3 Quick Tips for Completing the Common App (including this most important one: take it slowly).

Oct. 20 UPDATE:  The 2013-14 Common App has proven to be buggy and unpredictable. See Got Common App problems? Here’s what we’re trying.

Spring training is over. On August 1st, opening day for the 2013 application season, the new Common App went live.

Opening Day, Fenway Park

Opening Day at our favorite baseball park.

I agree with the independent college counselors who advise early submission: “Apply well before the deadline when everyone is still fresh, eager, and focused.”

However, there’s no need to rush (yet) and many arguments against it. Here’s what UVa’s admission blogger (aka UVaDeanJ), wrote last year when the App went live:

It’s too early to submit an application.
Every year, there’s some eager student who submits their application soon after the Common App launch. While I think it’s fine to poke around the Common App website and fill out the forms, I don’t think you should submit anything right now.
Fill out the forms. If you’re one of those students who worked on essays over the summer, that’s great. Put those essays away for a few weeks and look at them with fresh eyes just a little bit closer to the deadline. You may find that a little distance will help with the editing process.

The promised tips:

1.  Do your homework before you begin.

Update and complete your resume first. Take some time to update and organize your scholastic, extracurricular, and work details into a document on your own computer. You can work in a format that’s familiar to you (Word, Google doc or Pages), help ensure you don’t forget aspects you’d like to include, and build a worksheet of data for the Common App interface. Plus, you may want to upload the resume as part of the application. [N.B. You can only attach a resume if a specific school asks for it.]

2.  Start now and take your time.

Create an account, complete some easy stuff in the Profile section (personal information, address, contact details, etc.), sign out, and walk away. There. You’ve begun. Later today or tomorrow tackle a few more sections. Moving around between different sections will make the interface more familiar–and somewhat easier–each time you work on the app. [N.B. While I prefer printing out the blank form and working through a draft on paper, you can’t do that with the Common App; you can only print a pdf preview of the completed app right before submission.]

3.  Find help before you get too frustrated.

The far right column shows help topics related to each section you have open. Bookmark the Application Help Center; its “Knowledgebase” section provides an index of topics, including what the green check marks mean:

Common App help

Who knew?

If you use Twitter, follow @CommonApp. Like the Common App Facebook page. The application process offers endless opportunities for confusion and frustration, most of which are amplified the closer we get to deadlines. The Common App tries to help by providing these resources. Explore them.

Now, just a minute:  Before anyone thinks we’ve totally got it figured out here at StrangeCollege command center (aka my desk), let me clear up that confusion as well. Yesterday I urged Mod Squad Julie to create a Common App account (not yet done), print out a blank form (can’t be done), update her resume (in the works), enter some basic profile info (not yet done), and save the app for future updates (cannot be done; the interface automatically saves if you use it correctly).

Clearly, there is work to be done. Yet it’s hard for me to tease Julie about it, since she’s a mile or so ahead of where M.S. Pete was at this stage of the game two years ago. As he put it the other day, “I’m retroactively jealous of how far along you already are.”

Good luck working your way through the App!

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Filed under Getting In

3 responses to “3 Quick Tips for Completing the Common App (including this most important one: take it slowly).

  1. Pingback: Fluffy Credits, or how do I get my kid into the top 10 percent? | Dr. StrangeCollege or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Journey

  2. Pingback: The Common App | myonlineschoolcounselor

  3. Pingback: Got Common App problems? Here’s what we’re trying. | Dr. StrangeCollege or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Journey

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