Perfecting the Common App

Having access to nearly 300 colleges in one application can help take the stress out of the application process

Perfecting the Common App

Applying to colleges can be a daunting task. This is especially true when you apply to more than one school (which hopefully you’re doing!). Each school has its own requirements and application forms, and many have supplemental requirements. Applying to each school separately can take hours.

Luckily, there’s an alternative. It’s the Common Application, and it can make the application process a breeze.

The Common Application allows for one application to be submitted to many institutions in a short period of time. You fill it out once, write one essay, add any additional information and submit the application to as many schools as you want. Most schools even allow you to submit it online.

The Common Application will save you time, but you have to do it right. No admissions office wants to see an application full of careless errors.

Here are some tips to perfect your Common Application.


Get organized

Before you apply to any college, you need to get organized. Start by looking at the Common Application’s school information page ( You’ll find an alphabetized list of all the schools currently in the Common Application program. Find the schools you plan to apply to, and make a note of all of the requirements for each. Some schools require their own supplements. Use the links provided to download them as you go along.

• Download the application and the supplements you noted and print everything out.
• Be sure you have this information before filling out your application:
• Educational history, starting with the ninth grade
• ACT and SAT scores
• A list of your academic honors
• A list of extracurricular activities, starting in the ninth grade
• Work history for the past three years
• Supplements that need to be filled out by someone else (i.e., the teacher evaluation form)


Prepare the application

Once you get organized, start filling it out. Use the time you will save by using the Common Application to make sure your application is accurate. Here are some tips to help get you started.


Start early

Don’t wait until the last minute. Fill out your application either the summer before your senior year or in the early fall, even if you don’t intend to send it yet. If you’re organized at the beginning of the year, sending the application off when the time comes will be a breeze.


Fill it out first

Fill out everything on your printed copies before you submit it online. By having the information ready, you’ll be less likely to make mistakes. A college application contains a lot of information. You won’t be able to collect it all on the fly.


Get help

It’s in your best interest to get help with college prep and applications. Your school’s guidance counselor or other professional services can help you better prepare before sending any applications.


Check and check it again

You don’t want your application to be rejected because of errors or omissions. Once you have checked it and you’re sure you have it right, check it again.

The Common Application can streamline the process of getting into college. By paying attention to and perfecting the Common Application, you’ll save yourself time and energy. You’ll also better enable yourself to apply to your entire college list.

Ross Blankenship is an admissions analyst and admissions counselor. He is also an author and co-founder of Miro Advantage and, which help with test prep and admissions.


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