Tips for Common Application

You’re finally sitting down at your computer and are ready to complete the Common Application but where do you start? Will you complete it correctly? How long will it take? Are there things you should know that will represent you in the best possible light? Well, read on. Below are a list of Common Application tips we at Signature College Counseling have compiled to help you with this endeavor. Remember, the anticipation of the actual event is worse than the event itself. Don’t be fearful of completing your Common App, don’t postpone the inevitable, just sit down and do it. You will be glad you did so.

Common Application Tips that Could Save You Time and Mean the
Difference Between Acceptance or Decline

1. Create a Student Resume Before Starting the Common Application

Before you even sit down to complete your Common Application, develop your student resume (See our valuable blog on this that will help you enormously in creating your resume, click here). Why should you do this? Number 1: this will set you up to easily complete your Honors and Activities section. Number 2: about 80% of schools allow you to upload your resume as a part of their application process.

• If you have descriptions of your activities that are greater than 150 characters (with spaces), in a separate document from your resume, reduce them down to at or below this number. In the Common Application Activities section, there is a maximum of 150 characters that are allowed to describe your activity.
• Considering you only have 150 characters to describe your activity, every word counts. I cannot stress this enough.

2. Start Completing Your Common Application Early

Even though the current year’s Common Application is available each August 1, you can complete the general part of the Common Application (COMMON APP tab) anytime prior to then, from 8/1 of the prior year (e.g., for the 8/1/20 Common Application for the 2020-2021 application year you can complete the general portion of the application beginning 8/1/19.) This is all of the general information, as in personal and family, honors, activities, high school information. Like I say, don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today!

3. Completing the Demographics Section of the Common Application Can Help Admissions

The demographics section is optional. Typically, the only students I have complete this section in its entirety are those that come from an underrepresented group. Why is this? Colleges have various demographic groups that they want to be a part of their community that adds diversity and inclusion. If a student is a part of this demographic, letting the colleges know this information can be important in the admissions process.

4. Have Your Social Security Number Handy

Have your social security number on hand while completing the Common App. You will need this and are expected to enter this information.

5. Tip If You Attended More than One High School

If you have attended more than one high school, write a paragraph as to why this is the case before you start the application as you will be asked to provide an explanation as part of completing your Common Application.

6. Have Guidance Counselor Information Ready

You will be expected to enter your guidance counselor’s full name, email and phone number on the Common Application, so gather this information beforehand.

7. Don’t Self-Report Test Scores on the Common Application

I don’t typically have my students self-report their test scores (SAT/ACT/AP…etc.). For the scores that you are going to send to your list of colleges, you will send them officially. The possibility of entering this incorrectly is high, and in reality, there are few scores that are high enough where you want to self report. Just leave it to the official reporting agencies to do so when, and if, you want to report them. Note: AP scores are not required to be submitted to any school (other than one that I can think of: Princeton, at least at this time of this blog post). They are submitted after you have selected which school you will be attending for credit equivalent approval.

8. Complete Your Common Application Personal Essay Early and Double Check It

Write your Common App personal essay early and get it out of the way. (Link to the prompts: Check to be sure EVERYTHING is spelled correctly and is grammatically correct. Of course, you will have plenty of time prior to submitting your application under the current year’s Common Application to do so, but it’s never too early to check, and double check.

These tips should help you more efficiently complete your Common Application.

Looking for more help with the college application process? We help students and families through the entire college planning journey – from search, applications and essays to interview prep, financial aid consultation and final school selection.

Contact us at or by phone, 845.551.6946. We work with students through Zoom, over the phone and by email.