Breaking Down the Common App Components

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    Let’s start with the basics: What’s Common App? The Common App is an online college application platform that allows prospective college students to input their grades, test scores, extracurricular activities, and personal statement once — regardless of how many colleges they apply to. Currently, over 1,000 colleges and universities partner with Common App. This means that if the colleges you are applying to partner with Common App, you only have to submit one college application. While many schools still require supplemental application materials, such as supplemental essays, Common App offers students an organized, streamlined college application process, while encouraging holistic college admissions standards.

    In this article, we will provide you with a comprehensive Common App guide, by breaking down and reviewing the Common Application sections, in addition to providing key Common App tips and tricks. Applying to colleges can feel overwhelming at times. This is why it’s helpful to know what college admissions officers look for in an applicant and to have clear expectations moving forward. 

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    What are the components of the Common App?

    So what exactly are the Common App sections? Let’s take a detailed look at each of the seven Common App sections. Again, seeking clarification and knowing exactly what is expected from you will help ease the college application process. So let’s delve into each section:

    Section 1: Profile

    The first step to completing the Common App after creating an account is to fill out your profile. You’ll be asked to fill out your name, contact information, social security number, and address. Demographic information is optional. You’ll also need to confirm your citizenship. 

    If you are an undocumented immigrant you can still attend college. FERPA prohibits colleges from disclosing immigration status and no federal law requires proof of citizenship to attend college. While some states do not allow undocumented immigrants to attend public universities, many do and even offer generous financial aid packages. 

    Section 2: Family

    Now onto the Common App family section. In this section, you will be asked to share your parents’ marital status and confirm who you live with. You’ll then be asked to share some basic information — such as age, occupation, and highest level of education — about each parent and any siblings you may have. 

    Section 3: Education

    In this section, you’ll be asked to share information about your high school, your classes, and your high school GPA. Not all high schools offer the same opportunities or hold their students to the same standards. Colleges want to know where you attended high school so that they can evaluate your application accordingly. 

    There is also a Common App honors section or Common App awards section included in this part of the application. You can enter up to five honors or awards. Honors or awards might include art awards, publications, or making Honor Roll. Athletic awards, however, should be included in the “activities” section. For each honor, you’ll be asked to provide a title of the recognition (up to 100 characters), the grade level you were in when you received this distinction, and the level of recognition (i.e. school, state/region, national, international). 

    Section 4: Testing

    What tests are included in the Common App testing section? This section includes the SAT, ACT, SAT Subject tests, and AP exams. Not all students will complete all of these tests, so only fill out the sections that apply to you. 

    Impressive standardized test scores can help set you apart from other applicants. This is why it’s important to have an SAT study plan and schedule and to plan ahead by familiarizing yourself with this year’s SAT and ACT test dates

    Section 5: Activities

    The Common App activities section is where you list up to 10 of your high school extracurricular activities and volunteer hours. The tricky part is that you only have 150 characters to describe each activity. Do your best to write concise and compelling descriptions. Use this opportunity to show your passion and creativity. 

    For example, when listing your extracurricular activities in the Common App extracurriculars section, try a description such as: “As a passionate literature student, I spend 5hr/week tutoring disadvantaged elementary school students, helping them improve their literacy skills“ instead of simply writing something generic like “Literacy tutor, 5hr/week.“ 

    Section 6: Writing

    The Common App essay is one of the most important application factors. It personalizes the college application process and allows you to stand out from your peers and leave a lasting impression. There are lots of Common App essay tips to consider. Before getting started on the writing portion of your application, consider the components of a strong personal statement.

    How many Common App essays are required? Just one. In this section, you’ll be given seven essay prompts to choose from, but you are only required to write one. There is, however, a Common App additional information section (6a) where you can upload an optional second essay. Students who choose to write an additional essay often use the opportunity to explain illnesses, financial burdens, or other extenuating circumstances that may have affected a student’s academic performance. 

    Common App essay writing prompts 2022-23

    As you prepare to write your personal statement, remember, it’s just as important to consider ​​overused college essay topics as it is to study successful college essay examples. Thoroughly consider each potential essay prompt and take plenty of time to brainstorm. 

    Now, let’s look at the official Common App Essay Writing Prompts for 2022-23:

    1

    Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.

    1

    2

    The lessons we take from obstacles we encounter can be fundamental to later success. Recount a time when you faced a challenge, setback, or failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience?

    2

    3

    Reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea. What prompted your thinking? What was the outcome?

    3

    4

    Reflect on something that someone has done for you that has made you happy or thankful in a surprising way. How has this gratitude affected or motivated you?

    4

    5

    Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others.

    5

    6

    Describe a topic, idea, or concept you find so engaging that it makes you lose all track of time. Why does it captivate you? What or who do you turn to when you want to learn more?

    6

    7

    Share an essay on any topic of your choice. It can be one you’ve already written, one that responds to a different prompt, or one of your own design.

    7

    Consider each of these prompts carefully. Which prompts are you most drawn to? Remember, you have a maximum of 650 words to answer this prompt; most students, however, should aim to write approximately 500-word essays.

    Section 7: Course & grades

    This is the section where you will self-report your classes, grades, and high school GPA. Depending on the schools you are applying to, you may need to have your high school send official transcripts. 

    How do Common App recommendations work?

    How many letters of recommendation for Common App? It all depends on the colleges you are applying to and their specific requirements. Typically, though, you’ll have to provide two to three letters of recommendation. Rather than upload your Common App recommendation yourself, you’ll enter the email addresses of the people providing your letters of recommendation and they will send them to the Common App. Remember to plan ahead and familiarize yourself with how to ask for a letter of recommendation

    How much does the Common App cost?

    Creating a Common App account is free. There are, however, multiple fees associated with college applications. Each school charges an application fee. Typically these fees range from $30-85. Students may qualify for fee waivers, however, so check to see if you are eligible. After all, these fees can add up fast! 

    You will also be responsible for sending your SAT and ACT scores to schools. When you sign up for the SATs or ACTs, you can list four colleges you wish to send your score, free of charge. If you need to send your scores to more schools, or if you wanted to see how well you performed before sending out your scores, it costs an additional $12 to send out your official SAT score report and an additional $16 to send out your official ACT score report. Again, you may be eligible for fee waivers. 

    It’s also worth noting that your high school may charge a fee for sending an official copy of your transcripts to colleges. This fee will vary depending on your high school. 

    What you need to know about deadlines

    Now that we’ve covered the different Common App sections, you’re likely wondering when are Common App applications due? The short answer is it depends. The Common App itself doesn’t have a specified deadline. Each application deadline is school specific. However, you will be able to easily keep track of deadlines on your Common App account. Do your best to plan ahead and finish up your application a few weeks before your earliest deadline. Some schools will require you to submit supplemental materials, so once you polish up your Common App, you’ll be able to devote your time to assembling your supplemental materials. 

    College application season is a busy time of year so it’s important to stay organized and to keep track of important college admissions dates. Students who have completed thorough college research and have a clear top-choice college may want to consider applying early through Early Action and Early Decision

    What you need to know about deadlines

    Now that we’ve covered the different Common App sections, you’re likely wondering when are Common App applications due? The short answer is it depends. The Common App itself doesn’t have a specified deadline. Each application deadline is school specific. However, you will be able to easily keep track of deadlines on your Common App account. Do your best to plan ahead and finish up your application a few weeks before your earliest deadline. Some schools will require you to submit supplemental materials, so once you polish up your Common App, you’ll be able to devote your time to assembling your supplemental materials. 

    College application season is a busy time of year so it’s important to stay organized and to keep track of important college admissions dates. Students who have completed thorough college research and have a clear top-choice college may want to consider applying early through Early Action and Early Decision

    Key takeaways and moving forward

    The Common Application offers students an organized, streamlined way to complete college applications. Give yourself plenty of time to complete your application thoroughly and thoughtfully. Pay special attention to your college essay, in addition to any other supplemental essays you may need to write. If you feel like you could benefit from professional guidance during this college application season, reach out to learn more about our services

    Contact a Prepory college admissions coach and start your college admissions journey.

    Our college admissions experts are here to guide you from where you are to where you should be. Through our comprehensive curriculum, individualized coaching, and online workshops, you are set for success as soon as you connect with us.

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