The Common Application – A Whole New World

Parents, do you remember filling out your college application? You probably used a pencil or typewriter (a what?) to fill out the paper application from your school or schools of choice. You mailed them in and then you waited. Today as with everything else in our lives, the process is automated (not a surprise). The Common Application, referred to in its shortened form as the Common App, has changed the way students are applying to college, and we have some things you need to know.

The Common App is used by over 625 colleges in 12 different countries. The list of schools is diverse, but not all schools use the app and some schools use the app PLUS an application of their own. Be aware of the application requirements for each of your chosen schools. You can see the requirements of each member college at a glance here, but you should also review the requirements on your school’s website—the Common App page may not always be correct if the college makes changes.

Because the app is online, your student will only have to complete it one time and then they can send it to as many colleges as they would like. Be careful! Each school may charge an application fee so pay attention to how much you are willing to spend for application submissions. (Some schools will waive the fee as enticement to get you to apply.)

The application goes live every year on August 1st at The current year’s high school seniors can begin to apply on that date. However, students can now start their applications prior to that date and roll them over after August 1st. A good idea is to have your senior set up their profile and enter their basic information at this time including demographic data and information about their families. An application does not have to be completed all at once. Your student can see what information is needed, fill in what they can, and save their progress to come back to later.

One thing your student can get started with over the summer is the application essay. The summer is the perfect time for reviewing the essay prompts and pulling their thoughts together. Have your student look at each one, jot down some quick notes for each, and decide which would be the best to show the college who they really are. Not every college requires an essay and some may require a supplemental essay, but the standard essay prompts for 2016/2017 are here.

Some other tips:

  • When listing extracurricular activities, classwork, or work experiences, put the best ones first:  the activity you were most involved with and had the deepest commitment too, that AP class in line with your major with the highest test score, or that summer job demonstrating your leadership skills. Put the best first.
  • Choose your best test scores to submit—keeping in mind colleges may require specific standardized test results (or even all of them) and official score reports from ACT or SAT.
  • DON’T PROCRASTINATE!!!  Be aware of deadlines, and have a game plan.  Particularly if you are considering Early Action or Early Decision.  Use a calendar to map out all of your important deadlines in one highly visible place.  Many colleges request applications in the beginning of November, but we have seen requirements for some schools as early as September 15th.  Be sure to check the university’s website directly for the most up to date information.
  • Your student can preview each page of the app to more easily review their information—a good idea especially with the written essay to make sure it appears with proper spacing and format.
  • Be sure to carefully review for accuracy before submitting making sure the application tells the university the story of your student.

Asking a financial advisor to answer questions about completing the Common App may not be expected. But Capstone stays in the know with this whole new world in order to be fully informed and to share this information with you. How can we not? Contact us with your questions today.