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Proofread all your application materials and make extra copies in case something gets misplaced.

Understand what the Common Application is and how to fill out other applications.

Application time is finally here.

Dreaded by some (or most), filling out your college applications is an intensive and extremely important step in your college search. At this point you should be familiar with what will be asked of you on your applications, now’s the time to jump right in and dot all your I’s and cross all your T’s.

Before you hop onto college websites and start your online applications, it’s wise to find out if you can benefit from filling out the Common Application.

What is the Common Application?

The Common Application is an online college application that can be submitted to over 450 member colleges in 46 states. This application can save you some serious time if you’re applying to multiple colleges. To see if your prospective schools accept the Common Application, check out the list of Common Application member schools.

Obviously the best thing about the Common Application is that you don’t have to spend hours repeatedly writing down the same information on different college forms. But aside from this, the Common Application also provides easy-to-use downloadable forms and straightforward instructions for busy high school students.

For more information on the Common Application and if you should use it, visit our Guide to the Common Application.

But since only 456 schools use the application, this means some 3,600 schools across the country don’t. You’ll most likely have to fill out regular college applications as well.

How to Fill out a College Application

Like the colleges themselves, most college applications share many common characteristics. Chances are not all of your colleges will be common application member schools, which means you’ll need to follow these simple steps to complete the rest of your applications.

1. First off, remember that your college applications aren’t going to be a one-day-and-you’re-done situation. You’ll need to gather outside information and documents including your letter of recommendations, high school transcripts, and test scores. What does this mean for you? Start your applications early, so you have plenty of time to gather everything you need.

2. The application itself begins with general information; your name, e-mail address, family educational background, citizenship etc. Nothing too difficult here.

3. Next you’ll be asked about your educational background, including where you went to high school, counselor contact information, and any college courses you’ve taken.

4. You also have to include SAT or ACT test scores and TOEFL scores if you’re not a native English speaker. Unfortunately, colleges aren’t in the business of trusting scores provided by prospective students, so you must have official scores sent directly to every school you’re applying to.

5. List your high school achievements to help set you apart from the field. Write down anything you think might be relevant including:

  • High school academic honors
  • Extracurricular activities
  • Sports
  • Awards
  • Part-time or summer jobs
  • Community organization achievements
  • Volunteer work

6. Complete your application essay. This is a crucial part of your application. For further details on exactly what to include in your essay, visit our Guide to College Application Essays.

7. Most applications give you the opportunity to add supplemental material to your application. This can be everything from an artist’s work samples to an athlete’s resume of accomplishments.

8. Proofread all your application materials and make extra copies in case something gets misplaced.

9. Before you hand your application off to your counselor for internal information, make sure you check off all the steps on the college application checklist. This will ensure you won’t miss anything and have to scramble to fix them at a later date.

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