Your Map to the Common App

The myOptions Team

Since you’re a college bound student now, let's dive into something almost all of you will have to go through-- the Common App. The Common App is a stellar time saver, but that doesn't mean it's going to be a breeze. Here is your guide to the common app:

Do Not Procrastinate

The best advice I can give you is not to wait-- get on this bad boy, stat! You never know what madness will come up during senior year, and though you may claim to be the most successful procrastinator in your high school, you don’t want to chance this. Your application should be something you feel proud of, something you have the utmost confidence in. Waiting until the last minute won’t help anything, so do the future you a favor and start tackling this early.

Once you’ve created your Common App account, you will be taken to your dashboard. Your dashboard won’t show you much, so click on the “College Search” tab. Here you will be able to add the colleges you wish to apply to. Your dashboard will now act as your home base: it will show you the deadlines, requirements, and supplements each school has presented for your completion.

Start the Application

Once you’ve selected your schools, mozy on over to the “Common App” tab. This section goes out to all of your schools, providing each with the basic information necessary to figure out who you are as an applicant. This section is tedious and lengthy, and I suggest taking a period to sit down in your guidance office to crank this sucker out. (If it’s still summer break, give the guidance office a call; you will be astounded by how much time counselors spend at school over the summer.) Your counselors will be able to give you your test scores, class history, and several other things that the Common App will ask of you, so having them right there will keep you rolling as you move along.

Categorize Your Activities

While most of the “Common App” tab is general, the parts that you really want to nail are the last two sections: “Activities” and “Writing.” The Common App only accepts ten activities from your high school career, but you have room to describe each activity. Don’t be afraid to group activities to allow yourself more room-- I put soccer, basketball and track together as “Varsity Athletics,” and mentioned some of my bigger service projects in the description of “Community Service.”

Complete the Personal Essay

Your application is no place to be humble, so get everything in there that you can! Next comes the “Writing” section, the one essay that every admissions counselor you send an application is going to read. Obviously, you want to crush this piece of writing-- this should be the Mona Lisa of your high school essay-writing career. Take some time to brainstorm, draft, edit, and have a trusted English teacher give you some honest feedback. If you put your soul into this piece, you will feel infinitely more confident when it comes time to click the send button.

Discover Different School Requirements

After the “Common App” tab comes the final beast-- the “My Colleges” tab. Here are the questions, supplements, and recommendation requests unique to each school. Every college organizes this section differently, so you should take a few minutes to click through each section.

Even though there may be a section called “Writing Supplement,” many schools will put additional writing prompts in several different spots. You may even have some extra writing prompts pop up as you check off boxes. Whenever I checked my intended field of study, for example, I would almost always have a prompt pop up about engineering and why I chose it. There are plenty of surprises to be found in this section, so don’t leave it until the last minute! It’s a time-taker, but you owe it to yourself to do it well.

Find a Scholarship

The last and final tab is titled “Financial Aid Resources.” Pretty straightforward, but people don’t always take advantage of this one. One of the most frightening things about college is the price. To keep your bills from multiplying, the Common App has links to information on financial aid provided by both the federal government and state governments.

There is also a tool to research colleges and universities for scholarships that are suited for you. If you are to take anything away from the “Financial Aid Resources” tab, it’s one word: DEADLINES. Eligible students for financial aid often don’t apply for it because they miss the due date, or they didn’t even know they were qualified to begin with. So do your research, and do it early. That way, you can make your college education as affordable as possible!

Well, there you have it: the Common App! Hopefully this gives you a little taste of what’s coming, so you can be all the more successful in your final year of high school. This is your time to shine, so show off that hard work and get those admissions officers drooling over your fantastic Common App. Good luck!

Post courtesy of Payton Billingsley

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