9 Tips for Completing the Common Application
Seniors, get ready! On August 1, the Common Application will be live and ready for you to complete. If you have not begun already, now is the time to start filling out your application. The “Common App” is by far the most popular way to apply to college, as it is accepted by nearly 900 colleges and universities across the U.S. and overseas.
Organization is the key to conquering the Common Application. Stay on top of the application process with the tips below from the seasoned advisors at International College Counselors. As always, if you have questions about your applications, contact us!
1. Create a Common App account. Make sure to write down your login information, so you don’t forget. You will need to use an email address to create your account. It is best to register with an email that you check regularly – colleges will also use that email to contact you, and you don’t want to miss anything.
2. Keep an eye on your inbox. We’ll say it again because it’s worth repeating. Schools will maintain contact through email, sending reminders, important details, and instructions for your application as well as information to set up your “portal,” where you can see if your application is deemed complete, or, if not, what’s missing.
3. Download the Common Application App. As we mentioned previously, organization is critical to Common App success. To stay on top of your application from anywhere, download the Common Application mobile app on your phone or tablet.
4. Use a calendar. Whether on your phone, computer, or an old-fashioned wall or desk calendar, it is imperative that you keep track of dates and deadlines. Keep your physical calendar in a location that is easily accessible, where you won’t miss it. Alternatively, if using a digital calendar, make sure to set reminders and alerts so nothing is missed.
5. Keep electronic or hardcopy records. Start a folder – either on your computer or a physical folder – for each school to which you are applying. Keep copies of application materials, correspondences, and login information all in one place. Then, whenever you send or receive an email to or from a school or interviewer, add it to the corresponding folder. Take screenshots of completed applications and confirmations as you receive them. One of our students used a screenshot to prove his application had not been submitted late…and it worked!
6. Review your essays with a fine-tooth comb. Most schools require students to write the main Common App essay, also known as the Personal Statement. For this essay, students must choose one of seven essay prompts, which can be found here. In addition, many schools either require or give students the option to write supplemental essays to accompany their applications. We strongly recommend that students write all supplemental essays, even if the college says they are not required. The way we see it is: optional essays are not really optional, and not putting forth the effort to write the additional essay sends the wrong message to schools about your work ethic and interest level. If you need help with any college writing, the essays, or the supplements, even if you’re not a client of International College Counselors, we offer individualized essay help through our sister company, Edit the Work.
7. Keep track of your progress. On the Common App’s Dashboard, students can keep track of their progress for each school. The Dashboard shows when a particular school’s application and supplements are in progress, completed, submitted, or have been downloaded by the college. Within the application itself, completed sections will be noted with a green checkmark. Alternatively, anything without a checkmark is incomplete.
8. Go over your application carefully. Take your time filling out your applications. Minor errors and silly mistakes are distracting for application readers and will not reflect the student and applicant you really are. To ensure each section is completed accurately, you can preview each part of the Common App, section by section, by clicking on “Preview” at the top of your current section. When your ENTIRE Common App is complete, the last step is to click “Review and Submit.” Prior to submission, you will have the option to print a PDF of the application. We highly recommend not skipping this step, as many students do, to ensure everything looks the way you want it to be before you submit.
9. Give yourself time. Whatever you do, do not plan to complete the application in one night or even one weekend. To do so would be nearly impossible without making many errors, not to mention it would be completely overwhelming. By starting now, you will give yourself ample time to leave no stone unturned. Make sure to proofread the application multiple times before you press submit and, for good measure, have someone else proofread it as well.