of the schools’ environments.

“I want to run in college and being on a team is important for me, so visiting was important [since] I could really get a sense of the vibe of the teams and imagine if I could see myself here,” she said.

She said that she is looking forward to pressing submit on her applications.

“After that I’ll be more chilled out because everything is out of my hands at that point.”

Interested in studying mechanical engineering, Jared* applied early action to Georgia Institute of Technology, Purdue University, University of Massachusetts Amherst and University of Michigan.

When looking at schools, Jared said that he was drawn to Georgia Tech’s facilities. 

“It has a huge innovation studio and machine shop, and I really want to be able to take what I’ve learned and apply it,” he said. 

He said that keeping in mind that first essay drafts can be imperfect helps manage stress. 

“When I started my essays, I just threw words out and tried to connect them without really worrying about grammar, and then I came back to edit them,” he said. “Getting the ideas out there to start is key.”

Jared said that a balanced schedule and setting boundaries between work and enjoyable activities can help with productivity.

“You don’t have to take every single AP class, so find the balance that works for you. I’m interested in physics and math, and I am also taking music classes that I enjoy,” he said. “You’ll enjoy the relaxation time and get a lot of work done during the work time.”

*Names changed to protect students’ identities