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How to Complete the Common App

Last updated November 14, 2022

Most students applying to college will need to use The Common App - a college application accepted by over 900 colleges and universities around the world. Instead of having to create an account on each college’s website and fill out separate applications, you can conveniently fill out the Common App once and save time (and money) when applying to schools! Here’s how to complete the Common App.

How to Complete the Common App

What you’ll need

When you sit down to complete the Common App, give yourself enough time to complete it fully and thoughtfully - we recommend around 1-2 hours. Here’s what you’ll need to complete the application:

  • A copy of your high school transcript - Your transcript is an official record of all the classes you took and grades you received in high school. There are two kinds of transcripts: official and unofficial. Different colleges may require different kinds of transcripts when applying through the Common App, so be sure to double-check that the transcripts you’re submitting meet their requirements - your application may be considered incomplete if you don’t. Typically, students can submit their unofficial transcript themselves, while their high school counselor will need to submit their official transcript. When completing the Common App, you can “Invite a Counselor” using their email address so they can submit your official transcript and any other supplemental things needed for your application - like letters of recommendation. If you have completed (or are working on) any college courses through dual enrollment or similar programs, you will need to submit a transcript from both your current high school and your college.
  • Extracurriculars - Be sure to include all the relevant extracurricular activities you’ve participated in during high school - like work, clubs, sports, hobbies, family responsibilities, etc.
  • Test scores (SAT, ACT, etc.) - Different schools have different testing requirements. Some require test scores, while others may be test-optional or not accept scores at all. Check to make sure you meet the requirements of each school you’re applying to.
  • Your parent/guardian’s information - Occupation, employment status, and level of education they’ve received.
  • Academic achievements and honors - Making honor roll, winning a competitive academic contest, joining the Honor Society, etc.

Once you have these things on hand, you’ll be ready to start the process of applying.

Starting the Common App

To begin the application, you will need to create an account. When making your account, you will need to give information such as name, address, phone number, email, and date of birth.

Filling out the Common App

Now that you’ve created your account, here’s a breakdown of the different sections/tabs you’ll see on your Common App dashboard.

College Search

To begin, click on the “College Search” tab to search for the colleges you intend to apply to and add them to your list. Not sure where you want to apply yet? Check out our guide for building your college list to explore and apply to some great colleges.

My Colleges

After you add your desired colleges to your list, they can be found under the “My Colleges” tab. By clicking on a specific college, you can see a breakdown of their specific application deadlines, fees, requirements, and more. Different schools may have different deadlines, so be sure to thoroughly read up on each school to make sure your applications are submitted accurately and on time.

Be sure to click on the “Recommenders & FERPA” sub-tab when looking at each individual school under the “My Colleges” tab. You need to complete the FERPA (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act) Release Authorization to allow your schools to release information to the colleges you are applying to. After you complete the authorization, you can then invite those writing you a letter of recommendation as well as your counselor to submit your School Report and any other required forms.

Common App

In the “Common App” tab, you will be able to provide information that will be sent to every college you apply to. This includes family information, education history, and test scores. Additionally, you will be able to list all of the extracurricular activities you’ve participated in under the “Activities” section. There are a variety of activities you can write about, such as family responsibilities, jobs and internships, volunteering, hobbies, and sports.

Lastly, you will need to submit your college essay. The Common App gives you 7 different prompts to choose from - choose one that feels most relevant to you and one that you think you’ll have the most to write about for. Want a second opinion on your college essay? We can help! Submit it to us for free review - we’ll have it back to you within a week with personalized, actionable feedback.

Financial Aid Resources

Under the “Financial Aid Resources” tab are important financial aid resources for students - such as information about scholarships, completing the FAFSA, and more. Be sure to check out these resources as you begin the process of applying for financial aid.

Application fees

But what about application fees? Good news - more than 325 of the colleges that accept the Common App don’t have an application fee. For those that do, you may be able to request an application fee waiver. Check out if you qualify for a Common App fee waiver here. Please also check in with your high school counselor for additional assistance on the Common App fee waiver. 

Have more questions about how the Common App works? Text #Hello to 33-55-77 and we’ll walk you through how it works and answer any questions you might have.

Source: The Common App

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