Juniors Can Start Their Common Application (and some tips for making applications go more smoothly)

900 plus colleges in the United States use the Common Application, or common app, as their application for admission. Instead of having to complete multiple applications with the same information, the Common App simplifies the process. The Common Application serves as a sort of application portal. Students input data like contact information, high school coursework, and parental information into the common app. They write a personal statement. They can send links to recommenders to submit letters of recommendation, upload test scores and transcripts. Students select the colleges they wish to apply to and can also complete college specific questions and submit materials for those colleges within the common application. It officially opens August 1 each year, but juniors can create an account now and complete some sections (if they want to get a jump on things).

Students should use/create a personal email address that is not their high school email or their parents’ email address. High schools often shut off students’ emails after graduation, making it challenging to communicate with colleges over the summer if you use your high school email address. Many colleges communicate separately to parents and will want their email in their database uniquely from the students. Creating a dedicated student email for the college process can be helpful to keep everything in one place. Sharing the log in details with a parent can allow them to read through admission materials and financial aid materials that tend to come electronically and directed to the student.

To get started, visit the Common Application website here. Select create an account, then first time student, and create an account using the dedicated email address mentioned above. Start a notebook to keep the login credentials for all of these sites. There will be a lot of them over time (you will have a portal for almost every college which we will discuss another time). Once you log in, the student has a dashboard (blank initially). Under the my college tab you can look for a school and add it, and it will appear on your dashboard.

Under the common application tab, students can begin entering their data. There are several sections listed along the left side to complete. Many questions have character limits (like activities and the personal statement). It can be helpful to draft them in a word or google doc then transfer once happy with the content. Save all your work.

On the dashboard there is an application requirements button. This is a chart showing all the schools you have listed with the college admission deadlines. Scroll right to see which schools require which materials. WS means the school has their own writing supplement (their own essay). The blue question mark next to each heading it explains what the section means. It is important to plan ahead and provide enough time to write any supplemental materials. You will not be able to see the school specific sections until August 1. You can not submit a completed common application until August 1 (and no need to submit that early unless you are really ready–most students will submit their applications by the November 1 deadline, typically in late October). But working on the application over spring and summer will give you time to make it truly reflect your strengths and include the information you feel is important to share with colleges.

If your school uses Naviance you can link to your common application in Naviance. Check with your school counselor if they prefer you to use Naviance to request letters of recommendation. If not, you can send recommenders a link to complete the recommendations within the Common Application. Ask teachers this spring before school lets out if they will be your recommender. This allows them to work on your letters over summer.

The common application does change slightly from year to year. The personal statement questions are not changing this year. So feel free to start brainstorming and drafting your 600 word essay.

If you need help with your application components, Coffman Consulting is always happy to help.

Published by Kate Coffman

Kate has worked in admissions, financial aid, college and career readiness for over twenty years. She most recently served as the Vice President and Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid at Franklin College. Kate has also worked in admissions at Butler University and Indiana University. Kate has presented at numerous schools and conferences helping families, educators and those who work with youth understand how to be college and career ready, how to apply to college and how to afford their education.

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