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Five Common App Tips for Success

College application season is upon us. As high school seniors across the country are stressed out by trying to keep up their grades, complete applications and write the dreaded personal statement I thought it would be a good time to offer some application tips to parents of seniors so you can help lower the stress level and increase the positive results, aka ACCEPTED, for your student.  Let me begin with the basics: The Common Application.  The Common Application is accepted by approximately 700 colleges nationwide.  Once you establish your Common Application account you can select your colleges from their database.  You will enter biographical, demographic and achievement related information into your profile on the Common App.  That data will then populate to every school that you apply to using this application.  Further, each school will have its own specific questions and possible supplemental essays for your student to respond to.  The Common Application was designed to simplify the application process but the devil is in the details when it comes to college apps so here are some tips to help your student.

Common Application Tips

  1. Assemble all relevant data before you begin.  Not unlike your taxes, it is difficult to pull together a complete and accurate application if the data is not at your fingertips.  Students should have a current resume, high school transcript(s), and biographical data on themselves and their family, i.e. student social security number, colleges mom and dad attended, degrees earned, etc.

  2. The Common Application opened on August 1st so if you haven’t signed up yet, stop reading this and do it NOW!  The application and information can take a while to assemble and procrastination can make the difference between acceptance or rejection, so leave time to create an accurate application that reflects your interests and strengths.

  3. Pay attention to deadlines.  The deadlines for Early Decision, Early Acceptance and Regular Decision are typically provided on Common App for the schools to which you are applying. However, dates for Honors Colleges, Fellows Programs and Scholarship/Merit award applications are not typically available on Common App.  Be careful! Make sure you have thoroughly reviewed the college website and contacted the admissions office if you still have questions about any or all deadlines. 

  4. The Essay.  The personal statement or essay on the Common App is one of the more difficult aspects of the college application process. It is difficult for students at this age to write about themselves in a way that shows a bit about who they are as a person.  There are two tips that can substantially help make your essay better: 1. Share it with the adults in your life and get their opinion on what they learned about you from your essay.  I wouldn’t suggest sharing your essay with your peers but with parents, older siblings, teachers, tutors or minister.  2. Proof read, proof read, proof read!  We believe that even for accomplished writers a good essay takes no less than 7 drafts to be worthy of submission.  It takes time to create a good piece of writing and this is the most important writing your student has done to date. 

  5. Print out the application and proof read every line, use a ruler so you are careful and focused.  Perhaps print a couple of copies and have your student review a copy at the same time, you will find different errors.  The application should be as close to perfect as is possible before you hit the submit button.

In addition, many schools particularly large state schools, are not on the Common Application. Therefore, you will need to create an account for the school’s specific application.  However, since the information requested on the school specific applications is very similar to the Common App the tips above can be helpful to both.  Good Luck and Best Wishes during application season from The Essential College Coaches.

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