The Common App goes live on August 1st. Early and regular decision deadlines are typically not until November 1st and January 1st, but preparing now can ease stress later on. Completing the Common App is a large part of planning for college and essential for getting into a top college. When it comes to applying for college, the earlier you start on your apps, the better. Keep these tips in mind when you’re starting your Common App.

  • Fill out the basics first. The Common App can seem daunting, but the key to any big task is just getting started. Simply filling out simple biographical information takes a matter of minutes and can give you momentum going forward. Complete the basic parts of the Common App first, then focus on working on it a for a couple hours each day.
  • Be authentic with your activities. Don’t get caught up trying to sound impressive or woo admissions officers. College want to get to know you by reading how you spend your time and what you do. Keep in mind that activities are basically anything you do outside of class time, test prep, and homework.  This includes jobs, household and family responsibilities, personal projects and hobbies, independent research, and elderly or child care, in addition to the more traditional in and out of school clubs and sports.
  • Ask yourself some questions to get those writer’s juices flowing. Writer’s block is normal and common. One way to unlock the essay within you is to ask some questions to get your brain juices flowing. Answer these questions: What do you believe? What do you value? What do you think about just before you go to sleep? What makes you excited to wake up in the morning? Who are your heroes? What is your favorite comfort food? What makes you feel at home? What are you afraid of? What makes you smile? Now, think about your answers. Do you see any commonalities or anything that stands out to you?
  • Focus on your personal statement. The personal statement goes out to every college you apply to through the Common App and is a vital admissions tool. Use it to your advantage. For your personal statement, the conceit or vehicle you use to get your message across is unimportant. Don’t get caught up in that. The important part is the preparation you do before you write. Peel back those onion layers and get to the inner core of who you are. Learn about yourself. Become the expert on you. Expose your vulnerable side and then become the teacher. Teach the lesson of you and what you’ve learned as you go through this self exploration process.
  • Don’t stress over choosing the prompt. The topic is YOU. What’s most important is not what you write about, but how you convey it. Try brainstorming and drafting before you start writing. The topics you are naturally drawn to will probably write the easiest. Once you’ve given it some thought, dive in and start writing. You can always edit away later. No matter what vehicle you choose to send your message, the subject will ultimately be you.

Just by reading this blog you are miles ahead of the game. Focus on what you want them to learn about you and less on the narrative, and then just start writing. Do lots of practice. Be fastidious with the details. You have plenty of time, and the more you explore the admissions journey and who you are, the stronger and clearer your writing will be.  So rev your engines, go to, and get started!