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Top tips for filling out the new college Common Application

Now that the new Common Application version 4 is up and running, I’d like to share some of my top tips. Understanding the common app can be confusing. Hopefully these observations on each of the six main sections will help.

1. Profile section. The personal information, demographics, religious preference, and geography sections are pretty straightforward. In the “language” section do list the ones you have studied in school. In the “citizenship” section you do not have to list your social security number unless you plan to apply for financial aid. To receive federal financial aid you will have to share it. The Common App Fee Waiver is a great new section. It can save you $40 to $60 per college. If you are enrolled in Free Reduced Lunch or live in subsidized housing or are an orphan you are eligible for the application fee waiver. If you have any questions regarding your eligibility talk to your school counselor.

2. Family section. This section verifies with whom you primarily live. Be honest about your parents’ actual education level. This means whatever level they actually completed.

3. Education. Based on your profile information your school should be easy to find in the list provided. If you check one of the boxes for “education interruption” you will have to explain it on the writing page under “required explanation.” The “colleges and universities” section is much improved. You are now allowed to list online courses. Do not list AP or IB classes here. CBO means Community Based Organization. You would list any free organizations that helped you prepare for college.

The “grades” question asks how your school tells you where you fall among your class. The terms used are “Exact” (your school tells you your rank number, eg.10 out of 200); “Decile” (your school tells you which tenth you fall into (eg. top 10 percent); “Quintile” (your school breaks students into five groups by 20s (top 20 percent, etc), “Quartile” (your school breaks students into four groups, eg. top 25 percent, etc); “None” (your school doesn’t share rank). If you don’t know this, ask your school counselor. You will also need to know if your GPA is weighted or unweighted.

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