Just like job applications, college applications take a lot of time and calculated effort. Once August hits, it is time for college seniors to begin their application process to five or sometimes ten or more schools. Many times selective schools will use their own application, but more schools are beginning to see the benefits of using the Common App. Its website boasts nearly 700 colleges and universities worldwide use the application. It can make applying to many schools a quick process that allows the student ample time to focus on the quality of the application. But it can be confusing and many times lengthier than other applications.

Tips from former applicants can help smooth the process because many times family members are not familiar with the language and requirements. We have compiled the most useful tips from college students who used the common app.

  1. Get started as early as possible – The common app has many pages of personal information that needs to be filled out, such as your parents’ and siblings’ college, parent’s occupation, all extracurricular activities, and your high school coursework. You also need to give your references ample time to complete your recommendations and send them in through the common app. There are many different components of the application that require the help of others, increasing the time it takes to complete. Some schools and programs also require extra supplements such as an additional letter of recommendation. The earlier you can begin entering the the information the better!
  2. Visit the website often and use your counselor – The Common App website is fairly easy to navigate and includes different videos to help students through the process. But some specific sections and questions on the application can be confusing. It is important that students go through the application with their guidance counselor. They can give advice on the best information to include and what to exclude as well as clarify exactly what information the application is looking for.
  3. Map out your deadlines – This applies both with the different portions of your application and the application deadlines. Because the application is so detailed it is important to set deadlines of completion for yourself. Different schools can have deadlines in completely different months and it is important that you do not miss any. It is also important to check in on your recommenders to see if they have any questions and make sure they are keeping to the deadline. You can download the CommonApp onTrack app to help you finish everything on time.
  4. Follow the guidelines – Your essay will have a word count of 650 words, which is just about two and a half pages. It is important to plan out your essay and write a couple versions before you submit it. You can try deleting the first paragraph to get rid of extra words and it might even make your essay stronger without a long introduction. You may have to cut out some extracurriculars and parts of your essay that don’t fit, but this is an important part of following the prompts and guidelines of the application. Choose which information best represents you and what the school is looking for in applicants. Get rid of the rest.

The common app can save students a lot of time filling out supplements and extra essays. With about 700 colleges and universities using the application, students will most certainly have to use it for at least one of their schools. Completing the college application process can be a daunting task especially when students and parents are doing it for the first time. Following these guidelines will help students and parents navigate the system and create the best application.

KCC Staff