9 Smart Strategies for Filling Out the Common App



On August 1, the Common Application went live. This means it’s time to get serious. Seniors can now start filling out applications to the over 750 universities and colleges in the U.S. and abroad that use this online platform. Although some colleges, like the University of Florida and some state school systems like the University of California schools, do not use the Common App, the member institutions include public and private schools, even the Ivy League colleges.
Keeping organized is the best way to complete what will seem like a daunting task. Here are some tips from the educational consultants at International College Counselors:
1. Keep pertinent information easily accessible 
Print out the following and put it in an expanding file folder or other folder:
  • Your social security number or visa number
  • Family information – your parents’ or guardians’ legal names, addresses, occupations, employer, colleges they attended, years they graduated, and degrees they hold
  • Your high school’s information – address, your date of entry to the school, and your guidance counselor’s full name and contact information
  • Scores on standardized tests, including the SAT or ACT and SAT Subject Tests, AP, IB, AICE, or TOEFL scores
  • Approximate graduating class size
  •  A copy of your high school transcript to enter your GPA. (Some schools, like USC, require you to self-report courses and grades on the Common App so a transcript is good to have)
  • Your current list of high school courses
  • A list of the college credits earned if taken through a college
  • A list of summer jobs, extracurricular activities, honors and awards received
  • A credit card for the payment of the application and to send the test scores
  • Financial aid plans (if you intend to apply for need-based financial aid or merit-based scholarships).
Students applying as an in-state resident will usually need to show a few documents for proof. For example, the requirements in Florida can be seen here.

2. Keep track of your account information

The Common App requires students to create a password that is between 10-32 characters and has at least one of the following: an upper case alphabetic character, a lower case alphabetic character, a numeric character, and a special character. Make sure to keep track of the email address you use to register and your password so you can go back and edit your application.
3. Get started on or keep finessing your Common App essay
Most colleges require students to write an essay that responds to one of seven prompts. The 2018-19 Common Application Essay Prompts can be found here. A few Common App colleges have made the Common App essay optional, which means that students are not required to write the essay; however, we strongly recommend sending in an essay for every college. At International College Counselors, we always say that optional essays are not really optional – complete them. If help is needed writing the Common Application essays or the supplements, we offer personalized help.  Please contact us and we’ll help your child easily finish their essays.
4. Keep track of your progress on the Common App
Students can preview each part of their Common App, screen by screen, to make sure they’ve completed each of the sections. Applicants can also keep track of their entire progress by checking the Dashboard. When submitting the application, some materials must be submitted together, while other pieces can be submitted independently.  The ENTIRE Common App must be completed before it is submitted.
5. Track all dates and deadlines on a calendar 
You can do this on an old-fashioned wall/desk calendar or program the dates into your phone and set it up to alert you as the deadlines approach.
6. Keep a folder for each college of interest to you 
A virtual or physical folder will help ensure that you keep all the printed materials, notes, correspondence, passwords, and photos together. The colleges will all start running together otherwise.
7. Know the requirements of each college
Some colleges require applicants to submit writing supplements.  These supplements may only be submitted after the application materials have been submitted. Once again, optional writing supplements are not really optional. Some colleges give interested applicants the option to complete and submit an Arts Supplement as part of their application. Make sure you know the requirements of each college.
8. Make printed records or screenshots
Whenever you send an email to a school or interviewer, or receive a response, make sure you print it out and add it to the folder. You will also want to take screenshots of completed applications and confirmations. One of our students used a screenshot to prove his application was not late. And it worked! It’s best to keep all this together.
9. Break down your tasks. Set manageable goals for yourself

You won’t be able to complete the application in one night or even one weekend. And if you take it all on at one time, it’s going to be overwhelming. Pick a date for contacting teachers, counselors, or coaches who are writing recommendations. Set time aside to really work on your essays. Then remember to check the application over multiple times before you send it.

For more information on the Common App or with any or all parts of the college admissions process, visit www.internationalcollegecounselors.com or call 1-954 414-9986.