Juniors: Breaking Down the Common App

Applying to college is like any big project that gets completed over time: it simply needs to be broken down into separate tasks. So in addition to continuing to research and refine the list of colleges to which they will apply and working on their essays, rising seniors also need to take a look at the Common Application when it comes available on August 1st.  By starting now, you'll avoid feeling overwhelmed in fall semester of senior year.

Don't underestimate how important it is to understand and accurately complete the Common Application -- or any other college's unique form.  The information colleges ask for in the application form serves as the foundation of your admission file.

Jane Kulow, a parent who blogs at Dr. StrangeCollege or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Journey, recently posted some strategies for applications and agreed to let us share her excellent advice here.  (We've added a few notes of our own, as well.)

1. Print out the application form as soon as it’s available and complete the easy parts. (Common Application essay prompts are available now, but the actual form and supplements for the individual colleges will not be available until the Common App goes live on August 1st.)

 2. Figure out what you need from others — transcript, recommendations, health forms — and get those requests out ASAP. (For now, make a list so you go back to school prepared to hit the ground running with these requests.)

 3. Read through the essay questions and start thinking.

 4. Begin writing draft responses as soon as you can.

 5. Make a list of the points you want to share (from experiences, extra-curriculars, interests, goals, etc.) and divide them appropriately among the questions.

For some more easy-to-follow advice from the school of experience, check out Kulow's series on how to deal with college application deadlines where these tips originally appeared. You can see the first installment, here.

And, students, please note: you may be hearing a lot of "noise" about the new Common Application, CA4. Don't worry about it. It's simply an updated online platform that if anything will make the process of filling out the application a lot easier. Many of the changes will affect your counselors and teachers, but won't affect you at all. The biggest change for you are the new essay prompts and you have the advantage there, in that they are already available so you can get a start before August 1st. In the meantime, stay tuned to our website for further information and input from the experts on the Common Application. You can see earlier posts on the new platform here, the changes to the essays here and advice on writing for the new topics here.


And for more advice about the Common Application, see Chapter 14, "The Application Form," in College Admission: From Application to Acceptance, Step by Step.


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