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For many rising seniors, the Common Application will become the primary system for students applying to universities and colleges. Here are some tips to keep in mind:

The application for the current cycle goes live on August 1st

Students should create an account by that time, but they do not have to wait. They can create an account now and transfer information to the updated application after August 1st

Utilize the summer months to be proactive.

July and early August are the perfect months to start filling out personal, academic, and education information in the application, as well as working on the activities and awards sections. 

Work on the Common App personal essay in the summer.

Most universities and colleges will require the main personal essay in the Common Application. Summer is the ideal time for students to begin brainstorming, outlining, and drafting personal essays. The prompts for the 2024-2025 Common Application will remain the same and have a 650 maximum word count:

  • 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.
  • 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?
  • Reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea. What prompted your thinking? What was the outcome?
  • 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?
  • Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others.
  • 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?
  • 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.

Strategize the activities section.

The activities section of the Common Application is an opportunity to highlight a student’s strongest involvement areas. It is important to use all 150 characters (including spaces) for describing each activity (complete sentences are unnecessary!), as well as ranking the activities based on a few factors: involvement, interest, and variety.

Know when to use the Additional Information section. 

The additional information section of the Common Application should be used for specific purposes. For example, if an applicant has extenuating circumstances, such as a drop in grades, or an absence from school, this is the place to explain that. It’s also the place to provide more context for a school’s grading system, classes, and other important factors to note. High school college counselors can provide great tips on anything to add there that is school specific. It is also a place to elaborate on key involvement areas that could not be properly explained within the character confines of the activities section. A great example is if a student participates in mentored research. 

As the school year approaches, take advantage of July and get started on creating a Common Application account and begin the college application process early!

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