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College Application Advice Please

Hi guys,

I needed some info on what the common application is and how useful it actually is in regards to applying to colleges. I watched some videos on it but am still a little confused about it. Being a first generation student going to college in the U.S. can get a bit difficult, so some advice on how to make the college application process go smoothly would be greatly appreciated. Any tips as to what I should do to better prepare for the applications, the financial aid, FAFSA....etc would really be helpful!!!

Thanks Everyone :)

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Common App:

The Common Application is a programme which most universities use to send your college application to them. It's quite useful because, as I said before, more universities are now using it and you submit your application online through one website, instead of having to send your application through each uni's website and mailing address.

The Common App makes it easier for you also because you only have to fill in your basic information once. This means you don't have to fill out your name, DOB etc for Duke AND Georgetown AND Brown AND Oberlin AND any other university you want to apply to, and once you've finished the basic information each school's university supplement is ready for you to fill in.

The basic essays the Common App requires are an Activities Essay (providing more detail on your favourite activity) and a Long Essay. For the Long Essay, questions are provided but there is also an option of "Topic of your choice". These essays, particularly the Long Essay, is supposed to reflect YOU - as you are writing the essay, think to yourself: Does it sound like I wrote this? The best way to check this is to have a friend read it for you. Also, your essays have to be interesting; you need to stand out from the crowd!

Other basic information you need to provide is your activities, what your high school is, your family etc. There are also extra bits like the Arts Supplement if you art artsy, but some universities don't accept the Common App's Art Supplement and prefer to have you fill out their own version.

There is also another part after the basics, and it is the university supplement. Not all universities have a supplement. The supplement is typically questions like "Why Wellesley?/Why is Wellesley special to you?", but there are also trickier questions like "State three things you want us to know about you". These supplements are arguably more important than the Long Essay, because it is a direct comparison to the other candidates applying to that school and the universities choose what they want to ask you. (There are some absolutely horrendous supplements to fill out, like the Brown Supplement. I heard that some people are put off a uni by its supplement.) Again, this is supposed to reflect YOU.


  • Do not leave it until the night before to write your essays! You should take care and make sure there are no silly mistakes (e.g. grammatical mistakes!), as that can leave a negative impression on the Admission Office.
  • PRINT OUT A COPY OF THE COMMON APP WITH YOUR INFORMATION FILLED IN. The Common App has word limits (including the essays) and often doesn't tell you when you are over the limit, so print out to make sure that nothing is truncated.
  • Do your research! Find universities that you actually want to go to, because of the area, the academics, the activities etc. Don't just apply because you know of the name. What are you going to say when they ask you, "Why Yale"? "Oh, because it's a good school." That's not enough.
  • Be realistic. It may be nice to apply to 10 Ivy League-level schools, but you need to make sure you have at least one university you KNOW you can get in. This is the 'lingo':
    Reach/Stretch universities + Probable universities + Safety universities = ~10 universities. I think the recommended advice is to have 2-3 safety (schools you can definitely get into), 3-4 schools you can probably get into, and 2-3 reach schools (schools that you'd like to get into but not sure if you can).
  • Don't lie on your app. They will find out, one way or another. :)
  • There are two types of admissions: Early and Regular. The Regular deadline is around January 1st, and the Early deadlines depend on the university (dates are stated on the respective university websites). There are two types of Early applications: Early Action and Early Decision.
    Early Action (EA): applying early and showing that you have a pretty strong interest in the school, but if you are accepted you DON'T have to go. Some universities have policies saying that you can only apply to one EA school. You can choose whether you want to go to an EA school the same time you decide you want to go to a Regular decision school - you have a wider choice, and have more time to decide.
    Early Decision (ED): a binding application, meaning that if you are accepted you HAVE to attend that university. You can only apply for one Early Decision. But if you are deferred or rejected, you can apply with the Regular pool. Some schools have ED I and ED II, and ED II is the later version of ED I, but typically has the same deadlines as the Regular admission pool.
    The advantage of applying EA or ED I is that you know if you have been accepted by the end of January (more or less) and don't have to worry about admissions unlike the rest, BUT you must have applied by November.

Financial Aid:

I only know that there are two types: need-blind and need-aware. Need-blind means that your financial aid need won't affect your admission. Rumour has it though that more schools are becoming more need-aware because of the costs of being need-blind.


  • Choose the one most suitable for you. ACTs tend to be easier to increase your score; it's more similar to the 'studying' aspect of school, but it really depends on what fits you best.
  • I think all schools superscore SATs (but some require that they see all the tests you have done), and more schools are superscoring the ACT. Superscoring is taking the best result from all of your testings.
    e.g. 720 CR (Try 1), 770 M (Try 3), 680 R (Try 1)
  • Practise, practise, practise! Need I say more?

Don't be afraid to ask more questions! :)

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so saying that should I sign up for an account on the common application website?

Yes you should. From there you will be able to choose the universities you want to apply to, fill in the information each uni requires, and send your application to them.

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