Admissions

New Tool Provides Specialized Common App Assistance

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Filling out a college application sounds like a simple thing to do — until you do it. Questions asking about any honors you received may seem easy, but you may wonder whether that includes AP classes and student council leadership, or if those are better off in other sections.


These types of questions are common during application time, but many students have trouble finding the answers. One organization aims to help quell that issue with a new tool called Inline for College Apps that provides advice and tips that pop up in the student's browser as they make their way through the Common App.

Works as Browser Extension

When you download Inline, it will add an extension to your Google Chrome browser, and after that, you'll be all set for specialized guidance as you navigate through the Common App.

"For every question, every essay, we have advice that pops up in context in the browser," says Anna Ivey, the former dean of admissions at the University of Chicago Law School and CEO of CommonCoach, Inc., which makes Inline. "For instance, where it asks for the FERPA authorization, or honors, or whether you're applying for financial aid, our pop-up tells them what they need to know for each field. In essence, it's like Turbo Tax but for college applications."

For instance, if a student marks on the Common App that they are applying to college part time, the app will prompt them to investigate whether that might impact their financial aid options. "Our theory is that to make the most of the application, you need to think like an admission officer, which is the only opinion that matters -- but you're 17, so how can you do that?" Ivey says. "So every piece of advice is strategic and helps them understand why each question is being asked, what admission officers will do with it and how it affects you."

For instance, when you get to the section asking if you have any activities you want to report, Inline pops up with the notification pictured above, prompting you to say "Yes" to the question even though it is optional, and offering advice about listing activities in the order of importance.

Inline also includes special content for international, home-schooled, first-generation students and veterans.

Essay Assistance Also Built in

When it comes to the essay section, Inline provides writing tips, and also maintains a library of sample essays and annotated samples, which provide students with an inner monologue of what an admissions officer is likely thinking while reading the essay, and explaining why certain words and phrases are effective.

"We tell students to 'show, don't tell,' so we are trying to offer examples of that and share how the essays are being read," Ivey says.

Inline is frequently updated as new information comes out to help students. For instance, you can see above that the app provides students with information about which schools take your religion into consideration during the admissions process, along with tips on how to answer the affiliated question. If more schools join Common App that would consider religion, Inline's advice will be updated.

The program not only works to help students, but also helps parents from having to dig for information about each question when asked by their kids, Ivey says. "Maybe this removes one area of friction for students. It also removes the urge parents have to do it for them. This should give parents the confidence that their kids can do it on their own."

Due to COVID-19, the entire product, including all premium content, is free to download from the Inline website through the end of June. Once downloaded, you have access to the tool for two admissions cycles, so that high school students can begin working on their Common Apps as early as Junior year.

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