Step-by-Step Guide to the Common App

As summer winds down and rising seniors turn their thoughts in earnest to their college applications, we thought we’d try to help with this step-by-step video walkthrough of the Common Application. With over 900 colleges accepting applications through this one platform, it’s likely that your rising senior will need to complete the Common App.

There are 8 videos in this series, and you’ll see my screen as I walk you through each section of the Common App.  You can hit play to the right and watch them here, or you can watch the playlist on our YouTube channel here.

Getting Through the Stress

If this is your first time going through the college application process with a child, you’ll soon discover that there are a lot of stressful parts of applying to college: not knowing whether or not you’ll get into your “dream” school, having lots of essays to write and just lots to do in general (on top of a busy senior year!), not knowing what admissions offices want you to say.  Here’s our advice, which will hopefully minimize the anxiety related to those problems:

  • Balance your list.  Here’s a post with a quick 3-minute explanation of what we mean by “balanced.”  If your list is balanced, you won’t be sitting on pins and needles wondering if you’ll get in anywhere.  You really need to apply to colleges where you KNOW you’ll be admitted – and it’s better if you find a few of those that you don’t feel are “beneath” you.  They’re out there – you just have to put in the effort to find them!
  • Spread out the work.  Finalize your list first, because the work flows from the list!  Then create a big ol’ document with all of your supplements and tackle one at a time.  Maybe just one a week!  Bottom line – don’t wait till the last minute to do all of the work because you know that you don’t produce great work when you’re rushing to meet a deadline!  Check out the videos above and fill out your Common App early – you know you’ll have to do it, so just get that part done!
  • Tell them what you want to tell them about YOU.  They want to hear your authentic voice. So for example – don’t tell them what the debate club does, tell them what YOU learned from being in debate.  Don’t tell them you learned teamwork from being on a soccer team, tell them how you grew during your experience.  The Common App “Activities” video in the above playlist has a few more examples like this.  And for essays, check out a number of our past articles:

One of the valuable assets our team brings to families who work with us is our extensive ‘college knowledge.’  Our counselors spend lots of time on the road each year, visiting not only the big-name, highly selective colleges many families know, but also colleges we consider to be ‘hidden gems.’  This is how we help students balance their lists!  They may not evoke the same bumper sticker gasp as the better-known names, but then again, they may be the place where your child discovers his/her passion, makes lifelong friends, and begins the process of developing professional skills and relationships.  As we help students build their lists and complete their applications, we have the same goal you have:  we want them to be happy and successful.

If you need some help with this, feel free to give us a call!  Happy start to senior year!

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