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Tips for Conquering the Common Application



As of August 1, the Common Application is live. The Common App can be used to apply to more than 900 colleges and universities in the U.S. and abroad. Seniors: If you have not already, now is the time to begin filling out your applications.

The best way to complete the Common App is to stay organized and on top of your application materials. Below are some additional tips from the college advisors at International College Counselors. And remember, if you have questions or need any help with completing your applications from a results-driven approach, contact us.   

  1. Make a Common App account and keep track of your login info.

You must use an email address to create an account. Be sure to register with an email that you check regularly, as colleges will use that email to contact you.  Also, make sure to write down the password as well as the email address you use to register so you do not forget.

  1. Check your email regularly.

It’s worth repeating. Colleges will use your email to send you application reminders, and many will also send instructions for creating your own application portal, where you can see if your application is complete on their end, and if it’s not, what’s missing.

  1. Use a calendar or download the Common Application App to keep track of all dates and deadlines.

Application deadlines are not flexible. You must complete your entire application, in addition to submitting any supplemental materials, by the college’s deadline. Consider using an old-fashioned wall or desk calendar placed in a “can’t miss” location. Alternatively, enter deadlines into your phone calendar, and set up alerts as the deadlines approach.

  1. Start a folder for each school you are applying to.

Either on your computer or in a physical folder, keep all the printed materials, notes, correspondence, passwords, and photos together.

  1. Fine-tune your Common App essay and supplemental essays.

Most schools require students to write at least one essay (the main Common App essay, also known as the Personal Statement). Students choose one of seven essay prompts, which can be found here. In addition to the Common App essay, we strongly recommend that students write all supplemental essays even if the college says that they are optional. Optional essays are not really optional, and not answering them sends a negative message about your work ethic and interest in the college. If you need help writing the Common Application 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.   

  1. Review your application carefully and keep track of your progress.

Small, silly mistakes will not reflect well on you as an applicant. Take your time filling out each section. Students can preview each part of their Common App, section by section, to make sure they’ve completed what is asked of them (just click on “Preview” at the top of each section). Additionally, by checking the Common App’s Dashboard, students can keep track of their progress for each school. When you have completed and submitted all the college’s requirements, you will see a green checkmark and the word “Complete” next to the college. When the ENTIRE Common App is complete, the last step is to click “Review and Submit.” At that point you can print a PDF of the application to ensure everything is as you want it to be before you submit. We strongly recommend printing out the application and reviewing it on paper, a step that many students overlook. Also, have a credit card ready to pay the application fee.

  1. Print records and take screenshots.

Whenever you send an email to a school or interviewer, or receive a response, print it out (or take a screenshot) and add it to the appropriate folder. Take screenshots of completed applications and confirmations once you receive them. 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 in one place. 

  1. Set manageable goals.

Whatever you do, do not plan to complete the application in one night or even one weekend. It’s going to feel overwhelming, and chances of making mistakes will increase exponentially. Set reminders for all dates and deadlines, including when to contact teachers, counselors, and coaches who are writing recommendations. If you have not already, start now and set time aside to really work on your essays. Leave no stone unturned; proofread the application multiple times before you send it, and have someone else proofread it as well.

International College Counselors has different package options for high school seniors. Contact us today at 1-954-414-9986 to learn of your options and to get started.