5 Tips for a Stress Free Common Application


  The Common Application allows you to apply to multiple colleges with the same general application, in addition to supplements from each individual school. Over 700 public and private colleges and universities use the Common Application, and Hughes College Prep recommends it over any other general application tool.

1.  Write many (many) drafts of your primary essay. Hughes College Prep can help you with the essay process, and it is a process. Don’t assume that your first draft is ready to go just because you hit the maximum of 650 words. Have a peer editor to make sure it sounds like you, have a mentor or advisor line edit it, and be tough with yourself on making it detailed, descriptive and interesting. If you don’t feel confident on the tenth or fifteenth draft, keep going until you do – maybe change topics to ensure you’re writing about something that really matters to you. The essay isn’t only useful for getting you into college, you can also use it later in the fall and winter for scholarship applications.

2.   Don’t forget to check for supplementary essays. Once you’ve assigned your final list of colleges on the application, make sure to check that there aren’t extra “writing” tabs under each school. Most colleges will require at least one extra essay, specific to them, and starting on that supplement early will help you personalize the Common Application for your dream schools. Don’t forget that the same admissions counselors are reading both the primary essay and the supplement, so try to write about different aspects of yourself as a student and person to give them as full a portrait as possible.

3.  Create a resume ahead of time to document (and prioritize) your activities. Having an academic resume is incredibly helpful on a number of levels: your recommenders can use it for talking points, you might be able to use it for scholarships and other applications down the road, and you can organize your activities (and descriptions of activities), test scores and class rank before putting them down on the Common Application. Since the Common Application only allows you ten activities, if you’ve gone above and beyond in activity participation, you can decide ahead of time what you’ve dedicated the most time to and what you most want the admissions committee to see. List the most relevant activities at the top, and spend time on your descriptions. Run the descriptions by other people and make sure it’s clear and concise.

4.  Start early. Pro tip: The Common Application open August 1st and now your application rolls over from year to year—so you don’t have to worry about starting over in the fall of your senior year. The last thing you want is to be filling out the Common App the night before the deadline, only to realize you need information you can’t get your hands on. Some of the sections will require information from a parent/guardian, so make sure to ask them ahead of time to save yourself panic later.

5. Double check everything. Don’t enter your 34 ACT as a 24 or leave out your most significant leadership activity accidentally and then only find out after you’ve submitted. It’s not a race! Take your time before the deadlines (we recommend submitting at least a week in advance, but not so many months that you don’t enter new scores, activities or significant accomplishments that could come in fall of your senior year), but also be aware of every school’s deadline.

Hughes College Prep has advisors who have been working for years with students on the Common Application, and we can help you put your best Common App forward. Contact us today to set up a meeting.