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The Common App is Live: 8 Tips for Staying Organized

The Common Application went live this Saturday, August 1. Although some of the state school systems like the University of California schools, the University of Florida, and Florida State University do not use the Common App, 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.

1. Keep pertinent information easily accessible

common app photoPrint out the following and put it in an expanding file folder or other file 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 TOEFL, 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.

2. Get started on or keep finessing your Common App essay

Most colleges require students to write an essay on one of five topics. The 2015-16 Common Application Essay Prompts can be found here. This year, 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. For tips on writing the Common Application essays, go here.

3. 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 others can be submitted independently. The ENTIRE Common App must be completed before it is submitted.

4. 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.

5. 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.

6. 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. Optional writing supplements are not really optional. 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.

7. 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.

8. 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.