common application

High school juniors are juggling a lot right now. Between wrapping up the academic year, cramming for finals, and prepping desperately for the SAT or ACT, it seems a bit unfair to expect juniors to tackle any additional responsibilities at the moment. So if you find yourself with limited free time on your hands, file it away for later this month. But if you’re lucky enough to have already completed your end-of-year assignments and you (or your parents) are just itching to get a head start on your college applications, read on. This is the blog for you: your one-stop shop to everything you need to know about how to register your Common App account.

Step #1: Visit www.commonapp.org

Nearly all students will find it beneficial to create a Common App account. This single application is accepted by more than 600 colleges and universities across the US, and a growing number of international schools use Common App, as well. The first step in completing your application is creating a new account. On www.commonapp.org, click on “Create Account” to get started.

Step #2: Choose Your Login Credentials

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If you don’t already have a college-only dedicated email account (or, at least, one that doesn’t come across as inappropriate or offensive in any way), now’s a great time to generate one. Sure, “firstname.lastname@gmail.com” lacks originality and glamor, but now’s as good a time as ever to prepare yourself for the real world with an adult-sounding email address. Enter your (newly minted – if necessary) email here, and select a password that meets the Common App’s requirements and nearly guarantees you’ll forget it should you fail to write it down. That’s right: the password must be between 8-16 characters in length, contain at least one uppercase and lowercase letter, and include at least one number and one special character. Awes0me!# Now, hit “Continue.”

Step #3: Provide Some Basic Registration Information

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Here’s where it gets serious – kind of. All you have to do is complete the next form using your legal first and last names. No nicknames. And please make your English teacher happy by using proper capitalization! (I can’t tell you how common – and alarming – it is to see a college application riddled with grammatical and capitalization errors.)

When you click the “Enter address” button, a popup box will appear, asking you to input your home address. International students shouldn’t have any problems here, as countries from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe are included on the dropdown menu.

For the “Sex” question, students are advised to list whatever legal sex is indicated on their birth certificate. If you don’t clearly identify as “male” or “female,” not to worry. Many colleges give students the chance to select a more nuanced response to “sex” on their individual supplements.

Should you select your home or cell phone for your telephone number? Either works. Whichever number you enter here will be carried over to your actual application form as your “preferred number.” But you can easily change it later should you so desire.

Most high school students completing this form will indicate they are applying as a “First-Year Student.” Even if you’ve amassed an impressive number of AP/IB credits, you’re mostly likely still applying as a freshman.

Now, if you’re reading this blog before August 1, 2016, the Common App is recommending that you answer the “I am a(n)” question with “Other student.” They only want current seniors who are planning to enroll in college now to use the “Applicant planning to enroll within the next 12 months” response. I know… it’s rather counterintuitive. You are planning to enroll in college within the next 12 months. Still, it’s all part of the Common App’s approach to accurately capture and report numbers of current applicants. But once August 1 comes around, you’ll be prompted to change your status. Whatever you choose to select now will in no way negatively impact your Common App account down the road.

Almost there! You’ll see that the Common App has already pre-checked the “colleges may contact me” disclaimer at the end of this form. You’re certainly welcome to keep that box checked should you enjoy receiving additional emails/phone calls/brochures from the colleges on your “My Colleges” list. And then, in order to proceed any further, you must check the final box, indicating that your parents have agreed to the terms and conditions of the Common Application. And voila! Click “Create” and you’re done. You’ve successfully signed up for the Common Application and can begin completing six sections under the “Common App” tab.

Next Steps

Later this summer, we’ll be compiling additional tips for completing the actual forms of your Common Application – answering questions about everything from “What if I don’t have any honors to list?” to “Do I have to self-report my SAT/ACT scores?” In the meantime, feel free to complete as much of the “Common App” tab as you wish. Any data you enter in this section of the application will be preserved when the 2016-17 Common App goes live on August 1. Keep in mind that students should not attempt to invite recommenders or complete individual school supplements on the “My Colleges” tab prior to August 1. It will all be deleted when their app gets rolled over. But, given that the 2016-17 Common App essay questions are already available, there’s plenty to keep students busy with the Common App now!

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Written by Elyse Krantz
Elyse Krantz is a member of College Coach’s team of college admissions experts. Elyse received her BA in linguistics from Dartmouth College and her MA from Teachers College, Columbia University. Prior to joining College Coach, Elyse worked as an admissions officer at Barnard College and Bennington College.