I’ve been getting the question often this year as to whether or not my students can submit different versions of their Common App to different schools. The reasons for this question have varied from student to student. One student made a mistake in his personal essay that he wanted to fix. Another student wanted to write in the Additional Information section about a specific connection that he had to one particular university, but he, obviously, didn’t want to send that anywhere else. Yet another student decided that she didn’t like the personal essay that she submitted to some of her Early Action schools and wanted to rewrite and submit a completely different essay to all of her other schools.
No matter what your own particular reason might be for wanting to submit more than one version of the Common App, here’s the scoop: you can! But, there are limits.
Basically, the Common App will allow you, without limit, to change anything that you want in all sections of the application with the exception of the personal essay. You can alter your writing in the Additional Information section, for example, as many times at you want. So, my student who wants to write something specific for one school and then alter it for others can easily do this as long as he is dealing with Additional Information. In fact, he could write something different in Additional Information for every school on his list, if he wanted to (note: I do not recommend this!).
The limits come in when we are talking about the personal essay. This year, the folks at the Common App are allowing students to submit only three different versions of their personal statement. The key word is “submit”. Once you have actually submitted a version of the essay to any school, you only have two more chances to make changes to that piece of writing. Before you send it in, you can make as many changes and edits as your heart desires. But, once you hit that “Submit” button for the first time, you are on the Common App clock in terms of versions.
What makes a “version”? If you fix even one single comma on an essay that you’ve already submitted somewhere, you have a new version. Alternately, if you delete your whole essay and put in a new one, that’s a new version, too. Any change no matter how small or large constitutes a new version. So, if you think that you will be wanting to make changes to your Common App personal essay, be sure that you make your changes count. You don’t want to find yourself locked out of making additional changes that you desperately want to make because you changed some small things along the way.
While I am not a fan of the limitations that the Common App has placed on the number of personal essay versions that you can submit, it is what it is. Being aware of what your limitations and capabilities are with respect to changing your application will go a long way to letting you manage how you approach your application submission strategy. If you’d like more assistance with how to approach your applications, give Great College Advice a call and let us help you out.