By Leanne Soulard

June 15, 2023

Students love their summer vacations. Why wouldn’t they? But the summer between junior year and senior year is a little less carefree for the college bound. It is the perfect time to get ahead on time-consuming college application tasks, like creating your Common Application account, and getting the basics out of the way. This can actually be a lot of fun when you give yourself ample time to put all the pieces together thoughtfully. What’s more inspiring than planning for the future?

What is the Common Application? Officially, it is a non-profit membership organization dedicated to access, equity, and integrity in the college admission process. Unofficially, it’s the thing that will streamline your college application process and save you hours of time when you apply to college this fall. The Common App can be used to apply to over 1,100 colleges and universities across the nation, all of which accept a common format college essay and activities list. This means that you only need to complete these things once, no matter how many schools you apply to. The biggest benefit here is that you can – and should – focus your energy and attention on writing one really great essay and assembling a dynamic activities list that captures the attention of the admissions counselor reading it. (Think lots of action verbs.)  

So, what is there to getting started? First, create your Common App account here. Even though the platform refreshes annually on August 1st, you can complete almost all of it before then. We do suggest you wait until August 1st to insert your responses to any supplemental essays you need to write since those responses will not roll over on August 1st. Use the first-time applicant guide and well-made videos for each section to guide you through the application. You may need a parent or guardian to help you with some of the family data.

Next, add colleges to your application as you continue to build your list. It’s easy to delete them if you decide not to apply but it’s best to get them added early so you can take time to look for supplemental essays or questions that you may need to write later.

Here are College Edge’s top three tips for using the Common App effectively:

  • Start now by filling out these sections: Profile, Family, Education, Activities, Writing. If you are working with an advisor, book a session or two to work on Activities and be sure that you only add your essay when it is finalized. 
  • Add colleges and review their College Information section.
  • Seek support from a school counselor or your advisor before completing the Testing and Recommenders sections, as your high school may have specific directions for these sections of the application.

Like so many things with college admissions, starting each stage with plenty of time to work through it thoroughly and carefully is the best advice we can give!

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