Once you've decided which colleges you will apply to, it's time to start filling out their applications. Most schools now prefer that you use the Common Application online, which is a general application that you will fill out and send to all of your schools. In this application you will enter your personal and family information, your test scores, your activities, letters of recommendation, and your academic information. You will also need to submit a personal statement of at least 250 words. Here are the Common Application's requirements for the essay:
Please write an essay (250 words minimum) on a topic of your choice or on one of the options listed below. This personal essay helps us to become acquainted with you as a person and student, apart form courses, grades, test scores, and other objective data. It will also demonstrate your ability to organize your thoughts and express yourself.
Please indicate your topic by checking the appropriate button below.
-Evaluate a significant experience, achievement, risk you have taken, or ethical dilemma you have faced and its impact on you.
-Discuss some issue of personal, local, national, or international concern and its importance to you.
-Indicate a person who has had a significant influence on you, and describe that influence.
-Describe a character in fiction, a historical figure, or a creative work (as in art, music, science, etc.) that has had an influence on you, and explain that influence.
-A range of academic interests, personal perspectives, and life experiences adds much to the educational mix. Given your personal background, describe an experience that illustrates what you would bring to the diversity in a college community, or an encounter that demonstrated the importance of diversity to you.
-Topic of your choice.
It is best to start thinking about your essay early so that you can write several drafts and receive feedback from your family or teachers.
Along with the general application, each school requires you to fill out their 'supplement' which is also included on the Common Application. The supplement is an extension of your application with questions designed specifically for each individual school. You will have direct access to each school's specific requirements, as when you create an account with the Common Application you will need to 'Add Colleges' to your list.
Supplements usually contain additional questions relating to your interests (i.e. your preferred majors, your hobbies), and most all ask for an additional essay on a specific theme. Many also contain a series of short answer questions.
There is a lot to fill out, so give yourself plenty of time to complete each application fully.
You will need to submit two letters of recommendation from teachers, and one counselor report. You should ask these people for recommendations early on and check in often so that they have plenty of time to complete their letters. Through the Common Application you will 'request' them electronically by entering their email addresses. Be sure you ask them before you do this. The same goes for the school counselor; they will be sending in your grade reports. You may not view the letters they have submitted through the Common Application.
As mentioned earlier, each college requires an application fee be submitted, which you can do through the Common Application with a credit or debit card. The fee is non-refundable regardless of whether or not you are accepted. There are also fee waivers available for those who qualify.
Remember also that not all colleges use the Common Application. It is important that you go to each school's website to find out exactly what is required to apply. While most colleges prefer that you apply online, most will allow you to send paper copies if you wish, and some schools still prefer paper copies. Make sure you are clear about what you'll need to submit for each school.
When you completely finish the Common Application, the supplements, and the payments, you may click 'submit.' After this point you may no longer edit anything within your application, but you can still view it at any time. It is a good idea to print a hard copy for your records.