The Common App streamlines the college application process for students and is now accepted by more than 900 member colleges and universities. In addition to a main application, each college has the option to include a supplementary form, which provides the opportunity to add college-specific questions and essays.

New Features

The 2020-2021 Common App was launched on August 1st. Here’s what’s new this year:

  • COVID-19 Question: A dedicated space on the Common App form, in the Additional Information section, to elaborate on the impact of the pandemic, both personally and academically.
  • 42 New Members: Clemson, Loyola University Chicago, University of Georgia, and Virginia Tech are among the colleges that will now accept the Common App.
  • Expanded Search and Filter: In the College Search tab, applicants can filter their college search by state, distance from your zip code, application deadlines, standardized testing policies, and more.
  • A New Recommender System: Once you invite your recommenders, they can create an account, link to the Common App accounts of all the students they are working with, and complete your recommendation more efficiently.
  • Mobile App: The new Common App mobile app is expected to be released this fall and allow for easy tracking of your applications, deadlines, and requirements.

Tips and Tricks

Despite its widespread use among colleges, the Common App can be a confusing platform for some students as they get started on the application process. Here are some helpful tips and tricks when tackling the Common App:

Tip #1: Start early!

Give yourself at least six weeks before your earliest application deadline. Avoid the stress of fighting against the clock and the possibility of website crashes, power outages, or any other unforeseen hiccups along the way.

Tip #2: Do your writing in advance.

Whether you like to write in Microsoft Word, Google Docs, or Pages, have all of your essays written, proofread, and ready to be copy and pasted into the Common App site. This includes the 650-word personal essay, the optional 250-word Covid-19 essay, and any supplemental essays your schools require.

Tip #3: Gather information ahead of time.

The Common App asks for A LOT of specifics about your background. Have it all organized and handy when you sit down to complete the application. This includes:

  • Family Information: Parents’ and siblings’ schools, years of graduation, degree information, occupations, etc.
  • Your High School Information: Graduating class size, ranking information (if applicable), GPA, senior year courses, guidance counselor’s contact information
  • Standardized Testing: SAT, ACT, Subject Tests, AP exam scores

Tip #4: Prepare a resume with your activities and honors.

Create a list of the activities in which you have participated during your high school years, as well as your academic honors. The character limits can be challenging, so write in phrases instead of complete sentences.

  • Activities: List up to ten activities, sequenced from the most meaningful to least. At the top of the list should be activities in which you hold a leadership position in, have devoted the largest time commitment, or have consistently participated in for the longest time. You can report any activity that has been meaningful to you, during the school year or summers, in-school or out of school, including arts or music, clubs, community engagement, family responsibilities, hobbies, sports, work, and volunteering.
  • Honors: List up to five academic honors. Some examples include awards in the arts or publications, AP Scholar, Scholar Athlete, and awards at the local, state, or national level.

Tip #5: Review your application in PDF Print Preview form.

Print the PDF and edit it closely. Ask someone you trust to read through it as well. You don’t want to submit an application to a college with typos or missing information!

If you need help filling out the Common App, or have any other questions about the college admissions process, set up a complimentary consultation to learn about our services. Collegiate Gateway is always happy to help!