On August 1, the Common Application goes live, and students can start filling out applications to the over 500 colleges that participate in the program. These schools are in 47 states and the District of Columbia, as well as in Austria, France, Germany, Italy, United Kingdom, and Switzerland. The colleges and university members are of all sizes and missions and include public and private schools, even the Ivy League schools.
Keeping organized is the best way to complete what will seem like a daunting task.
Keep pertinent information easily accessible.
Print out the following and put it in an expandable folder. Then don’t lose track of the folder.
- Your social security number.
- Family information— your parents’ or guardians’ legal names, addresses, occupations, employers, 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 AP, IB or SAT Subject test scores.
- A copy of your high school transcript so you can enter your previous courses and grades.
- A list of the high school courses you’re currently enrolled in.
- 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. (Do 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.
Get started on or keep finessing your Common App essay.
The 2014-15 Common Application Essay Prompts can be found here.
Work on your resume, if required.
Students can attach a resume only if a specific school asks for it. There will be an upload area for it within the college’s writing supplement.
Keep track of your progress on the Common App.
Students can do this by checking the completion Dashboard. When submitting the application, some materials must be submitted together, while others can be submitted independently. The ENTIRE Common App must be completed before it is submitted
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.
Keep a folder for each college of interest to you.
This will help ensure that you keep all the printed materials, notes, correspondence, passwords, and photos together. They will all start running together otherwise.
Know the requirements of each college.
Some colleges require applicants to submit writing supplements. These supplements may only be submitted after Application materials have been submitted. Optional writing supplements are not really optional. A number of schools have already posted theirs for the upcoming year and can be found here. Some colleges give interested applicants the option to complete and submit and Arts Supplement as part of their application. Some member schools replaced the Arts Supplement with Slideroom.com integration. Make sure you know the requirements of each college.
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.
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.