How do I add colleges to my list? To add a college to your list, do so from your results list under the College Search tab. Check the box beside the college name, then click the Add button located at the bottom right of the page. To add all colleges from your result list, click the box beside Member Name in the top left area of the grey menu bar. You can also see specific college information such as phone numbers, deadlines, fees, and recommendation requirements by clicking the school name link from the results list. How do I search for colleges within the Common Application? You have many options when searching for Common App colleges and universities. All of your searching will be conducted in the College Search tab. If you already know the name of a college that you’d like to add to your My Colleges list, you can type that name directly into the School/City field. You can also broaden your search to search a particular state or country, or search for schools within or away from a certain zip code. You also have the option to search by application term or by specific deadlines. When you're ready to perform your search, simply click on the Search button to view your results. How do I create my Common App account? It’s a simple process to create your account. Simply click on the Create Account button, then enter your email address and a password of choice. Make sure you use an email address that you check frequently, as this email address becomes your username. We will also need to communicate with you about the status of your application, so you’ll want to receive these notices from an email account that you use frequently. Remember to make note of your password, and keep that reminder handy (since you’ll need to log in each time you access the Common App). If you lose your login information, our Support team is always here to help. What do I do if I don't have information about one or both of my parents? You may select "unknown" to describe any parent whose information you do not wish to provide. By selecting this option, questions about this parent will not be required. I had an account last year. Can I still access my information? Yes you can. When you log into your account after August 1, you will be presented with the registration type options, "First Year" and "Transfer". You'll then be asked to select the year in which you intend to start either your first year or transfer year of college. You can find additional information about Account Rollover in the Virtual Counselor and on the blog Can schools see what other colleges I've applied to? A school cannot view any other schools on your My Colleges list and does not receive any information related to those schools (e.g. your selected terms for those schools).
When admissions officers are evaluating applicants, they are looking at two categories: the “hard factors” like grades, test scores, GPA; essentially anything that’s quantitative, and the “soft factors,” or qualitative elements like essays, extra curricular activities, demonstrated interest, and recommendation letters. Letters of recommendation help round out your applicant profile. They provide insight into what you are like as a student and person from the perspective of someone who has worked closely with you during your high school career. The experiences that counselors and teachers have had with you can help to paint a better overall picture of your accomplishments, potential, and character. Most selective colleges and universities require one to three recommendation letters with your application, usually from your guidance counselor and at least one teacher. Recommendation letters are typically submitted electronically through the school specific supplements on The Common Application. Because different schools have different requirements for letters of recommendation, there’s usually a limit on how many letters you can submit on the Common App. Whom to Ask for College Recommendation Letters It’s never too early to think about recommendation letters. Build and foster relationships with teachers and counselors from day one so that you not only get the most out of your classes, but also have people who can advocate on your behalf when it comes time to apply to colleges. At IvyWise, we recommend students identify whom they would like to write recommendation letters before the end of junior year. Junior year teachers or senior year teachers are usually the best for writing recommendations, since they are more likely to have taught you in a high level course, taught you over a few years, and know you in different capacities. It is also good to get a recommendation letter from a teacher in the subject that is relevant to the course of study you intend to pursue. If you plan to apply as an engineering major, a letter from your physics teacher might hold more weight than one from your English teacher. When to Ask for College Recommendation Letters Ideally, you will ask teachers and counselors if they will write on your behalf at the end of junior year or the very beginning of your senior year. This will give them ample time to plan and draft a thoughtful and comprehensive letter that they can submit as soon as the Common App is available. Be sure to provide your teacher with proper instructions and any other materials he or she may need to reference, such as your resume or a great assignment you completed in his or her class. Some schools place limits on how many recommendations teachers or counselors may write, so be sure to approach them early to ensure they are able to write a letter for you. You can assume that popular instructors will have a lot of students asking for recommendations. If you wait too long, they may not have time to write a compelling letter for you. Other College Recommendation Letter Tips:
Avoid recommendation letters from well-known or influential people who don’t know you well or personally. Having someone write on your behalf just because they are “cool” or impressive doesn’t boost your application; it can actually hurt it. It’s better to have recommendations from people who know you very well and can expand on your academic and extracurricular strengths and accomplishments.
It is not customary to ask to see the recommendation letter before it’s submitted or ask what a person wrote after its submission. This puts them in an awkward position and could potentially hinder their honesty and thoughtfulness. If you are that worried about what a teacher may have to say, you probably shouldn’t be asking that teacher for a recommendation in the first place.
If a school advises you not to submit additional letters of recommendation, then don’t. You don’t want to give the admissions officers extra materials that are not requested and they will remember that you didn’t follow explicit instructions.
Don’t forget to say “thank you!” After your teachers have submitted their letters of recommendation, take some time to write out your own letter of gratitude. Let them know you appreciate that they took time to write a recommendation for you. Remember, teachers are not required to do this.
Recommendation letters are just one of many application components, but they are a critical part of completing a full personal and academic profile and require strategic planning. Be proactive and think about this early so that when the time comes, the process will go much smoother and you will have no hesitation in asking for those letters.
Common App Essay FAQ We've answered some of the most frequently asked questions about the Common App Essay. Writing your Common Application Essay should be a highlight of your school year, so just in case you’re feeling slightly apprehensive, read on for the answers you need to make this your finest essay yet. When should I start writing my essay? Plan in as much time as possible to write your essay; a few weeks and even a month or two if you can. Don’t leave it until a few days before your deadline.
You’ll then need to write an outline before starting to flesh this out further into sentences and paragraphs.
Once you’ve started writing your essay, it’s best to aim for two or three drafts of the essay until you hone it done to your best and you’re confident and proud of it.
It’s also really vital that you ask at least two other people to proofread and sense check it for you, (family, friends or school teachers) as a second independent opinion is key.
Once you start to plan out all these stages of writing, you can see why it’s so important to give yourself as much time as possible. How do I choose my essay prompt? It’s best to spend a while reading and rereading all the essay prompts a few times, contemplating them and see if any topics or ideas spring to mind.
If not do something else to distract yourself and go back to them after a few hours, a few days; its amazing how that time away will allow your brain space to generate new ideas.
If you’re still struggling for a topic, revisit all the key activities that have happened in your day to day life over the last few years, jot a few ideas down and then see how you can match one of those ideas to a prompt. Find out more about how to choose a prompt in our dedicated section.
If you’re lucky enough to have several ideas and you’re not sure which one to choose, write down a few sentences about each one. Then look at choosing the one you found easiest to write and that you can write the most about.
It’s much harder to generate new ideas when you’re short of the minimum number of words than it is to write too much about a topic and cut down the word count. How do I begin writing my essay?Once you’ve chosen your topic, write down a few sentences to describe exactly what you’re going to be writing about. This is your outline.
Then look at each sentence you’ve written and write a couple of sub sentences to explain each sentence in more detail. This is the start of your paragraphs.
If you’re struggling with expanding your sentences pick out key words from the sentences and explain what you mean by using those key words. Again this will help develop your essay further. It’s also worth talking to family and friends for ideas. A second opinion is never a bad idea. For more ideas visit our brainstorming ideas section. What are tutors looking for in my essay?Is your topic personal to you? Is it about a small moment or journey that has real meaning to you?
Writing about big world economic issues can come across as an academic essay and tutors need to read about the real you and what makes you tick.
What are you passionate about and why?
Have you shown you can think thorough the impact and consequences of what you’ve been writing about? Have you captured the tutor’s imagination in your scene setting introduction? You need to make it unique so that they won’t have read about it before.
Have you demonstrated how you can written creatively by using great vocabulary and described emotions and feelings? For example, saying “I wasn’t successful in the audition for the band but I’m going to try again.” is quite a bland sentence which could have been written by anyone.
Instead, try: “After weeks in my dad’s cold garage, practicing every evening for long hours until my fingers hurt, I was utterly disappointed when I failed the band audition. However my determination to succeed, forced me to swallow my pride and find out exactly why I’d failed. I was single-minded in auditioning again, with a positive mind-set to succeed this time.”
This shows your strengths, and brings your story to life as a personal unique viewpoint.
Don’t forget the tutors are also looking for 100% accurate spelling, punctuation and grammar. Another reason to ask someone else to check your essay for you before you submit it. Does my essay have to be the same for every college I apply to?For 2015/16 applications you will have the ability to edit your essay unlimited times after you have submitted. This is the first year this has been allowed.
Does this mean that you need to create separate essays for each College you’re applying to?
With the amount of time and effort this will take against the benefit gained, our recommendation is that you just submit the one essay to cover all your college choices.
If a particular college such as a sports one, or an ultra-conservative one needs to focus on specific character attributes or activities, they are likely to ask you to complete a supplementary essay.
At the end of the day it is your choice but whatever your decision, for the first time you really do have a limitless opportunity to edit. Should I talk about my qualifications?Definitely not. There are other sections in the Common Application where you can list your qualifications (those gained and those predicted for this year).
The essay is all about you and your personal experiences. Don’t waste any of the word count, duplicating information that is elsewhere. How long does my essay need to be?It needs to be between 250 to 650 words.
This word count is mandatory and if you either write less than 250 words or exceed 650, you will not be allowed to continue past this section in the online application until you have amended it accordingly.
This is why it is essential you write your essay in a word processing tool and then cut and paste into the online application. This will allow much easier editing and checking of the word count.
Writing the maximum number of words doesn’t mean it’s a better essay than a 450 or 550 word essay. It’s about the quality not the quantity of your essay and showcasing your creative writing skills to the admissions tutor. How do I organize/structure my essay?Start by planning your essay in a logical chronological order.
Plan an outline of what you’re going to be writing about by scribbling down a couple of sentences to explain your topic. Then start expanding on each one of the sentences. Use these sentences for your paragraphs.
It’s advisable to plan each paragraph in detail, in chronological order, linking the start of paragraph 2 to the end of paragraph one and flowing it nicely into paragraph three.
It’s fine to write the main paragraphs first and then go back and write an introduction to set the scene, and intrigue the reader, rather than trying to write the scene setting right at the start.
Don’t forget the conclusion which carries as much weight as all the rest of your essay. It’s easy to tail off at the end.
Instead focus on summarizing the key points in your essay (don’t include new ideas here, they should be in the main paragraphs) and leave the end sentence to write about the final impact and what the future may hold for your topic. For more information, please see our Common App Essay Structure guide. How do I edit my essay?It is best to edit your essay in a word processing tool which can check for spelling, punctuation and grammar.
Also ask someone else to read your essay and check for anything that needs editing. Software packages won’t pick up every little nuance. For example ‘stationary’ and ‘stationery’ are both spelt correctly but have very different meanings.
In addition check each paragraph to see that it links to the previous one and flows into the next one, that introductory sentences are at the beginning of paragraphs and that you use active words ie ‘gained’ not ‘got’, ‘achieved’ not ‘had’.