AO Advice: Understanding the Common App

In this webinar, our former admissions officer Chelsea Holley will demystify the Common Application, a widely used platform for college admissions in the United States. We’ll walk you through the ins and outs of the Common App, ensuring that you and your parents are equipped with the essential knowledge to tackle the college application process with confidence.

Key Learnings:

  • What is the Common App? We’ll introduce you to the Common Application and explain why it has become a crucial part of the college application landscape.
  • Navigating the Common App: We’ll guide you through the various sections and components of the Common Application, ensuring you understand how to fill in your personal information, academic history, extracurricular activities, and more.
  • Handling Supplemental Materials: Many colleges require additional materials, such as recommendation letters and portfolios. We’ll discuss how to gather and submit these materials seamlessly.
  • Application Timelines: Understanding the timeline is crucial for a stress-free application process. Chelsea will provide a comprehensive overview of important deadlines and the best practices for meeting them.
  • Common Mistakes to Avoid: Learn from the experience of our AO as they highlight common pitfalls and mistakes that applicants often make during the application process.
  • Q&A Session: Towards the end of the webinar, we’ll open the floor for a live Q&A session. Ask our AO anything you want to know about college applications!

Join us for this empowering webinar, and let our expert AO take the guesswork out of the Common App! By the end of the session, you’ll feel more confident and prepared to create a standout college application.

Date 08/20/2023
Duration 1:00:59

Webinar Transcription

2023-08-20 – AO Advice: Understanding the Common App

Hi everybody and welcome to today’s webinar. My name is Anesha Grant. I am a senior advisor at CollegeAdvisor and I will be your moderator today. Today’s webinar is Advice Student Admissions Officer, understanding the Common App. Before we get started, I just wanna orient everyone with the webinar timing.

We’ll start off with a presentation, and then we will answer your questions in a live q and a on a sidebar, you can download our slides under the handouts tab and you can start submitting questions. Whenever you’re ready in the q and a tab, please only submit your questions in the q and a tab. Now let’s meet our panelist, Chelsea.

Hey Chelsea, how are you doing? I am doing well. Hello everyone. My name is Chelsea Holley, and I serve as an admissions officer here at CollegeAdvisor. I’ve worked in admissions for a little over 10 years at a number of selective institutions. So I love doing these webinars to talk all about admissions and things that will help guide you through this process.

So tonight we’ll be talking about the common app and hopefully by the end you’ll have all the information you need to start a common app and submit it. Awesome. Tonight’s session I think is well timed. The common app just opened up and rolled over. So I think it’ll be really good. But before we get started, let’s do a quick poll.

Let us know what grade you are entering in the fall. If you’ve started school, what grade are you in right now? If you don’t start school till later, the month of next month, what grade will you be in? And the comment has gone through so many changes. It’s a different beast than I recognize it from being, the color scheme has changed, the branding has changed, it’s gone through so many, so many changes.

So I appreciate you doing the screenshots and I’m really looking forward to tonight’s session ’cause I think it’ll be really, really helpful.

All right. I think, let’s see. All right, I think I’m gonna go ahead and close our poll. And the majority of folks makes sense, are in the 12th grade right now. So about 71% of our attendees are in the 12th grade. 24% are in the 11th grade. And then we have a couple of sophomores joining us. So congrats sophomores are getting a headstart on this.

And welcome juniors and seniors. I’ll stop talking and hand it over to you, Chelsea. I’ll be back a little bit later. Okay, thanks Anesha. So we will start out really broad. What is the common application? So the Common App is a platform, a website that allows students to apply to multiple colleges at the same time.

The Common app has been around for almost 10 years now. And when it was first launched or prior to the Common app launching students had to go to individual college websites and fill out an application with that college. As you know, that means that you’re having to make multiple logins navigate multiple systems for all the colleges that you wanted to apply to.

So the Common app decided to centralize those things on one platform and over a thousand colleges in the United States. Are hosted on the Common app, and many of those colleges exclusively only take applications through the Common app. So not every institution is on the common app but many of the schools that we work with students on, on the CollegeAdvisor, the majority of those are on the common app.

There are some exceptions like the uc system. The University of California system has their own application platform. But other than that, there’s plenty of schools on the common app that you’re able to explore and apply to. So not only are you filling out an application but you can also use the common app to get to know different schools.

If you are still building a college list and you’re trying to find out what requirements are or learn a little bit of quick facts about different institutions, you can search those schools on the Common app and learn more about them.

So when will the common app go live? The common app just went live on August 1st. So seniors, it is never too early to go ahead and make your Common App login. Just because you’re not ready to apply does not mean that you have to hold off. In fact, I encourage you all to open an account so that you can get familiar with how to navigate it.

There is no cost to use the common app. There is an application fee for individual colleges but it does not take anything to start a common app account. So I encourage you to definitely start one so that you can begin building a college list and getting familiar with the format. So the common app launches each year on August 1st over the summer, admissions offices across the country are looking at their admissions requirements from the previous year.

They might be refining supplemental essays. They might be permanently going test optional. So all of those changes are being discussed the summer before August 1st, and when August 1st hits. Ideally, all of those changes would be final and you know for sure what the requirements are for the colleges you’re interested in.

You would know the essay prompts. And so all of that information is available August 1st. I do wanna make a quick note. The way the common app transfers information to colleges is typically electronically. But oftentimes when the August 1st launch happens, it’s about a two week lag time before the colleges get your actual application.

And this is only in the first two weeks. So if you’ve submitted an application on the common app in the past two weeks and you’re wondering, oh, I didn’t get a confirmation from the college did they get it? Don’t worry. There is that lab time as it first opens, and then I would say after the third week in August, it’s almost immediate.

So as soon as you submit on the common app, then the colleges that you apply to have access to your information in their system. Okay, so let’s talk about the different sections of the Common app. The common app asks you tons of information and it is common to all colleges. However, that does not mean that all of the colleges that you are applying for are going to look at this information or actually use every single category.

So some colleges might say well, we don’t need you to go in and list all of your grades. By course, we use a transcript for that. And so that might be a part that they leave out. But this is an exhaustive list of all the sections and then subsections on the common app. So let’s start with your basic profile information.

This is your full name, your address. If you have a permanent address that’s different from your current address, they’ll ask you that. All of your up-to-date contact information, cell phone, an email. Quick note on an email. It is. Super helpful to make an email specific to applying to college.

So it might be your name applies to [email protected]. One of the reasons to do this is you have everything in one account. And a second reason is oftentimes students will use their school email address and they have pretty tough spam filters. So sometimes if you’re getting messaging from a college to your school email, it might bounce back and you won’t actually get it delivered.

So always make a personal email address so that you can have everything in one account and make sure that you get it. They’re also gonna ask about demographics demographics, geography, nationality. Race and ethnicity is included in the demographic piece. If you guys have been following the Supreme Court decision over the summer this is part of the information that institutions will no longer be able to use in the admissions decision.

So on the profile, the common app will still ask you about your race and ethnicity. But that field will not be transmitted to the college for. Your application review. So if you see that you still fill it out and the common app holds that information but the colleges won’t actually see that.

They’ll ask your language. If you speak more than one language, you have an opportunity to add that. And then last they will ask if you plan to use a fee waiver. And the common app does a really great job of explaining who is eligible for a fee waiver. And so if you click yes they’ll give you a definition just so that you can make sure that you are eligible for a fee waiver.

And fee waivers are exclusively income-based. Typically if you are on free or reduced lunch, or if you received an s a T or a c t waiver, then you’re eligible for a common app waiver. But more information is on the common app about how you become eligible. Comment up also asks about your family.

So they will ask your parents’ marital status, so who actually lives in the household? Are your parents separated? You’ll put that information. They also ask about your family’s education. So they are interested in if your parents went to college, if they graduated and what they’re doing for work.

Now again, a lot of this information is typically used to identify first generation students. Again, some colleges use this information closely and others it may be less important, but. You do have to add that info on the common app. They also ask about your sibling information. So how many siblings do you have?

How old are they? Are they in college? If so, what college do they go to? So again, this gives us more information to understand your family dynamic and who you are as a person. Next education. So of course you would be asked about any high schools that you attended. You would also be asked about any colleges that you attended for dual enrollment credit.

Maybe you did a pre-college program in the summer that granted you college credit. Anything that generated a college transcript. You would want to add this to the education piece. Most recent year courses. So if you are applying early action or early decision to colleges oftentimes we will not be able to see how you performed the first semester of senior year.

All we are looking at is junior year. However you are able to list the classes that you’re taking currently, even though we can’t see the grades for them yet. And this is a, a helpful tool for colleges to know if you are continuing a rigorous path of study. Maybe you’re upping your AP and honors courses.

So this gives us a sense of what are your plans for senior year. You are asked about any honors that you’ve received. So this is not honors courses but any prestigious awards honor role, any of these kind of prestigious awards and honors that you may have received either in school or through an extracurricular organization.

They are also asking about community-based organizations that you are a part of. Typically that is service-based. There is a whole nother section that you can put your extracurricular activities. And then lastly the comment app asks about your future plans. So what do you plan to do when you graduate from college?

Some students will put, I want to be a scientist, a programmer a doctor, and some students might say undecided. Don’t overthink the future plans piece. It is just again, Some information that they’re collecting. Some schools use it and find it of interest. Other schools are less interested in the future plans Question.

Testing. So you are asked to list any tests that you have taken. So that includes the SS a T, the a C T, the P S A T, and any AP course tests that you’ve taken. This section is completely self-reported, so you, let’s say you took the s a t, you have an opportunity to say when you took it and when and what score you received.

But again, this is a self-report, so you still have to go back and send your scores to the colleges that you are applying to directly. And then finally, for international students, if you are in a country where there’s any type of international exam that marks you graduating from high school or secondary school, then they would be asking about that in this section as well.

An example of this would be a, an O levels for our students in the uk. Activities, so this is a big one. This allows you to list up to 10 activities on the common app that you’ve participated in. Activities is a broad section where you’re able to put things other than just sports and clubs on campus at your high school.

You’re also able to put work experience. We have students that will put family re responsibilities, so I cared for a sibling for x amount of hours after school, or I was a caregiver for my grandmother during the pandemic. So you can put those things here and you’re actually able to quantify how often you did the activity and how many hours.

It is a rough estimate. So you would think about was it only a weekend event? Was it something you did every day? Did you only do it in the summer? You, you will be asked to give that level of information. And then last the writing portion of the Common app. You are asked to write a personal essay.

The personal essay is the one essay that is common to all schools on the common app. Many of the colleges on the common app only require the personal essay. There are schools that have supplemental essays but many just require the personal essay. It is a 650 word essay that is the maximum. And it is similar to a personal statement.

You have a number of prompts that you can choose from and you are able to submit that to all the colleges that you are applying to. There is also a community disruption question. This question was added to the common app during the pandemic, and this is an opportunity for you to share the ways, if any, the pandemic might have affected you on a personal level or academically.

Examples of things that students might put here are, I had a really rough time doing virtual learning or I live in a rural area and internet connectivity was really horrible during the pandemic and I struggled because of that. So anything that you feel like you wanna share related to the COVID 19 pandemic?

That’s where you would put it in this question. This question has been on the common app for the past three cycles. I’m not sure if they have given a year in which it will fall off. However, most of you all for many years to come will have been affected in some way by the pandemic, and we wanna make sure that we’re capturing that information in your college application.

And then lastly, there is an additional information section and you can literally write whatever you want in additional information. This is not an area to add an extra essay. This may be an area that you use to explain something. So let’s say your school offers AP courses, but there’s a sequence that you can only start in the ninth grade and you didn’t go to that school in the ninth grade.

So all of those kind of circumstances that you’re concerned that the college won’t know or they’ll make their own judgment, you tell us in the additional information. And this helps the admissions committee to not have to guess and fill in the blanks because you’re able to tell us. So these are the sections of the common app and the subsections.

And this information again will be common throughout all of the colleges that you apply to. So I spoke earlier about how the Common app is also a tool that you can use to explore and research colleges. Here is a screenshot of the first page that you’ll see once you log into your account.

You have a college search tab and it allows you to either search by the city or type in the actual name of the college. You can add colleges to your application list Here. They would go under the My College’s tab, or you could go to the college’s homepage and just learn more about them. So this is a really great tool either to add colleges or just to explore the colleges that are out there.

So we talked a little bit about the personal essay earlier. These are the prompts that you’re able to choose from. One thing that I love about the personal essay on the common app is you can literally talk about anything that you want. These are not very pointed essay prompts. They allow you to bring your experiences, your hobbies, tell a story.

There’s even an option to share an essay on any topic of your choice. So when I say you can literally write about anything, you can absolutely write about anything. You do choose one prompt and you wanna make sure that the prompt that you choose the writing fits that prompt. That’s the only caveat I would say.

But otherwise you really have free reign on this personal essay to make it your own and talk about whatever is important to you.

Oh, okay. We’re gonna do another quick poll. I was trying to get to some of the chat questions. But our next question is just where are you in the application process? We know the majority of folks are seniors in the room, so let us know how far into the process you have gotten.

And then while we were waiting, there was one question I, I thought you could answer in this downtime. Oh. If you are applying to test optional, Should you insert your scores in the test taken section, it’s completely up to you. I think for students that are applying test optional, there’s always that fear that if I disclose my scores anywhere, that I will be judged for them.

So it’s really, it’s really up to you. I think if you’re applying test optional, you may kind of just stay consistent and skip that altogether. However, even if you put self-reported scores there, if the school is test optional, they’re typically still going to ask you whether you want your scores considered.

A lot of schools will send a follow-up email that says, please let us know how you would like us to review your scores. Do you want them used in your review or do you want them ignored? So you should have another opportunity with each of the colleges to clarify that you’re a test optional student.

Thank you. We’ll go ahead and close our poll and just for context the majority, or actually we kind of split on folks who are getting the application materials together and folks who are working on their essays. Congrats to the one person who’s almost done. I hope you are making your way through quickly and asking questions as you go along.

And then no stress to the folks who haven’t started. It’s still pretty early. If you are in the 12th grade, you still have time to get a, a jump on it, but alright, that is our poll. I’ll turn it back over to you, Chelsea.

Okay, so the common app is really just the first start of the college application process. After you submit all the information that we just discussed, there are other materials that you may need to turn into the college. An example of that we just talked about sending your test scores, that’s something else you need to do if you are applying to a school that requires test scores or if you’re choosing to submit them.

These are some standard materials that most students will need to share in addition to the information they enter on the common app. The first one is letters of recommendation. Most common app schools require at least one letter of recommendation. Some require two. The really cool thing about the common app is that you are able to send a request to your recommender directly from the common app.

So you don’t have to send them an email and let them know they need to write a letter. The common app will automatically notify them that you’ve been added, that you’ve added them as a recommender, and they can go in and complete their recommendation. This does not mean that you should not have a side conversation with your recommenders and brief them and make sure that they are the right recommender for you.

In fact, I would do that even before adding them on the common app. Give them a heads up. Make sure they know you and know enough about you to write a compelling recommendation. The second one is a school report. The school report is actually not something that you have to request at all. The school report is automatically provided from your high school counselor, and this gives the colleges kind of the skinny on your high school.

It tells us if you have AP courses available, if there’s honors courses available, it talks about the demographics of your high school, how many students are going to four year colleges, two year colleges, trade school, that kind of thing. So selective institutions or institutions that use a holistic approach to review.

It’s all about your educational context. So how have you performed, given the opportunities available to you specifically? And the school report really helps us understand what opportunities you have at your high school. Transcripts. So most schools are asking you for an official transcript. So you do need to go about requesting your official transcript.

Some counselors as they’re compiling the school report, might automatically send a transcript to the school. But I would inquire to your specific high school about how to go about requesting a transcript because you may need quite a few for the colleges that you are applying to. And then last is the fee waiver.

So common app lets anyone and everyone submit their application without paying a fee if they choose fee waiver. Now what oftentimes happens is a student will say that they’re gonna use a fee waiver on the common app, and later they find out that they’re not eligible for a fee waiver or. They say yes to a fee waiver on the common app, and they think that they’re done.

This allows you to submit it. So just saying yes to a fee waiver allows you to submit the common app, but there is a second piece of the process. You have to actually go produce a fee waiver. The most common fee waivers that colleges take are through college board and naac. You can do a quick Google search for application fee waivers and it will likely point you to those two organizations.

College board because it is again linked to that SS a t and a c t waiver. And then NAAC is a national organization of admissions officers and they also produce fee waivers for high school students. So these are a few things to remember of additional information that you’ll likely have to submit in addition to the common app.

So how can you use the common app to keep track of your different applications? You can apply to up to 20 schools on the Common app. That is a very long list, and I don’t necessarily encourage you to apply to 20 schools, but you can. Under the My Colleges tab, you are able to add a college and you can actually see all of your applications.

So if you look on the left hand side of this screenshot you see University in Gray, university in Gray, college in Gray. Those are three different institutions that I’ve added to my common app, and all I would do is click the arrow to open that application and begin working on it. So the interface is very user-friendly and allows you to see all of your applications in one place.

There is a financial aid tab on the common app similar to the additional materials. The financial aid section on the common app is mostly informational. And for resources they describe and define the types of financial aid. It gives you some scholarship search resources and how to apply for financial aid.

But you are not actually applying for financial aid on the common app. If you are a domestic student, you would be going to fafsa which is the Federal Aid application. And if you were an international student, you would want to contact your institution to see what type of financial aid is available for international students.

So. Financial aid on the common app is strictly informational. The first place you wanna stop if you are seeking financial aid is the fafsa. And to be honest, even if you do not think that you apply or would be approved for financial aid you always want to fill out the fafsa. The FAFSA is not just income based.

It includes grants, scholarships, loans. So this allows the financial aid office at your institution to understand where you are financially so they can best package your award letter.

So there’s a couple places on the common app that students have a real opportunity to shine. I would say the number one place is the personal essay. One of the reasons is the personal essay is the one dedicated space where you get to talk directly to the colleges about yourself, about your interest, about your background.

And so a good personal essay can really bolster an application because it gives a voice to. Your G P A to your SS a T scores. Those things are numeric. The personal essay really gives a soul to your application. So it is absolutely one of the best places where you can shine. The second piece is your activities your activities list, tell the admissions committee all the things that you’re doing outside of school.

So a carefully curated activities list can also be amazing. And then lastly, your letter of recommendation. Letters of recommendation are sometimes thought of to be not that important. I, I wanna share very. Very few instances are your letters of recommendation making or breaking your application.

But what they do is they can allow a third party to co-sign something that you’ve already shared. So maybe you listed a particular organization on your activities list, and then you get a letter of recommendation from the advisor for that organization, and they can really talk about how you showed up your leadership skills, so on and so forth.

So the letters of recommendation are also a great opportunity to produce a strong application.

How do students submit a finished application through the common app? So you have to complete all of the required questions. So in this case it would be the common app questions. You also have a section of college specific questions. So not all colleges require you to answer additional questions.

Some do. So you want to make sure that you go through each of the institutions on my colleges and you answer any of their individual questions. You either have to pay a fee to submit the common app to your individual schools, or let the common app know that you are using a fee waiver. And then again, additional fee waiver steps may be requested.

Typically, the school will communicate with you directly about how to send over your fee waiver information. Last advice before we get started on the q and as start early. So again, for all of the seniors on this call kudos to you. If you have not already made a common app account, I encourage you to do so.

Those that are juniors and sophomores, you all are doing an amazing job at getting prepared for this process and understanding how to go about using the common app. Make an account even if you are not quite ready to apply. This allows you to scope out the platform, see what colleges are on the common app and just get a little bit more comfortable with navigating the site.

And then last, the common app allows you to invite an advisor to view your application. That advisor could be your high school counselor that is helping you with applying to colleges. It could be a parent, it could be your CollegeAdvisor. Anyone that you would like to have some insight into your application they are able to view certain pieces of your common app and give you feedback.

So let’s get started on the q and as. All right. Thanks so much Chelsea, for that amazing presentation. It was very detailed and specific, so I hope folks will pay attention and take notes on how to get through the common app. Let’s start off with questions of trying to organize them. I, I’ll start off with a money one, not a financial aid one, but someone asked what is the fee for each application submitted?

Yeah, so it varies quite broadly. I’ve seen application fees as little as 25 to $30 and as high as $125. So you want to look at the individual colleges you’re interested in on their admission site. They should be able to tell you how much that fee is now even the fees that are more affordable.

Once you multiply that by eight schools or 10 schools if you are applying to that many it can become a lot of money. So you definitely want to make sure you’re prepared for paying the application fees if you’re not using a fee waiver. And I, I skipped my whole Q and H b o. So if you are having any issues with submitting questions to the q and a tab, please know, you might have to log out, log back in, and just double check that you double check that you joined through the link in your email and not from the webinar landing page.

But the way that it will work is obviously you will submit questions. I will publish them in the chat, say them aloud, and give Chelsea an opportunity to answer them. So please continue to submit your questions. Please submit your questions in the, in the q and a tab. Please do not send me private messages with your questions.

It becomes a little distracting. Okay. So our next question is so this student was asking as an international student, if I just a lot of questions about the s a T scores. So if I decide not to report my s a T scores, will that have a negative impact on my application? And then they ask just for general clarification on test optional policies and how they affect students.

Yeah. So I will. Kind of answer that question starting with the last, last question first. So the first thing to know is that you should go to all of the colleges that you are interested in applying to and look on their website and find out what their testing policy is. Again, those have changed year to year as we are getting further away from the pandemic.

So you wanna find out what the testing policy is right now. If a college says that they are a test optional college, that means that you will not be penalized for withholding your scores. So that is part of their review. They are reviewing you fairly with or without scores. If a college says they are test blind that means that they are completely uninterested in your scores.

And even if you send them that, they are not going to include them in your review. I wanna share that there are many colleges that have gone back to requiring test scores, but the vast majority of institutions right now have some sort of test optional or test flexible policy. So get to know those.

And once you see those policies I encourage you to have comfort that you are not at a disadvantage because you’re not submitting a test score. The only thing I’ll add on for international students is that you might have to take. The TOEFL or the tefl. And if you have not been receiving instruction in English consistently throughout your secondary, just to prove that you have English fluency.

So you, if it’s saying the s a t is optional or required or not, it is the same regardless of whether or not you’re a international or national student. But you might have to take the, the, or the temple in order to prove your English language fluency. So I just wanna put that that’s the one difference or caveat perhaps for international students.

Okay. The next question, there were a lot of questions around recommender. So the first question is, how do you know if a recommendation is needed? So your, under my colleges, each individual college will tell you if recommendation letters are required or if they’re optional, they’ll tell you how many, and they’ll tell you who should be filling this out.

So it may say there’s one required recommendation from a counselor. There’s one required from teacher, and one can be optional of someone. That’s neither of those things. It’ll usually say other. So you’ll see that on your, my colleges and if it’s required it’ll be very easy for you to determine that that’s part of the requirement.

And could you talk through the process for adding a recommender? Yes. So this is on a separate screen than you would see the requirements. When you choose to add a recommender on the common app, you are asked their name, title, information but most importantly their email because then they will get an email directly from the common app letting them know that you’ve added them and giving them information on how to fill out a recommendation from you.

And then, okay, so that is the same. Okay. Then how many letters of recommendation are quote unquote, too much? It depends on the college. In my experience, I would say you don’t wanna submit more than one additional recommendation letter. I think if a college, you know requires two and you submit three that is probably the ceiling.

Anything beyond that, it really just ends up not being incredibly useful in the process. And sometimes colleges can get inundated with recommendation letters from like one individual student, and it can sometimes be a nuisance if it is a little overboard on the recommender. So I think that’s an area where don’t feel like you have to go above and beyond.

If they say they only want two, I would only send two. And then a, a small addendum to that is how many letters or recommendations should you have ready? I, I would say, I would say two. There, there may be some instances in which you may want a different recommender for a different college. So let’s say there’s a, a college that has a specific major and maybe some of the others don’t.

You might wanna get a recommender from a teacher who can show that you’re competent in that desired major. So it, it is completely up to you. I don’t think that you need like a, a whole file of multiple recommendation letters. But you wanna have, I would say, three or four people in mind that would work.

And then when you sit down to finalize it, then you would choose two or so that you would actually approach. This is a question I guess, regarding the essay. So I think the student is saying they are choosing to write a response to their own prompt, should they provide the prompt that they’re actually responding to, and if so, where?

Yeah. So I’ve seen that done. So the, the way that the way that last option or that last prompt is worded is really share an essay on a topic of your choice. If you add the prompt, the only place to add the prompt is in the essay field, and if you add the prompt, it’s cutting into your word count.

So I encourage you to find a way to work in what the essay is about within the essay, so you don’t have to type out what the prompt is. Okay. Alright, we’re gonna switch over and talk a little bit about financial aid. There are a lot of, actually, before that let’s just answer one quick question. How many schools does the average student apply to?

I think the most recent range was 10 to 12. Is that standard Anesha? Yeah. I, yes. I would say nine to 12, typically 15 at the most. Yeah. Yeah. And, and that’s the range, but it still doesn’t mean that you have to apply to 10 or 12 schools. That’s still quite a bit. So it, it depends on the student and then also, you know, you want to apply to schools that you actually want to go to, right?

That makes sense for you maybe that you visited or they have something really unique that you’re interested in. So there’s no brownie points for applying to 15 colleges. In fact it makes it a lot of work for you. And sometimes that can kind of add to the stress. All right, so before we get into some financial aid questions, I’m gonna do a quick p ss a for CollegeAdvisor, if there are any folks who are not currently.

Working with us, we would encourage you to get involved. We have a team of over 400 former admissions officers and admissions experts like myself and Chelsea, who are ready to support you and your family through the college admissions process. We’ve already helped over a thousand oh, sorry. Over 6,000 students total in their college admissions journey.

And we found that our students are more likely to gain the acceptance that they are seeking for in their process. So you can increase your odds and take the next step by using the QR code that is on the screen to sign up for a free 45 to 60 minute strategy session with an admission specialist on our team.

During that conversation, we’ll talk about extracurriculars talk about application strategy and how everything aligns with your potential college list. So some of these questions you will have an opportunity to get answered through that free one-on-one session if you are not currently working with CollegeAdvisor.

So just wanna write, remind folks of that and then we’ll get back to the questions. So, This is an interesting question that I think is important to clarify. So the student said the FAFSA opens December 1st. Is it worth, worth it to submit the common app before that date? Yeah, great question. So great question Payne.

One thing to to note is the FAFSA does not usually open on December 1st. There are some really significant changes being made to the FAFSA this year. And when I say significant, this has, these types of changes have never happened in the history of the fafsa. So it is a very big deal. And because these changes are being made, the FAFSA would typically open on October 1st.

It is now an opening on December 1st, just for this year. Your application and your FAFSA. They move through this process independently. So you can absolutely submit your common app before you fill out your fafsa. In fact, if you’re applying early, you should definitely do that. You don’t wanna wait for your FAFSA submission to apply.

What FAFSA does is once you fill it out and add your schools, then once your decision is being made, the financial aid office can package you appropriately with the FAFSA information. But the FAFSA does not impact your admissions decision at all the colleges that you apply to there. Sorry, there’s another question here regarding submission of the fa the common app regarding date.

So I just wanna clarify for close, not gonna pose it as a question. On the common app, you can sub, you are submitting each college individually. So there is a general profile where you fill out all of your general information, but ultimately when you go to submit the application, you are only submitting to one college at a time.

So if you are planning to apply to one college early, yes, you should still use the common app because you can submit to all of the other colleges later. So you’re just submitting to that one college if you’re applying early. If you’re applying regular, you are submitting to those colleges at a later time.

So the comment up is that a one, one use and forget you can apply to each individual school. I hope that clarifies some of the comments that I was getting from folks in the questions in the q I saw a few of those as well. Okay. Oh, okay. This is a question. Okay. How in the common app, how does one communicate to a university that they’re applying to a specific college within the university?

So if that matters, and I say if that matters because some Colleges are admitting you to the college, not the major. But if it is a school in which you are admitted to the major they will ask you that. They will, they will ask you what your intended major is. They may even ask what your second choice major is.

So the colleges have different ways about asking about your major and where you plan to actually study. This is an interesting question. All the common app, do they ask if you are a legacy? Good question. So the common app does not ask if you are a legacy in the common questions, but school specific questions may ask if you are a legacy of that institution.

Even if there is not a legacy question, you are putting in your parents’ information. So even if they aren’t flat out asking, they can see that your parent went to that school. This is regarding the activities. So someone said, within the 150 character description, should you, how should you prioritize should you fill those up with prestigious awards and achievements impacts for your role?

What, how do you, I guess, effectively use that 150 characters to describe your activities or should you put it in the additional information section if you have more to say? So you should be able to describe your activity in 150 characters. One thing to keep in mind, you want to give the emissions committee a lot of information, but you also want to be concise.

And so you should be able to sum up any activity that you participated in, I would say within two sentences. Also you can think about the activities list as kind of a resume. You may find yourself using verbs and kind of listing out. Led this, created this was selected to this. As long as you know, the spelling in general grammar is correct, it is okay for you not to have an essay sentence structure there.

You want it to be concise. You want us to be able to look at it and immediately know, okay, this is what he or she did in this activity. This is a question of clarification from the previous conversation about fafsa. Someone asked, can we start working on the FAFSA before it officially opens? No, I wish you could.

There’s things that you can do to prepare to be working on it. So one of those things, if you are a parent you could make sure that you have your taxes from the previous year together and ready to put that information into the fafsa. That’s about it. That’s all you could really do early is get all your financial documents together.

Can you still create a F S A id or are you holding off on, are people holding up on that as well? That I don’t know. Yeah. Yeah. I, I think that you can still make an F S A id but you just wouldn’t be able to actually start the application, start the fafsa. Yeah. Yeah. Okay. Is there an advantage to applying earlier in the regular decision process?

So I guess the admitting before the deadline. So generally speaking, submitting before the deadline does not, is not necessarily helpful. So, you know, no. The students that applied in the first two weeks of August don’t, don’t have a better chance than students that apply two days before the deadline.

The caveat of that is if you are at a school who has, or applying for a school that has rolling admissions, this means they are literally reviewing. And deciding, reviewing and deciding over and over. Right. There may be a benefit of applying to those schools earlier. But generally speaking, no. If you have a deadline in November, take your time and put together a good application.

Do not feel like you have to, like rush and submit it. Sorry, someone asked this earlier and I missed it back to the fafsa. I apologize to be hopping all over, but when we fill out the fafsa, do we need tax docs that supporting documentation? So there is a tool that actually retrieves your tax information.

So the i r s system is connected to or the FAFSA has access to i r s records. So you are able to pull that information in directly if you filed. Otherwise you’re self-reporting. But know that any, at any time you could be asked for verification and have to actually produce your tax documents.

All right, another follow-up financial question. Someone said if your financial income has changed in the current year and the previous years, financial information is long, longer, relevant, what can we do? So you should still submit the FAFSA with your current financial information that they’re asking from.

So from that year. But what I would do immediately after that is you would reach out to the financial aid office at the schools that you are applying to. And let them know that there have been changes to your income, changes to your household from the previous tax year. And these are the changes.

So laying them out for them, they will actually review those changes. And sometimes those are things that can alter your award. Yeah. So still, if you’re a senior right now, you’ll still have to submit it with your 2022 tax information. But if things have changed for 2023, you will have to do additional follow up for juniors.

If your 2023 taxes, that will be used in consideration. So, Just know that it’s two years. I don’t even want to get into it. It’s prior, prior, the year before is all you have to worry about, but you will have to do follow up information and also look into if any of your schools have the C Ss s profile, because the c s s profile ask for three years of tax information.

So depending on the school, they might be asking for more detailed information than just what’s requested on the fafsa. If the school, sorry, there’s a question now for you, Chelsea. If the school requires a teacher recommendation, can it be a teacher who is retired? That’s a good question. Yes.

It could be a teacher that’s retired. However that teacher. Likely should have taught you at some time before they retired. Some schools will specifically say you need a teacher recommendation from your current high school. I think even if a school does not say that, that is a, a good practice to make sure you have a recent recommender and someone who has taught you at your current high school.

You never wanna go back into middle school or anything before that. Ninth grade and on is what we’re working with for recommenders if a college resume is required. What is a college resume required when submitting applications through the common app? So a resume is not a part of the common app or the questions that are on the common app.

Now, individual colleges might ask you for a resume as part of their application process. I will say that. I would say fewer schools are asking for a resume in addition to the common app than are. So that may not be something that you have to worry about. Okay. This person is asking, I’m not sure, I don’t fully follow the question, so if you could add context to it.

But she asked if I were an international student, what important topic should I have on my school report? So again, your school report would be compiled from your high school counselor. So the same things that I listed for a school report in the US would apply for international students for international.

Oftentimes we see what type of curriculum, curriculum you are on what accreditation body your school is under, how many credits you need to graduate. Those are things that would be of interest for an international school report specifically. The student said, if I know I won’t qualify for the fafsa, I’m assuming I don’t have to submit tax information and I can skip it.

So if you’re, if you are filling out the fafsa, you do have to submit the tax information. I, I think that the submitting a fafsa if you are going to college is a best practice in general. Not everything that might be on your award letter is income based. Maybe you are planning to take out a small loan, maybe there is a grant.

Sometimes there’s grants for religious affiliation in certain states. If you are in states that have a lottery tuition program like Georgia or Florida you would still need to fill out the FAFSA for that. So there’s a lot of reasons I that you would still fill out the FAFSA even if you don’t think that you’re financially.

There was a question and a follow up to that previous financial aid about submitting follow up information and the timeline of when you should do that. Should you do that as your application is submitted or should you wait and see if you’re accepted? I would do that as soon as your application is submitted.

During this time financial aid offices are accustomed to talking to prospective students because they’re getting your FAFSA in their files anyway. So I don’t think it could hurt to reach out at that time. If you wait until you get accepted, that means they would’ve already generated an award letter to you and everybody else, and it may be a little harder to go back and read allot funds when you’ve already got an award letter.

Going back to testing, what student ask if you don’t add the a c t, are you limited to merit scholarships? So it depends on the college. The question that you want to ask or seek out is, do you require SS a t or a c t scores for merit scholarships at your institution? Some schools will be test optional for admissions but their scholarships have some sort of testing requirement, so you want to find that out.

If they tell you no, then and no, you wouldn’t be penalized for skipping the A c T or the s a p. Alright. This one, one question goes back to the activity section. It says it is limited to 10. So should I list the rest of my activities in the additional information section? You could do that, that probably wouldn’t be on my recommendation list to do.

It, it becomes a little bit overkill. The reason that there are only 10 activities on the common app is we really want you to think about what 10 activities you have the most impact in that you maybe had a leadership role in that you participated in for the longest. So the idea is that you are selective about what experiences go on your activities list, similar to a resume.

When you first graduate from college, you put everything on your resume that you ever did. But 15 years down the road, you don’t list everything. You pick and choose what things make sense for the job that you’re applying to. I think the activities list is exactly the same way. I have some students who will expand and, and include a resume in the additional information section.

So yeah, it probably is overkill, but I, I know I have, I don’t have some students who want to tell the schools everything that they do. And so I would, if you are including the additional information section, just make sure it’s organized in a way that is easily readable and not kind of the same formatting that you are you’re seeing on the activity section.

One student was talking about, I guess schools, some schools mentioned applying early without fees. And does that change if you wait to apply later, but you’re submitting before the deadlines? I guess some schools have a, will weave the fee. Yeah. Yeah. So colleges. Are like stores that might have a sale, right?

Like they might say, you know, for the month of September there’s no application fees for this school. If that’s something that appeals to you and you’re ready to submit, yes, you should do that because they may require fees the next month. That’s absolutely normal. This is an interesting, okay, there’s another follow up to the financial aid question.

Is it the parent or the student who should be reaching out to the financial aid office? Oh, I saw that one. That’s a great one. So one thing I did not cover in this presentation is that the Common app actually asks you about ferpa. FERPA is a federal law that allows schools to release your educational record but it also protects students.

And basically says that once you are 18 or in college that you have to tell the institution that they can talk to your parent. So parents, if you know that you’re going to be involved in the conversations with the admissions office about an application or the financial aid office you do wanna make sure that your student has Added you to FERPA on the common app and said, yes, I want my mom to be able to discuss anything that I can discuss.

Once that’s done, I don’t think that financial aid offices have a preference. I actually think at this stage, the parents probably have the most information about their finances. So the parent may just have a more informed conversation with financial aid. All right. And then the final question we’ll wrap up with is when should one start considering scholarships relative to applying to colleges and universities?

Noun immediately. So scholarships. You have internal scholarships and external scholarships. Internal scholarships are awards that the college gives you once you’re accepted and they’re specific to that school. External scholarships are typically funded by corporations like Home Depot, Google, Microsoft and these kinds of scholarships can follow you wherever you go.

No matter where you enroll, you can stack these scholarships. So if you are a senior, I encourage you to be applying for external scholarships right now, like it is your part-time job. You want to have as much funding as you can, and even if you reach the ceiling and your tuition’s covered, your housing’s covered, all of those additional scholarships can go into your pocket to help support things like housing study abroad.

So it’s, it’s a really great practice to start early. Awesome. So we will go ahead and leave it there. Thank you so much, Chelsea, for all of your knowledge and thoughtfulness and for bouncing around with me on all the different topics. I do appreciate you. Thank you everyone for joining us today. We hope you enjoy this opportunity to learn about getting started on the Common App.

We also hope that you’ll join us for future webinars. We’re gonna end off the month with a double header, so tomorrow August 21st, we’ll have a session on common mistakes students make when they are starting the college essay. And we’ll also have a session tomorrow on pre-medicine applicants on how to select a major.

Until then take care and have a great evening. Hope to see you soon. Bye Chelsea. Thanks so much. Bye.