5 Tips on Completing the Common Application

Learn how to complete the additional information section, activities section, and university member page.
Teenage girl completing the Common App on a laptop

Hundreds of colleges and universities use the Common Application as its central form in the college admissions process, which means you'll likely need to complete it if you're applying to college this year. The Common App is one single college application that you can send to many schools at once. While the Common App may seem like the most daunting piece of applying to college, it is, surprisingly, the simplest part of the process. It asks you questions about yourself that you actually know, like your name, address, phone number, etc. Do not hesitate to begin filling out the Common App. It may seem scary to get started, but just taking the first step – creating yourself a username and password – will make the process seem a little less frightening.

1. Additional Information Section

When going through the Common App, don't forget the Additional Information Section. While most questions on the Common App are pretty straightforward, this one underrated box can make a difference for you. The Additional Information section is an optional blank text box on the same page as the College Essay. Many students leave this optional text box blank, which is okay, but this section gives you the opportunity to say anything you want to share with the admissions committee. It may seem hard to believe but admissions counselors are actually real humans that read every piece of your application and want to get to know you. It may be a good idea to use this text box if you have an outlying grade on your transcript that you would like to explain, or if you had a challenging year in high school, or if you just want to share something about yourself and your passions that you weren't able to share elsewhere. Anytime you are offered an opportunity to share a more in-depth look into who you are, take advantage of it.

2. Activities Section

When you reach the Activities Section on the Common App, know that you're not limited to the designated space. If you feel that the allotted text lines and drop down menus in the Activities Section are not sufficient for you, feel free to upload or send in an activities resume to accompany your application. If you are confused by this section, the best way to list each activity is by the title of activity, any position you hold, and then a brief description of your responsibilities, if applicable. For example, "Student Government, Class Vice President, I organize the blood drive and bake sale at school" or "Part-time job at Ice Cream Shop, Sales Associate, I work 3 days a week after school and have recently been promoted to a manager" or "Caretaker/Babysitter, I take care of my grandmother and 2 younger siblings after school every day."

3. University Member Page

The University Member Page is a specific page added to the Common App for each university to which you are applying. This page will include questions that each institution is specifically interested in knowing about you, like your potential major(s) or your housing plan. This is also where you may find supplemental writing questions if the institution offers them. If a university does list optional supplemental writing questions, you should answer them. Just like the Additional Information Section, optional questions will help give you the opportunity to connect with the admissions committee on a deeper level.

4. Completing the Application

Click submit on each page of the Common App. There are many tabs, pages, and sections to fill out, so make sure you have followed all instructions, haven't missed any sections, and have actually completed and submitted all pages. You will know when all pieces are completed and submitted because there will be a green "Complete" designation next to each chosen university in the Common App. When your application is ready, the last step is to click submit. After you do so, you will no longer be able to edit any sections of the application, but do not panic! If you have made an error, just contact the university and their staff can make edits for you.

5. Deadlines

Deadlines are not suggestions. The application deadline listed for each university is not a deadline to apply by, but a deadline to complete your application by. So don't wait until the day before the deadline to start your application. It is best to submit your application now to start your file at each institution. Once your application is processed by each university, you will typically receive an identification number and an online portal account at each institution to track the status of your application throughout the process. As your other materials, like your transcript and recommendation letters, are submitted, they will be added to your existing file.

After your admissions file is complete and ready to be reviewed, you wait, and wait, and wait a bit more. This is the tough part. But remember, admissions committees are looking for reasons to admit you, not reasons to deny you. Make sure to include everything you are proud of in your application so we can see if you will be the right fit for our university. We can't wait to review your application!

Learn more about the Common App