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May 9, 2024


Decoding the Common App: Strategies for Success

 Student and Teacher comparing Notes

The Common Application, often called the Common App, is a widely used college application platform that allows students to apply to multiple elite colleges and universities using a single application. While the Common App streamlines the college application process, it can also be complex and daunting for many students, particularly those navigating college admissions for the first time. In this guide, we'll decode the Common App and provide strategies for success to help you navigate the college application process effectively.

  1. Start Early:

    The Common App typically opens for the application cycle in August, several months before most application deadlines. Starting the application early gives you ample time to familiarize yourself with the platform, gather the required information and materials, and complete it without feeling rushed. Procrastination can lead to unnecessary stress and compromise the quality of your college applications.

  2. Read Instructions Carefully:

    Before filling out the Common App, carefully read the instructions and guidelines for each section. Pay attention to specific requirements, word limits, formatting guidelines, and any additional materials or documents that specific elite colleges or universities may require. Understanding the instructions will help you avoid common mistakes and ensure your application is complete and accurate.

  3. Gather Necessary Information:

    The Common App requires various information and materials, including personal details, academic history, extracurricular activities, standardized test scores, and essays. Before filling out the application, gather all necessary information and documents, such as transcripts, test scores, and letters of recommendation, to streamline the process and prevent delays.

  4. Organize Your Activities and Achievements:

    The Activities section of the Common App lets you list your extracurricular activities, work experiences, volunteer work, and other achievements. Be strategic in how you organize and present this information. Focus on activities that are meaningful to you and showcase your skills, interests, and passions. Provide brief descriptions and highlight any leadership roles or significant accomplishments.

  5. Craft Compelling Essays:

    One of the most critical components of the Common App is the personal essay or personal statement. Take the time to brainstorm ideas, reflect on your experiences, and craft compelling essays that showcase your personality, values, and aspirations. Be authentic and genuine in your writing, and use specific examples and anecdotes to bring your essays to life. Seek essay feedback from teachers, counselors, or mentors to refine your essays and make them stand out.

  6. Proofread and Edit Thoroughly:

    Before submitting your Common App, carefully proofread and edit each section to ensure clarity, coherence, and correctness. Check for grammatical errors, spelling mistakes, and typos, and make any necessary corrections. Consider reading your application aloud or asking someone else to review it to catch any overlooked errors or inconsistencies.

  7. Submit Before Deadlines:

    Be mindful of application deadlines and aim to submit your Common App well before the deadline to avoid last-minute stress and potential technical issues. Keep track of deadlines for each college or university you're applying to, as they may vary depending on the institution and type of application (e.g., early decision, regular decision). Submitting early also allows you to have a buffer in unforeseen circumstances.

  8. Follow Up as Needed:

    After submitting your Common App, follow up with each college or university to ensure all required materials are received and processed. Check your application status regularly through the Common App or the institution's admissions portal, and contact the admissions office if you have any questions or concerns. Stay proactive and informed throughout the college admissions process.

In conclusion, decoding the Common App and navigating the college application process requires careful planning, attention to detail, and effective communication. By starting early, reading instructions carefully, gathering necessary information, organizing your activities and achievements, crafting compelling essays, proofreading and editing thoroughly, submitting before deadlines, and following up as needed, you can increase your chances of success and present a strong and polished application to colleges and universities. Remember that the Common App is just one piece of the college admissions puzzle, and your application should reflect your unique strengths, experiences, and aspirations.