Common Application

Available now! A Completely Revised and Updated College Admission

College Admission: From Application to Acceptance Step by Step has been completely revised and updated for changes to the Common Application, testing, the essay, financial aid and more, including information for transfer students and  undocumented students, and timelines for the college application process. Look for the red banner! You can find it here.

Our Updated Guide to The Application Form is Available Now!

The Common Application goes live next week -- on Friday, August 1! So we're bringing you a real-time digital supplement to College Admission: From Application to Acceptance, Step by Step -- our completely revised and updated guide to The Application Form .

It's a complete guide to filling out the college application, which serves as the cornerstone of a student's admission file, including:

Advice for Working on the Essay this Summer

Fall of senior year is a busy time. So we strongly urge you to have at least your Common Application essay in good shape before senior year begins because writing the essays while attending school is like adding a class to your schedule -- remember, in addition to the Common App's, there are those in the supplements. Summer provides the luxury of uninterrupted time to reflect and write. And you're fortunate that the Common App essay prompts will remain the same, so you don't have to wait until August 1st to start working on them.

So here's some advice to kick start your essays over the coming summer months -- from a suggested reading list that we hope will inspire to some excellent step-by-step guidance on those Common App essay prompts.

Finding Your Voice in the Essay:  A suggested reading list of first-person essays.

The Real Topic of your Essay is You: One strategy to help you find a topic.

What are colleges looking for in the essay?

What three things should rising seniors be doing over the summer?

As we head off into the summer, we asked our experts what rising seniors should be doing this summer. As usual, they've got some great advice about how to rest, recharge, and prepare for a couple of steps in the college application process so you'll hit the ground running -- and avoid feeling overwhelmed -- in the fall. And don't forget, two of the most important and best things you can do this summer are rest and read, read, read... Nothing will prepare you better for senior year. Enjoy all of it!


Mai Lien Nguyen
College and Career Center Coordinator
Mountain View High School
Mountain View, CA


“Having fun” and “preparing for college applications” aren’t phrases you normally hear in the same breath.  But the summer before senior year could be the golden opportunity to make this happen.  Let’s see how:


Common App will feature same essay prompts for 2014-15!

The Common Application announced today that it will retain the same essay prompts for 2014-15! That's good news for students. Typically students have had to wait until August to know what the prompts will be. This way students can get an earlier start. That said, it's too soon for juniors to be working on the essay -- but not too soon to think about them. Take a look at the list now then tuck it away until June or July.

Here's the statement in full -- including the list of essay prompts - from Scott Anderson, Senior Director for Policy for the Common Application:



Essay Prompts Successfully Support Holistic Selection Process

 ARLINGTON, VA – FEBRUARY 11, 2014 - After a positive response from Common Application member colleges and school counselors, The Common Application will retain the current set of first-year essay prompts for 2014-15, without any edits or additions. The essay length will continue to be capped at 650 words.


One More To-Do List for Seniors...

It's not over 'til it's over. Seniors, you may have submitted your applications and caught up on your sleep, but -- apologies! -- there are still some things you need to do. High school counselor and author John Carpenter joins us again this month with some helpful reminders.


January… For most seniors that means applications are finished. Submitted.  Done.




Submitting your application is only one part of this process.  Most kids, I will admit, exhale a big sigh of relief after they've submitted their apps. They either celebrate that the deadline has been met or sleep for two weeks.  And while both options are perfectly acceptable, there’s still a little more to do.  It’s called follow-up.


Here’s a list of tasks to be sure to take care of AFTER you submit your applications:


Our New Guide to the Application Form, Including Changes to the Common App

It's here -- our completely revised and updated guide, The Application Form, a real-time digital supplement to College Admission: From Application to Acceptance, Step by Step.

It's a complete guide to filling out the college application, which serves as the cornerstone of a student's admission file, including:

  • A walk through the new Common Application, step by step.
  • An explanation of why colleges want this information and our best advice for how to provide it.
  • Answers to students' questions about extracurricular activities, academics, testing, and essays are addressed.
  • Guidance on fee waivers, deadlines, "fast apps," and resumes.
  • A To Do List for the many moving parts so students can put their best foot forward when completing their applications.

Download your complete free copy here.

Seniors: Eat Pie and Finish your Applications!

Seniors, our advice this week is to eat some pie… and continue to finish up your applications. While this is a time for relaxing with family and friends, if you're still not done, carry on.

For help with the new Common Application, download our free guide to The Application Form here.

And if you're still writing and wordsmithing, here are some past blog posts on the subject of essays for advice and inspiration in the aftermath of your Thanksgiving repast and all that pie:

Advice for Students on the New Common App Essays Prompts

The "Why us?" Essay

More Advice for Writing the "Why Us?" Essay

A Memorable Essay? Might Be Family Breakfasts, Piano Lessons, or Raising Pigs...

Writing the Essay: Pushing the Right Brick for Diagon Alley

Dear College Counselor... The Year's Best Advice from our Counselors of the Month

October is the cruelest month for high school college counselors, besieged on all sides with seniors intent on applications and juniors beginning their college search and testing -- as well as issues with the Common App this year. So we give counselors a pass at this time of year. Instead of our Counselor of the Month feature, we bring you a round-up of best advice from the counselors who have graced our website with their guidance and wisdom in the past year. Read on to learn their best advice for students and parents, recommendations for financial aid, guidance on the college search and mistakes to avoid.  One of our personal favorite sound bites? Niles West High School's Dan Gin who advises students, "Have fun… Everything will work out in the end." Next year at this time, you'll all see how true this is. In the meantime, take advantage of this advice from the experts on the college counseling side of the desk.

The College Search

Laura Stewart, Ensworth School, Nashville, Tennessee

How do you encourage your students to broaden their college search and look beyond the four or five schools that they know best?

What's Trust Got To Do With It?

What place does trust have in the college application process? College advisor Alice Kleeman joins us again this month to talk about trust -- as well as accountability and honesty -- among students, counselors and the colleges. Join her here to learn more about life lessons, integrity, and the meaning of signing on the dotted line.


The hand inevitably shoots up in the back row, just after I’ve explained to a class of juniors or seniors that they will “self-report” their extracurricular activities on their college applications. “But how do they know I’ve really done what I say I’ve done?” The question will be asked. After 19 years of speaking to students about college admission, this is a point of certainty.


Ah, one of my favorite topics: trust. If we stop to think about it, without trust—among applicants and their families, college officials, and counselors—the entire process falls apart like a poorly constructed house of cards. And yet it’s one aspect of college admission that we don’t talk about much, and when we do, cynicism arises on all sides.


Call me Pollyanna (Pollyalice?), but I’m an extremely trusting soul when it comes to the issues that ask for our trust in this process.