Each year, over 1 million students apply to over 900 Common App member colleges worldwide. What is the Common App, you ask? It’s a non-profit membership organization that represents more than 900 colleges across the U.S. and 20 other countries. Their main focus is to connect applicants to these colleges.
Which means you might be able to apply ALL to your top colleges at once using the Common App. That makes it easy and efficient!
Whether you use the Common App or apply individually, there are a few general rules to follow as you complete your college application to ensure your own best success.
1. Know your deadlines
Every college has its own set of deadlines. Plan ahead and get all the requested information in well before that deadline. You don’t all your hard work, hopes, and dreams to come crashing down because of a delay in the postal service. If you’re submitting your application online, do it ahead of time in case there’s a glitch in your internet coverage.
The Common Application is due in full by 11:59pm on the deadline in your Common Application Dashboard. Remember that this is based on your location, not your college’s, and all times are listed in Eastern Standard Time.
2. Read all instructions
Carefully review all the instructions for your college application. Make a list of what you need and when you need it. This will be your master to-do list as you prepare for college your junior and senior years of Highschool.
3. Provide everything requested
- Fees. Roughly half of colleges charge an application fee and half do not. Make sure you check to see if you’ll owe any fees.
- Activities. You’ll be asked to include extra-curricular activities on your college application. This includes sports, but also music and theatre, and any ongoing community service or club participation. Remember, they’re looking for a glimpse of who you are now, so don’t include any middle school activities, onetime activities, or things you haven’t done in your junior or senior year.
- Work. If you’ve worked while in high school, include this information. Not only will it explain lower activity participation but also let the college know you’ve learned responsibility, time management, and teamwork.
- Family Responsibilities. If you regularly care for younger siblings or older grandparents, include this in your extracurricular activities. Note if you’re responsible for regularly cleaning and cooking while a parent is at work. Again, this shows responsibility and explains how you’ve spent much of your time in high school.
- Test Scores. The college may ask you to include your SAT and ACT scores. Remember, this is important, but is not the most important factor for getting into the college of your choice.
4. Write and proofread your college essay
Know the prompt of the colleges you’re applying to or use the Common App essay prompt. Read the options thoroughly and answer the prompt completely. You can read more details in this article about writing your very best college essay.
5. Be honest as you complete your college application
Some of the most prestigious schools only admit 5% of students who apply, so stretching the truth or flat out lying on your college application may be tempting. Don’t give into the temptation. Tell the truth in all areas of your application, from test scores to essay content.
6. Be thoughtful about your recommendations
Don’t just choose the closest adult body for your college recommendations. Be thoughtful. Who has influenced you, especially during the second half of high school? Consider:
- Boss or Coach
You can read more about choosing and managing your recommendation letters here.
7. Request transcript copies
You can’t physically mail your transcripts to your college of choice, but make sure your school office has received a transcript request and that they have fulfilled it before your deadline.
8. Keep copies of everything you send
As is true with homework, keep a copy of everything you submit in your college application. That way, if something goes missing, you’ll be able to resend it quickly. Organization takes a bit more time on the front end, but pays for itself tenfold if you need to locate missing pieces.
9. Confirm they arrived
Stay on top of the application process and make sure that everyone has what they need well before your deadlines. This goes for your recommendation letter requests, your transcripts, fee payments, and all your paperwork. Missing something could mean the difference between getting accepted or not.
As you go through this process, remember: your attitude matters!