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Getting Started With The Common Application

Lara Poulios August 01, 2019
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It’s August 1st, which means the start of application season for rising seniors! The Common App is an online application used by almost 900 colleges and universities across the country and allows students to apply to multiple schools using one platform.  Ready to get started? Check out our tips for making the process a little bit easier:

Set Up Your Account

If you are new to the Common App, you’ll see a link from the homepage to “Create A New Account.”  If you have already started your application, you’ll be able to log back into your existing account and rollover your information once you’ve answered a few quick questions.  When setting up your account, use your legal name (no nicknames) and an email address that you check frequently. This email address will be where colleges contact you if they need clarification on your application.

Gather Your Materials

Applying to college will go more smoothly if you gather a few pieces of information in advance.  Have on hand a copy of your unofficial transcripts (or previous years’ report cards and your senior year schedule), your standardized test scores and test dates, information about your parents’ work and education, and your social security number if you plan to apply for financial aid.

Think Broadly About Your Extracurricular Activities

The Activities section of the Common App provides ten spots to list and describe your extracurricular involvement during high school.  Think outside the box when considering what has been most meaningful to you during these years. You are not limited to only those activities that are connected to school.  Consider community and volunteer work, part-time jobs, family responsibilities, and hobbies in addition to clubs and sports. Do you watch your little brother for two hours after school each day?  Did you take apart and rebuild a computer in your spare time? Great stuff to include in your application! And if you find yourself with more than 10 activities, consider paring the list down to include those that are most meaningful.

Plan Your Essays

You will most likely be required to write the Personal Essay that is found in the Writing section.  All of the colleges that you apply to using the Common App will see this essay. You may also be required to write supplemental essays that are specific to one college.  These can be found in the “My Colleges” tab and may include questions like “Why do you want to attend ABC University?” or “Discuss a book that you read this year.” Keep in mind that, in early August, the supplemental essay prompts may not be ready just yet.  If this is the case with one of your colleges, be patient and check back in a couple of weeks. Or, you can check the admissions section of the college’s website to see if the prompts are posted there.

Keep Track Of The Various Requirements and Deadlines

Each college has its own application deadlines and requirements.  Work with your parents and counselor to decide which application plan suits you best and manage to those deadlines, including at least a couple of weeks of buffer for unforeseen delays and system glitches.  Also note what is needed to complete your application for each college, including letters of recommendation, resumé, transcripts, and test scores. Each piece of this application puzzle will need to be received before your application is considered complete.  Remember that you can submit the Common App to each school before the rest of the pieces are sent.

You are in the home stretch!  With some advance planning and work, you’ll be kicking back and waiting for those admission offers before you know it!

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Tagged: college admission, college applications, college planning, common app, essay development, essay writing, essays, writing, college list, college search, extracurricular activities, Personal Insight Questions

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