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Common App Prep: Get Started on Your Common Application This Summer

Common App Prep: Get Started on Your Common Application This Summer

Now is the perfect time for current high school juniors to start on their Common Applications. While the Common App doesn’t officially open until August 1st, students can still create accounts, input basic information, and get started on their personal statements.

At IvyWise, we encourage students to become familiar with the Common App before senior year so that they can feel confident as and prepared as they embark on the college application process. Students who get started well in advance of their application deadlines can avoid the stress that often comes with working down to the wire and benefit from additional time to review their work. This can be particularly beneficial for students who are interested in applying via Early Decision or Early Action, as those application deadlines are much earlier than those for Regular Decision applications.

Ready to get started? Here’s a look at the different sections of the Common App that students can fill out well before their senior year, as well as tips for completing each of these components.

The Basics: Creating Your Common App Account

Every student should begin their experience with the Common App by creating an account on their website. Students will need to choose what type of account they wish to create. Rising seniors applying to college for the first time will need to select “First Year Student.” Following this, applicants will be asked to provide basic information including their address, legal name, and date of birth. Additionally, an email account must be provided – choose one that you check frequently, as the Common App and colleges will contact you via this address for important information and updates. Finally, students will be asked to check off several boxes, including those that indicate that you’ve read the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. Following this, click “Create Account” to finalize your account.

Adding Schools to Your Common App My Colleges List

Creating your account is exciting, but it’s only the first step in your process with the Common App. Once students have their account, it’s time to begin adding colleges to your list. Remember that your account will roll-over, so there’s no harm in getting a head start on this process. If there are schools you know you wish to apply to, you can use the College Search tab to find the schools you wish to select. Students can also continue exploring options by using the filters button to sort by a variety of features including distance from a zip code, enrollment term, application fees, writing requirements, and standardized testing policy. Applicants can go back to this section and continue to add colleges, so don’t worry if your list of schools isn’t finalized yet.

The Common App Essay

The Common App essay may seem like the most daunting component of the application process to many students. Instead of putting it off, aim to get familiar with the different prompt choices and start brainstorming potential topics. The essay prompts for the 2020-2021 application cycle will remain the same as the prior year, which means students can start reviewing the different questions now and pinpointing which query they would like to respond to. Students have seven different prompts to choose from, including sharing an essay of their own choice, so there is bound to be a category that works for everyone. Even if you’re not ready to write a finalized version just yet, begin exploring different ideas and compiling an initial draft that you can revisit throughout the summer.

Gathering Other Application Materials

Filling out the Common Application takes time and requires information from a multitude of different documents. Don’t wait until the last minute to track down these materials. Instead, start to compile them now so you have something to refer back to throughout your application process. Students will need a copy of their high school transcript, a list of their activities and responsibilities, test scores and dates from college entrance exams such as the SAT or ACT, information about their parents or guardians, and a compilation of academic honors and achievements.

For many current juniors, pulling together all of the documents right away may not be realistic – some students may still be completing their standardized tests or awaiting score results. And with schools closed, getting things like transcripts and other official records will be delayed until the fall semester. Don’t worry about having to get everything done right this moment. Instead, aim to work through this list of requirements gradually and systematically. For many students, creating an activity list can be a good starting point. Reflect on your extracurricular engagements, school clubs, volunteer commitments, part-time jobs, and family obligations. Highlight activities that demonstrate the interests and passions that make you a unique applicant. Students can also begin listing out any academic achievements or awards they have received throughout their high school careers.

At IvyWise, we know that filling out the Common App can be both exciting and overwhelming. We encourage current juniors to become familiar with the actual Common App now so they have ample time to review and refine their work this fall. We’re here to help future applicants throughout every step of the college admissions process by offering personalized guidance, answering pressing questions, and devising plans of action. Contact us today for more information on how IvyWise’s team of expert counselors can help you put together college applications that will you have the best chance of admission to your top-choice schools.