Tip 1: Sign up for the Common Application (www.commonapp.org). It went go live August 1, 2015.
Account Set Up.
– Use an email address you check often.
– Set up an easy user name and password.
– Text yourself and save this info in a million places.
Tip 2: Overall Application. You can keep changing info until the minute you submit the application. So don’t worry. You can go back and make changes. Any requirement with a red star over the prompt is MANDATORY to fill in. If you plan to apply for financial aid, you need to add your SSN. If you don’t have one, enter all 0s.
Remember, when you’ve completed one section or college, a green check will appear. Your goal is to have all green check in a college row by the time you submit each individual college.
You will also see a variety of tips on the right hand side of each part of the application. These are there to help you should you have questions, or provide more information based on certain answers or information that you provided.
Tip 3: A Smart Common Application. The application is “smart.” That means you will only see items that pertain to you. So it will be different for someone who was born in the US and someone who wasn’t and between someone with parents with just a high school education and those with a PhD. So you will need to be patient and work you way through. Note, with race or language, you can select as many different ones from a dropdown list as you want, but there is no place for other. For those students who need to report an educational interruption or school change, that information will result in extra, critically important writing tasks.
Tip 4: The Top Row. Once you get an account, you will see the Top Row for the first time. The row includes from left to right-Dashboard, My Colleges, Common App, College Search. We give basic information here and then into detail about each tab below.
- College Search is where you will start. You can search colleges by name. You can search by location or type. Once you find a college, you can use the information on this first page. If you click on the blue name of the college, it will bring to the college page with all vital statistics from deadlines, fees, and required recommendations. Go back to the college row, and you can add it to your list. It will give you a chance to go to the Dashboard or back to college info. There are also links to individual college websites. Remember, if you use Naviance, you will have two lists—one here and one on Naviance. They are not connected as many schools do not use the Common App. So you must keep track of both lists.
- Common Application. The next tab left of College Search is the Common Application. This is your working document where you complete your app. There are no longer any limits to how many versions of the application or essays you can use. So feel free to edit as you go, but remember colleges do not want tailored Common Application long essays. Also this year the long essay is optional. When you get to the Writing Section of the application, you will see which colleges on your list require or do not require the essay. You can now preview and/or print each page of the application.
- My Colleges. Third from right. This page lists each college of your list. When you click on the college, it will provide core information about college in center. To the left, it will list the status of Questions, Recommenders, The Common Application, and if required, Writing and Arts Supplements. A green check will appear if a section is completed. You can click on each to complete the section. You can also track when recommenders have submitted their materials.
- Dashboard. Just left of Common Application is the Dashboard. There are two sections to the dashboard.
- Status: This is where you see the status of each application you have in progress: You will see a row for each college with Deadlines. Common Application and Writing Supplement. If there is a green check you have submitted that section. A yellow dot means you have started the process but not submitted. A red dash means a section is not required.
- Writing Requirements: You will also see a list of writing requirements. This will let you know whether there are required essays in The Main Application, Member Questions, or Supplements. Red means required, yellow means optional, and blue means required for some applicants, not all. They will not always let you know which group must fill out the blue requirements. They also do not tell you the actual requirements.
Tip 5: The Common Application Sections The Common Application now has several sections you must complete. You will work on each one and you can go back and forth between sections. You can track the sections on the left. The different sections include Individual Information, Family Information, Educational Information, Testing Information, and Activities/Honors, and Additional Information.
Profile-This where they track your address and demographics. You will need to show your languages spoken and demographics. This is up to you. But they now ask you to identify where each of your parents was born. So be prepared for how you identify some demographic information. Many colleges have added gender identification questions.
Family. They ask you to identify your living arrangements and identify your family members. Most family possibilities are listed so kids—you should be able to make sense of it. You have been doing it all along. This will prepare you later for financial aid. You will need to add your parents’ education. This is confusing if your parent has a graduate degree. You will need to put college, and then enter the number of colleges and graduate schools. They will pop up when you enter the number.
Education. This is where you provide your academic history. You can put in all schools you’ve attending, including universities. You will need to provide explanations for certain educational pathways. You need the date of your graduate as well as your GPA and class size. Honors go in this section. You can list up to 5 honors. You cannot move their order around. If you have experienced an interruption or change, you will need to add a short 250 word response to finish the section.
Testing. The Common Application is not only asking you to report how many times you took particular tests, but it is also requiring you to add your scores for each one. These responses are mandatory, according to the Common Application. But remember, the contract of testing is between you and the testing organizations—The College Board, the ACT, not with the Common Application. So you can opt not to report data here. No matter what–You must send your official scores directly from the College Board or ACT to the colleges to which you are applying.
Activities. Here you can list up to 10 activities. The Common Application asks for lots of context, so have information ready such as hours per week and weeks per year. You have 50 characters to provide your leadership and one line to describe your engagement with each activity. In those 150 characters, be as specific as possible yet terse. Start with verbs and try to tell three specific things you have done with each. You can move activities up and down so that is great should you want to move activities around. Always put your most important activities up top. Sadly you can’t see all of your activities at one time so you will need to keep a priority list to help you order the activities. Once your get to preview the application, make sure your order of activities is correct and that you have no typos.
Writing. The essay must be pasted in or typed directly in the box. You have 250-650 words and must select a prompt to answer. To get the best formatting, possible, use TextEdit or WordPad to paste your essay into. Then paste it into the text box in the Common Application. You can preview and check how the essay is formatted. Check as italics, bold, and underline make the text increase in size and occasionally cuts out text. The essay is also not required for many colleges. They list it under the writing section and tell you it’s status. We highly recommend everyone complete the essay whether it is required or not.
- Additional Information. The Common Application will ask you some questions about potential struggles or challenges you had. You need to be honest, but they will give you space at the end to explain each. They give you 400 words to discuss discipline or legal issues. Be honest but focus on remorse or the positive consequences of a shift in education. There is also an additional section after the essay, where you can provide up
Tip 6: The Essay. Start working on the Common Application 250-650 word essay now. You respond to one of the five prompts, then paste it into a text box using simple formatting. Remember, it is optional for many college, and you can prepare as many versions as you like. See my many tips on writing great college application essays on www.allcollegeessays.org.
Tip 7. Member Questions- For each college on your list, you will see several tabs
Within each tabs, some questions are mandatory and will have a red star over them. When you finish a section, you will see a green check over it. Remember, these answers only go to the particular college to which it belongs. All colleges will not ask all categories. MANY ESSAYS AND SHORT RESPONSES ARE NOW EMBEDDED WITHIN MEMBER QUESTIONS. SO DO NOT ASSUME THERE IS NO WRITING ASSIGNMENT IF THERE IS NO WRITING SUPPLEMENT.
Questions. For counselors, this is a combination of Future Plans and the specific non-writing sections of former Supplements. For students, the Questions section is where you answer specific questions for colleges. This section and how you answer it can affect your writing supplement for specific colleges. For example, if you select a particular honor to apply for, it may link to an extra essay. You will also be able to show how you learned about the college and potential activities to join. It oddly does not include campus visits as an option.
Academics. Some colleges will ask you for your academic interests. Some will give you one choice while others will give you several. You can always choose undecided. Many colleges are allowing you to upload a resume in this section.
Be careful in this section, as some of your choices, may affect your Member Questions Essays and Writing Supplement. A Supplement may very well appear based on what major you choose. For example, a student putting in an Engineering interest at USC will get an engineering specific question in the Writing Supplement that an acting major will not get.
You can also select some potential special programs to apply for and even scholarships. These again may populate essay questions in your Writing Supplement. For example, someone interested in the Ervin Scholarship at The Ohio State will need to answer an essay prompt then in the Writing Supplement, whereas someone who opts not to, will not.
You will also get to select whether you want to submit an art supplement. If you select, yes, an Art Supplement Tab will open on the Dashboard and take you to the college’. This will take you to the school’s SlideRoom account. Contact. This section asks you different ways you have had contact with the college. You have many ways to share this information. Oddly it does not include campus visits as an option.
Activities. This section asks you to identify activities you may wish to pursue at the college.
Family. This section will only appear for some colleges who want to track your family connections to the college. You will need to get the full name and year of graduation of your relatives
Tip 7: Assigned Recommenders. This section will let you know how many recommendations the individual colleges will require.
FERPA: Before you can use this section, you must sign the FERPA agreement. Remember, if you don’t waive your rights, your counselors and teachers may not submit your letters. If your school uses Naviance, you cannot assign teacher or counselor recommenders. You will need to connect Naviance to your Common Application by clicking on Colleges Am Applying To.
You must invite teachers on the Common Application or Naviance. On the Common Application, you must invite and the assign. If you don’t assign, the recommendation won’t make it to the college.
For the first time, the Common Application is separating the school profile and counselor recommendation. This means you must check to see whether the school requires it or not. You can find this on the school profile section and on my website-app—All College Application Essays.
Non-teachers can also submit recommendations—they call these people Other Recommenders. If you can add this option, it will appear within the specific college’s assigned recommenders. Remember, the App has gone paperless, so you need to ask everyone to submit their letters virtually. There is a PDF you can print out, but really try to get your recommenders to do their work online. Even though colleges may take many optional letters, don’t go crazy.
Early Decision. For early decision applicants, you must invite and then assign a parent. They must complete a simple form before you submit your application.
Tip 8. Member Questions and Writing Supplements. The large majority of schools do not require any additional writing. Some do. These schools now have two choices for where to locate their essays Member Questions and/or Writing Supplement. These include anywhere from a short activity statement to a series of long essays. (Counselors, note the short activity statement is now optional and has different word limits determined by each college.) Students, you can paste responses in to textbooks or upload them in some occurrences.ACE Flyer-July 2015proof v2
With the pasting in, the Common Application does not always tell you word limits in many cases, so you will have to experiment. This is where my website-app comes in handy as I tell you exactly the different prompts, length limits, and submissions formats.
You will also see different essays prompts than your friends applying to certain colleges based on your major or programs or scholarship choices. The right side of the page will give you information on certain college programs that you can click on and get more information.
We are here to help you collect your supplemental requirements. Using our website and app, you can start a master list of the supplemental short and long essays. Color code overlapping prompts. My app provides each supplemental essay you will need to write: ALL COLLEGE APPLICATION ESSAYS.
Tip 9 Preview and Submission. All throughout the application, you can preview individual pages. You can also preview the entire application before you submit. Once you are ready to submit, you should make sure everything looks right by using the Preview function. You can save the PDF and even print it out. You can go back and make changes. Don’t let the Submit button scare you. There are several steps to submit. You cannot submit a Writing Supplement until you have paid and submitted the Common Application.
You need to submit college by college. You will need to submit each piece in order. Payment, Common Application, and Writing Supplements. You must pay first and only then can you get to submission process. You need to know how you will pay—Credit Card or Fee Waiver. You will have to pay college by college. There is no master payment system. Speak with your counselors about fee waivers way in advance and remember that you can get fee waivers from the NACAC website.
You are not finished until you have received emails confirming each submission process–Payment, Common App submitted, and Writing Supplement Submitted.
Tip 10: Transfer Students. The Common Application now has a detailed specific application for you. You can submit your forms online and you have your own supplements to answer. Follow our recommendations above as you have the same to do except you don’t any external sites to assist you.