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Understanding the Common Application

Want to get a good laugh from your student? Tell them how you applied to college. I love the reaction I get from my students when I tell them I actually used a pen and had to physically fill out my college applications and then had to drive to the post office and mail them in! The look on their faces is priceless.

But then, when talking with parents (and even students), I am surprised that many of them do not understand what the Common Application is or how it works. Here is a guide on how to understand the Common Application.

What is the Common Application? The Common Application is an undergraduate college admission application that applicants may use to apply to any of more than 900 member colleges and universities in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, as well as in Canada, China, Japan, and many European countries.

Gather materials. This is the information you will need to complete the Common Application.

  • A copy of your high school transcript

  • A list of your activities, work and family responsibilities

  • Test scores and dates from your college entrance exams (SATs, ACTs, etc.)

  • Parent/Legal guardian information

  • Academic honors and achievements

3. Create an Account. Creating a first year Common App account is easy and should only take a few


4. Add Colleges. Start building your My Colleges list

5. Engage Supporters. All colleges need things like official school forms. Many colleges will also ask for letters of recommendation.

Counselors, teachers, and recommenders will submit these kinds of forms on your behalf. Here are the types of recommenders you can invite in the Common App.

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