Tips for Getting Started on the Common Application

Check out the Common Application here.

Before 1975, every college had a separate paper application that needed to be individually hand written or typed and sent via snail mail. The Common Application was introduced that year to provide a single application that could be completed once and sent to all schools.

The Common Application has come a long way since then, and now includes nearly 900 college members’ individual questions and supplemental essay requirements. Among the schools newly accepting the Common App this year are Elon University, the University of South Carolina, and the University of Florida.

Each year the Common Application is slightly updated, and although the 2019-20 Common Application will not “go live” until August 1st, there are several ways juniors can get started over the summer:

  • Create your Common Application account here
  • Start gathering information required for the Profile and Family sections in the Common App tab. These questions can be more time consuming than one might initially assume, as they require collecting information such as parents’ educational and work histories, and preferred contact information. You may input this information into the Common App now, but remember that some questions may change from year to year and those answers may not “roll over” into the 2019-20 Common App version. To be safe, save a copy of this information in your Google Drive.

    The Common Application requests courses and grades information.

  • Request an unofficial copy of your transcript: For some colleges, students should be prepared to enter their high school courses taken, levels, and grades directly into the Common Application. Colleges will still require official transcripts to be sent directly from your high school, but this can give them an earlier and consistent view of your rigor and performance in high school classes. Wait until after August 1st to see which of your colleges may require this information.
  • Ask your college consultant to demonstrate the College Search feature where you can add colleges to your My Colleges. Your list may not yet be finalized, but it is helpful to become familiar with adding and removing schools in this section. After August 1st you can see the college specific questions and supplemental essays requirements under each college, too.
  • We do not recommend completing any more of the Common Application until August 1st, when information entered in this year’s version will “roll over” into the new version. At that point any enhancements and updated college requirements will be in place.

    Summer offers a great opportunity to become acquainted with the Common Application without any pressure or deadlines, and that investment of time will make it easier to use later as students complete their application process.

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