College is a crucial developmental milestone for individuals whose ultimate goal is carving out a thriving career. More than the university diploma, a college degree is their motivational gateway to financial stability, career growth, and self-actualization of their personal goals and visions. According to a 2017 report, 5.1 million and 4.56 million students in the United States were enrolled in private and public colleges, respectively.
In 2015, the average bachelor’s degree holder earned approximately $1 million more than a worker without one. Perhaps in part due to this trend, a related study in 2016 found that 60% of workers with a bachelor’s degree and 77% of them with a post-graduate degree believe their job gave them a sense of identity. Only 38% of high school diploma holders or those with lower educational attainment feel the same. Roughly 94% of adults with a bachelor’s degree or higher reported being happy in life, and only 89% of them without a college education said the same.
Did you know that only about 45% of high school students feel ready for college and careers? Eighty-seven percent of them said they want to go to college, nearly 3% do not, and 10% of them aren’t sure. More than two-thirds of them will be attending a two- or four-year college.
Explore the sections on this article:
Conquering the College Application Process
The College Common App
Navigating the College Common App
College Common App Don’ts:
* Improper Email Address
* Incomplete Account Information
* Non-Familiarity with the School
* Last-minute Recommendation Letters
* Ignoring Instructions
* Understating Your Accomplishments
* Making Generic Essays
* Neglecting to Proofread
Make the Most Out of the Common App
Conquering the College Application Process
While many aspire for college education, the trends point to an obvious reality: for prospective college students, the application process is a critical step. It is potentially the most challenging stage of a student’s senior high career.
If our definition of success is only limited to admission from a preferred college or university, many who experience an undesirable outcome will feel like a disappointment to themselves, their families, and society. But it doesn’t have to be that way!
As the tedious process of college application begins, students deal with a multitude of essay requirements and application deadlines. Parental expectations and demands can also put more pressure on prospective students and push them to a specific limit.
What else do incoming college students have to deal with? Declining college application acceptance rates, tuition hikes, and employment uncertainties in a competitive job market drive, and the list goes on! The pressure is so high; it is driving students to the pits of depression.
Applying to a multitude of colleges is just one part of a prospective college’s long list of to-dos. The Common App eases your hectic life and saves you precious time.
The College Common App
The College Common Application, also known as Common App, is an online undergraduate college admission application that incoming college students and transfer students can use to submit their applications to multiple colleges and universities at once. Instead of filling out a new application separately for each of the many schools you’ve picked, you can use the Common App!
The Common App partners with more than 800 private and public post-secondary institutions in 49 American states and around the world to “reduce the barriers that students face when applying to college. Today, the Common App is used by at least a million students who collectively submitted over four million applications.
Through the Common App and other information (such as on-campus interviews or submitted portfolios), the school can decline, accept, or wait-list applicants. With over 2,000 colleges to pick from, you are almost guaranteed to succeed in at least one application.
Navigating the College Common App
Prospective college students often find themselves checking out 10 or more schools, and could use the Common App as a vital tool that promotes manageability and accessibility. The sheer number of documents and forms you need to complete can make the life of a prospective college student quite tricky. The Common App changes all that, too!
To start, create your application profile with personal and demographic information including the family background. While there are standard requirements for college application, the main piece of paperwork you will need to be present is a transcript. You will also have to furnish your Academic History, Extra-Curricular and SAT and ACT Test Scores, among others.
The Common App tracks all application materials and deadlines in one place. It’s almost like having an assistant to see to it that all recommendation letters have been submitted, and check the documents that still need to be uploaded or sent.
Once the application is submitted to a college online, it cannot be changed for that college; you must contact the college directly to correct an error or provide more information. Remember, however, that the admissions team can interpret these negligent college application errors as a lack of effort.
Filling out the Common App is free, but you may have to pay for your applications to be submitted to your schools of choice. When your college application reaches the admissions office of your preferred colleges or universities, you may be asked by the school to submit other pertinent documents. Depending on the school, you may be required to write essays. Your eligibility for financial assistance through FAFSA or school-specific scholarship will also be evaluated.
Keep in mind these no-nos when using the Common App:
Improper Email Address
First things first, to get the Common App started, an interested student needs to have a valid email address. As you apply to a college and preparing to be a professional one day, don’t let an email address ruin that future opportunity. Never use email addresses that are not suitable for the professional environment. Your email address should not be inappropriate in any way, such as being silly, funny, suggestive, generic or flirtatious. If the email address, for example, is “[email protected]” or “[email protected],” the applicant is sending a wrong message to the college admission team.
The individual you’re giving your email address to automatically becomes a member of your professional network, so creating a separate email account for business purposes is a great idea. Make it short and straightforward, easy to remember, and above all, professional.
Your email address must bear your name—preferably your first and last names—so that the recipient instantly knows that a message is from you. Admission officers appreciate it when your actual name appears in your email address, as opposed to seeing numbers, symbols, and underscores.
Keep forgetting the details of your email? Keep a journal of your email accounts and passwords.
Incomplete Account Information
Every college or university has its own set of requirements, and it is up to you to complete them. It is incredibly vital that you complete all the details that they need you to disclose! To avoid missing information, make sure you:
- Pay close attention to on-screen instructions;
- Get a head start by collecting the information you need before beginning the application process;
- Re-read all the information before pressing the submit button. Don’t make a small mistake that can ruin it all for you.
Ultimately, missing information on the Common App account can affect your chances of admission. Read the application carefully and take the time you need to fill it out properly and completely:
- Make sure you have the supporting materials required, including your school transcript, essay requirements, teacher and counselor recommendations, and test scores directed to the proper person or department.
- Do not send video, music, and other files unless requested by the admissions team.
- If you did not hear back from the colleges confirming receipt of your application, something likely went wrong with your application process.
Check out the “Additional Information” Section!
The Common App questions are usually straightforward, but there is an often-ignored box that can make a difference in your entire college application journey. This optional blank text box, found on the same page as the College Essay, lets you share what you believe the Admissions Committee would find useful or meaningful.
When all sections in the Common App have been filled out, you’ll find that the “Complete” part next to the universities will turn green.
Non-Familiarity with the School
Decide on the colleges that will best fit your needs. They should be the ones that give you the opportunities to pursue and reach your academic goals. Research is the most critical tool. Double-check the schools you wish to be accepted in, track their supplemental material requirements, and decide only to apply to schools that align with your goals.
Before applying to a college, do your homework! Finding a college that is the best possible fit means learning as much as you possibly can about it beforehand. Do adequate research on your universities of choice to get the attention you deserve from the admission team. Schools want to see the reason why applicants picked them.
Don’t talk about generally known information—school data you can google or find on the school’s website—on your application process, in essays, or during the interview. With that said, the admission officers should be able to see that you knew what you needed to in school.
Another important tip: With more than two school applications in mind, it’s easy to get the university names mixed up. Make sure you don’t!
Last-minute Recommendation Letters
There are two categories that the admission officers consider when assessing applicants: the quantitative factors such as test scores like GPA and the qualitative elements like essays, demonstrated interest, extracurricular activities, and recommendation letters.
Recommendation letters are one of the many components of college applications. They are crucial to boosting your academic profile. With a Recommendation Letter, college admission officers gain insight into who you are as a student from the perspective of people who have worked closely with you, such as your teachers and counselors. Get quality recommendations and submit them way ahead of time.
Failing to follow instructions to the letter will have admission officers label your college application as a low- to non-priority. It may even be rejected! Remember that they receive applications and deal with hundreds of applicants daily.
Fill out all the information and complete all documentary requirements, precisely the way college admission officers would expect them. For error-free applications, carefully read through each application and ask for reliable help if you have questions and inquiries in their Common App’s Support Center.
Understating Your Accomplishments
College applications would have you present yourself in the best way possible. If you were president of an honor society, don’t just say that you were the “leader of a student organization.” Instead, explain you were president of the prestigious National Honor Society. Talk about how it required a lot of responsibility, the membership, and the organization’s milestones under your term.
Use the Common App’s Activity Section to talk about your academic accomplishments. Some colleges will check with the school to confirm your participation in any clubs, organizations, and activities listed on the applications.
Accurately stating your achievements is not being arrogant or self-absorbed. It’s a plus if you’re as high-achieving and as motivated as they want their students to be. Don’t be shy!
Making Generic Essays
The Common App gives students a choice of essay topics. An impressive essay generally contains a strong opening, well-organized content, and a powerful closing. Colleges don’t get much from a generic essay and would prefer ones that follow the instructions and draw their attention from start to end.
Here are tips for writing the essay that admission officers will think are worth their time:
- Resist the temptation to pick a topic right away. Consider your key experiences and achievements.
- Include enough background information about your topic.
- Pay attention to structure. Don’t just ramble; make sure you know what to say paragraph by paragraph. Use the right adjectives to describe the many elements in your essay.
Neglecting to Proofread
Proofreading college admissions essays and other written materials is an essential but often undervalued step in the college application process. Students may not think they’ll be judged on anything other than the merit of their application, but your promptness matters!
It is a good idea to make a draft of the application before creating your final copy. It also helps to have other people like your guidance counselors, teachers or family members look over your application to see if you missed anything. Don’t count on the spellchecker alone.
Bear in mind, however, that not everything that is spelled correctly makes sense.
The admissions team will notice applications with grammar or punctuation errors, so it pays to go over your piece again before submitting it. Beat the deadline but allow a lot of time to complete it. In the end, go over your college application multiple times, and look for different things each time. Review your application one time, making sure it sounds as smart and college-ready as you are.
Deadlines are non-negotiable in the college application process, and procrastinating with the Common App is a no-no. Plan and take the time with your application to make a good impression on the admissions committee.
Get the process started on August 1st rather than December 31st. Falling behind will result in missed deadlines, sub-par work, and lost opportunities for financial aid or direct admission to specialized programs. Failing to prepare for and delaying your college application deadlines can undo the hard work you have put into completing the process.
The personal essay, for example, is arguably the most time-intensive part of this whole process—so take the time to complete it.
Starting well in advance of deadlines gives you these benefits:
- Gives you the maximum amount of time to gather all the necessary documentation and complete a compelling essay or two
- Make last-minute adjustments to polish your applications
- Avoid last-minute technical difficulties
Did you know that colleges track when students send applications, and therefore your promptness (or otherwise) impacts your chances of success? Applying on the due date of the application may indicate to the admissions officers that you are not interested. It also gives them the impression that their school is your low-priority choice.
It is a challenge to meet the deadlines and documentary requirements of each college you’re applying to, but preparation and organization can simplify the process tremendously. To keep track of it all, build a comprehensive spreadsheet or chart of the tasks you need to complete for each school.
Make the Most Out of the Common App
The Common App is a driving force in American higher education, helping alleviate the overwhelming workload that students need to manage when applying to colleges. As a tool for pursuing “access, equity, and integrity in the college admission process,” the Common App levels the playing field for prospective college students who do not have the same opportunity as the others to enjoy the “value, attainability, and affordability of a college degree.”
The Common App also enables universities to accept students from across the nation and even internationally, from varying backgrounds.
The Common App is a “proven engine for advancing college access” and has had a “transformative effect” on the admissions process. Make the most of it by knowing the basic dos and don’ts! You need to get an early start, take sizeable tasks and break them down into smaller, easier to manage ones, create deadlines and stick to them, and, most of all, hold yourself accountable to them. It doesn’t hurt to have a plan and be organized, too!