The 2015-2016 Common Application: An Overview

By now, you’ve probably been hearing quite a bit about the Common App. However, those around you may be talking as if you already know what the Common App is and how to navigate your way through it. We understand that, for most applicants, the Common App is something that you’ll only complete once in your life. That’s why we’ve put together this guide to help you fill out and submit the Common App.

What exactly is the Common App?

The Common App is a centralized application service that is used by over 500 colleges and universities. While this number grows every year, it still only represents about 1 in 8 schools in the nation. As much as you’ve been hearing about the Common App, the schools that most interest you may not actually use it. If not, then you’ll need to complete an individual application for those schools.

Why do schools use the Common App?

College application packages are extremely similar from school to school. There are some schools that may ask for something unusual. However, pretty much all schools want your basic personal information, family information, your educational background, any standardized tests you have taken, activities in school, and an essay. By using the Common App, schools have an easier time processing typical information about you so that they can focus on who you are as an individual and if you’re a match for their program.

The Common App also benefits you because you don’t have to buy postage to mail your applications. Additionally, you don’t have to spend so much time entering the same information about yourself over and over again. Instead, you can devote your time to creating an amazing essay that helps you stand apart from the crowd.

The Sections

Profile – This is simply personal information about you such as your legal name, your address, and your date of birth.

Family – In this section, the Common App asks for information about your parents/guardians like their legal names, place of birth, and occupation. If you’re a non-traditional student who is financially independent, contact your school to see if they want you to fill out the Common App or a different application.

Education – For this section, you’ll need to know the full name and address of your school. The Common App will also ask you about your school counselor, so have that person’s name and official title handy. If you attended more than one high school, you will need to know the name, address, and phone number of that school. Next, this section will ask you about your class ranking and GPA. Finally, the education section covers the courses that you are taking this school year.

Testing – While the school will receive your official scores from the testing agency (SAT, ACT, etc.), in this section you can list future testing dates or self-report your scores.

Activities – For your school activities, you’ll need to be able to briefly describe your work with the organization as well as any leadership positions you may have held. Therefore, you may want to take some time beforehand as you’ll only have 150 characters to include any details and a mere 50 characters for the organization’s name and any leadership position that you may have held.

Writing – Although this section is listed last, it’s the most important aspect of your application. It’s also the part of your application that will take the most time as well as your biggest opportunity to show the admissions officers who you are as an individual. Because of this, it should be where you actually begin the application process. Look over each of the available prompts. If one immediately grabs your eye, that’s fine. However, at least take the time to read each prompt carefully before making a decision. Here’s our in-depth look at all of the various essay options on the current Common Application:

Schedule time to go through the full writing process, from brainstorming to asking others to look over your essay to a final polish for any grammar or punctuation errors. While the other sections of your Common App will be similar to that of numerous other applicants, the essay is where you can help the admissions officers envision you as a mature person who can make a meaningful contribution to their student body.

See how EssayEdge experts from schools including Harvard, Yale and Princeton can help you get into college! Review our services.