ABCs of the common college application

Question: Are there some tips you can give me about completing the common application?

Answer: I always advise students to have a few pieces of information handy before they start.

You should have your social security number, name and address of your high school, counselor’s name and his or her phone number and fax number, as well as a copy of your scores from the SAT reasoning test, the SAT subject tests, ACT scores, AP score or IB scores. The application also asks for the name of the schools and graduation year for both of your parents, including their undergraduate and graduate training.

I also advise that you have your resume handy, if you completed one, as well as your current course schedule for senior year. Before you can submit your application, you will also need a credit card, as most schools require payment before your application is complete.

Once you have armed yourself with that information, you are ready to start. When you create a login name and password, write it down, as you will need it each time you log on.

There are a few things to keep in mind as you complete the application. As you move down through the questions by scrolling on the tabs on the left side of the page, remember to push the save button on the bottom of each page, as your work will be lost unless it is properly saved.

When you get to the section where you are to enter your scores, many students are confused about which scores to enter on the common application because of Score Choice. You generally do not customize the common application for each school on your list, which can be frustrating when many of your schools have varying requirements as to whether or not you need to submit each testing date; I usually have students submit all testing dates on the common application and utilize Score Choice when sending scores from the College Board or the ACT.

Uploading essays, especially from a Mac, can be burdensome. Your essays may not be visible on your computer after they have been downloaded when you click the “view essay” tab, even if they were saved in one of the required formats.

One way around this is to save your word documents as a .pdf, which appears to take care of this problem. Another trick is ensuring that you have downloaded a free copy of Adobe Acrobat onto your computer, as you will not be able to view your downloaded application unless you have this.

Once the application and the supplement have been submitted, and the payment button has been pushed, the date you submitted the application for each of the three sections should appear next to the college on your home page.

It is easy to become impatient once you have entered all the information and want to push the submit button.

I do, however, caution you to print-preview both the application and the supplement section and review each section very carefully before you click the submit button, as you cannot retrieve your application. Once that submit button is pushed, no further changes can be made.

Joan Franklin is the owner of The College Source, an independent college consulting practice: She is also a certified school counselor in the Issaquah School District. She can be reached at (206) 232-5626 or

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