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How to Apply

Here’s a general list of what you’ll need and what will be required from you for your college applications:

  • Biographical and family information.
  • A list of your extracurricular activities, hobbies, and interests.
  • Letters of reference/recommendation. Usually these are from teachers, but occasionally can be from people in your community as well (employers, clergy, coaches, youth leaders).
  • High school grade transcript.
  • SAT/ACT scores.
  • Personal essay. Most schools require that you answer their specific essay questions. This is another reason to limit your list of schools - you don’t want to have to write 15 essays!
  • Application fee.

Many college applications can now be found online. Make sure that you are aware of the specific requirements and deadlines for your specific schools. That information can be found on the colleges’ websites under the Admissions section. Before you submit the application, have a parent or trusted adult check over the application for spelling errors and possible omissions. This is vitally important in the Internet age, as one wrong click and your incomplete/typo-filled application can be submitted (disaster!).

Tips for Filling Out Applications

  • Make deadlines. 99.99% of the time, the deadline is the deadline and if you miss it or are late, you will have to wait to reapply in the next cycle. Don’t let this be the reason you are not matriculating at the college of your choice in the fall. Be aware of each and every deadline in the application process. Make a helpful list or spreadsheet of all the appropriate dates and the application deadline for each school.
  • Proofread/write neatly. For those schools that don’t have online applications, you may need to actually type or write the application longhand. Make copies of the application so that you can complete drafts before settling on the final version. Have a parent or trusted adult read the applications to proofread for grammar errors, spelling mistakes, syntax, and clarity before sending. Neatness counts. The better you present yourself in these simple, correctable ways, the more seriously the admissions office will take you.
  • Be truthful and proud. Making things up will only come back to bite you in the proverbial rear-end. Tell the truth about who you are and what you’ve done. Maybe all you did was work at an organic grocery store after school for 3 years. Talk about your commitment to a work ethic and saving the planet! Take pride in your accomplishments, no matter how small they seem to you. On the flip side, don’t over-exaggerate your own importance or feats.
  • Know how to write an essay. If your essay writing skills are less than desirable, make sure you review basic essay and paragraph structure. The most important thing about an essay is that it is written in your own words.

What is the Common App?

The Common Application (or Common App) is a standardized college application that can be submitted simultaneously to over 500 different member schools. The requirement for colleges to gain membership in the Common App organization is a dedication to a “holistic selection process”, meaning that the entire student is taken into consideration and not just grades and test scores. The idea behind this is that it’s better for students to focus on visiting schools and their senior year coursework than filling out multiple applications. With the Common App, you will only fill out one application, though many schools have an individualized supplement which they would also require with the Common App for admission.

Where Can You Use It?

The Common App is accepted at many of the nation’s best liberal arts colleges and universities, as well as smaller, less-recognized schools. The University of Pennsylvania, for example, exclusively uses the Common App with a supplement.

Where do I fill it out?

As of August 2013, the Common App will only be available online at the Common App website. You’ll be able to print it out for your own use, but the version sent to colleges will be the online version. So before you hit “Send”, proofread the application several times! Once it is sent, the college receives it as is and it cannot be corrected.

Will I have to write a separate essay for every school?

Not necessarily, but maybe depending on where you apply. Most schools have a supplement to the Common App that may include individual essay questions, but there is a standard essay as part of the Common App that every school will receive.

What if I want to change it after I’ve already sent it to a school?

Unfortunately, you’re not able to edit the Common App after it’s been submitted to a school for that school. However, you will be able to create unlimited versions of the Common App with variations for different schools. The only section you cannot re-edit once you’ve submitted the App to a school is the essay. So, for example, let’s say you’re applying to Williams, Amherst, and Wesleyan in that order. Your home address changes after you submit your Common App to Williams. You can edit the Common App to reflect your new home address before submitting to Amherst and Wesleyan.