You are here

Navigating the Common Application

Navigating the Common Application

By: Holly Sansom

Applying to college is stressful. The pressure can feel unbearable, and the last thing you need is to stress over navigating the Common App.


The Common Application or “Common App”, is a website designed to streamline your application process to over 450 U.S. schools. Although the 2015-2016 application has had several updates, it can still feel overwhelming navigating the application process. Never fear: for a successful and simple application process, follow some of our tips!


Plan Ahead & Get Organized

It may seem obvious, but the first step to a successful Common Application is to prepare as early as possible. Start your process by visiting This will allow you to begin brainstorming using the website’s research tools and resources. Your planning may include signing up for extracurricular activities, volunteer work, additional test score tutoring, or engaging an admissions consultant.


Your application will only be as good as your preparation, and if you gather the necessary documentation long before the deadline, your application process will be much smoother. For The Common App, you will need a copy of your transcripts, your comprehensive test scores (if available), any extra-curricular activities, and information about your parents or guardians. Start coming up with essay ideas, too!


Complete the Application

This seems like the scary part, but because you already did the preparation, completing the application should be a breeze! Be prepared, though: This will take some time...


Sit down with the information that you gathered above, and get started on your application. You can save your app as you go, so don’t worry if you need to take a break, or come back another day to complete information.


There are six primary sections of the application:


  1. Profile
  2. Family
  3. Education
  4. Testing
  5. Activities
  6. Writing


Sections one through five are straight-forward data entry. It’s always a good idea to work with a family member or friend to double check your entries for errors.


You should spend the bulk of your time preparing for section 6: Writing. Schools that are a part of The Common App require a writing sample. You get to select from several essay prompts, and this is your chance to show your personality beyond academics.  It is highly recommended to develop your essay in a word processing document prior to submission on the Common Application website. Be sure to triple check the formatting and word-count after copying and pasting! You wouldn’t want to lose any of your hard work at the last minute.


TIP: When you are scrolling through the 2016-2017 Common App, it is not always clear which schools require a supplemental piece of writing in addition to the standard essay. Some may be clearly listed under “Supplements”, but just as often, they are tucked away in the “Activity” section or other areas of the application itself. These may be short answer questions, but you don’t want to miss an opportunity to have your voice heard by the admissions department!



Hopefully these tips on Navigating the Common App will help you focus on the most important part of your application: you! 


Image source:

Submit Enquiry

Book Free Appointment Now

Limited availability