Students have two opportunities to have their voice heard during the college application process, their essay and their application. The application provides a platform for students to share how they spent their four years of high school–the activities they participated in, the classes they took, any honors awarded, and the leadership positions they held. Students are astonished when they start working on the activities section of the application and discover there are only ten available slots on the Common Application and eight on the Coalition for College Application. “How do I fit everything I did in high school on the application?” some wonder, while others contemplate how they will ever fill the space.
Before getting started students need to decide which application they will use. This is determined by the colleges to which they are applying. The Common App has been around the longest and is the most widely used. To help identify which application to use, create a spreadsheet listing the colleges to which your child plans to apply and the applications each school accepts. Pay close attention as some colleges will only accept one type of application. For example, University of Texas-Austin will only accept the Coalition application, Georgetown uses their own application, and Yale will accept the Common App or Coalition Application. Colleges accepting both the Coalition and Common App do not prefer one over the other. Many applicants will only need to complete one application that they can submit to all of their colleges, but some may find themselves needing to complete two to three applications based on their college list.
Applications should be completed with as much care and accuracy as possible. Be mindful of spelling, capitalization, and punctuation. Double check email addresses and phone numbers. Contact your guidance counselor for the most current GPA, class rank, and class size. If you elect to add test scores on the application, refer to official score reports before entering the information on the application. Prior to completing the activities section, list and prioritize activities in Google Docs or on a Word document for easy editing. Write descriptions for each activity in a clear, concise manner–only 150 characters are allotted on the Common App, including spaces. Keep in mind the college admissions counselor may not know the acronyms or abbreviations for programs at your school. The descriptions you provide paint a picture of what you have done during your high school years. Complete all sections as if senior year has already begun. If a student plans to participate in an activity senior year, include grade twelve on the application.
Students should wait until after the start of the school year to complete the courses section on the Common App. When school begins, there may be some schedule changes, so it is better to wait until the end of September to add senior courses. Additionally, each year at the end of July, the Common App rolls over into the new application year deleting senior courses, requests for recommendations, and essays. General information and activities will remain. The Coalition for College Application does not refresh each year and has students enter courses from all four years of high school. Using an unofficial transcript as a reference, add in grades nine through eleven when initially completing the application and add senior courses at the end of September. As college deadlines approach, review applications at least one or two times and make corrections as needed before hitting the submit button.
Need help getting started? Schedule a Writer’s Block Session or sign up for College Application Boot Camp to get help with your application and essay. All sessions are conducted via Zoom, FaceTime, or Skype. The college essay and application are the only opportunity a student has to paint a picture of who they are. How will your child make their application and essay memorable?