Completing the Common App – a Step-by-Step Guide

Completing the Common Application – a Step-by-Step Guide
Here’s a step by step guide to completing the Common App!

This is your step-by-step, section-by-section guide to completing the Common App!  Below you’ll find instructional videos that will guide you through each section of the third “tab” in the Common Application – which is the heart of the application itself.

We hope these short videos will answer your questions about each section of the Common App!  The videos below discuss each individual section. Here’s our YouTube playlist with all of the Common App videos described below!

Completing the Common App – Profile Section

In this 6-minute video, we review how to fill out the Profile section of the Common Application.  This section requests basic information about where you live, what languages you speak, your citizenship and a few other details.

Completing the Common App – Family Section

We cover filling out the Family section in under three minutes!  You’ll need to enter information about your mom and dad – including where they attended college, what year(s) they earned their degree, their occupation(s) – and your siblings, if you have any.  Click here to watch.

Completing the Common Application – a Step-by-Step Guide
On this screen of the Common App in the Profile section, don’t forget to say YES! YES I want scholarships! [Click to enlarge]

Completing the Common App – Education Section

We devoted this video to explaining the SUPER-IMPORTANT Education section to you, piece by piece.  This is where you report your current school, any former high schools you’ve attended , as well as your senior year courses and any college classes you may have taken.  You’ll need to know your school college counselor’s first name, last name, phone number and e-mail address for this section – and if you attend a high school that uses Naviance (Family Connection), you’ll need to complete this section before you can connect your Common App account with your Naviance account.  We also cover signing the FERPA waiver and inviting teachers to recommend you.  If your high school uses Naviance, this video gives you step-by-step directions on how to connect your Naviance with your Common App.

Completing the Common App – Testing Section

Lots to talk about for the Testing section.  We review the benefits and drawbacks of reporting your test scores in this ten-minute video.  We talk about the strategy behind reporting test scores – or not – in the Common App.  Keep in mind – even if you report your test scores here, you will need to send your test scores to all of the colleges on your list directly from the testing agencies.  [Here are the links to the resources we reference in the video: AP score distribution; SAT Subject test percentiles]

Completing the Common App – Activities Section

Here’s our explanation of the Activities section.  Activities are super-important as well – they help colleges understand what’s important to you and how you have spent your time over the past few years.  Don’t shortchange yourself!  Western Washington University has a good sample activities list you can refer to, and our friend Ethan Sawyer, the College Essay Guy, has a great post called How to Make Your Activities List Awesome.

You can also download the Word document below to use as a guide.  Don’t type your activities directly into the Common App – write them out first so that you can edit your responses into the most interesting and descriptive statements possible!  And you’ll probably use that list in applications for other schools that do not use the Common App.


Completing the Common App – Writing Section

Completing the Common Application – a Step-by-Step Guide
This chart reflects the percentage of applicants who responded to each of the Common App’s essay prompts in 2016. Could writing about challenging a belief or idea, or a problem you’d like to solve, help you seem less “common?”

To finish out our series on completing the Common App, here’s a video that touches on the Writing section, adding colleges to your list through the College Search tab, adding and assigning recommenders, and responding to college-specific questions.

The Common App – Resources

In the final video, we mention some college essay resources.  We love and use tools offered by both the College Essay Guy and Essay Hell.  We also like these “Ten Tips for Writing a College Essay.”

The Common App – Bringing it all together

Completing the Common Application is your first step towards applying to college!  We hope the above information, links and videos have helped as you get underway.  If you need a little more hands-on assistance, feel free to get in touch.


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