- What does college prep mean on common app?
In some high schools, POP courses or college preparation courses are classes that prepare you for your future educational career as a college student. These can be CP classes that teach you how to manage your college applications, financial aid, and loans, what you can expect from a college education, and more. Here in the United States, college preparatory programs can be found in public, private, and charter schools. The term “college preparatory school” is typically associated with elite institutions that come with highly selective admissions and high tuition costs.
But there is another way to prepare the student for their post-secondary education. Many high schools offer Advanced Placement (AP) or International Baccalaureate (IB) classes that prepare students for the rigors of college courses. In addition, community colleges and third-party groups often present classes to students preparing for college. It is important to note that there is not necessarily a standard formula for college preparation courses, as admission standards and courses vary by institution.
Generally, you should opt for the hardest level class if you think you can get a B or higher because, in general, most colleges would rather see a B in an Honors or AP course than a set of A in college prep classes. If your school never says college readiness in official documents, I'd say just put the bc standard the penalty for “lying is higher than the benefit of calling it “college readiness. College preparation courses help high school students or graduates prepare for the college's increased academic workload. Many schools do not give students the option to miss courses if they complete college preparation classes offered outside of high school.
- Questions about listing classes on Common App : ApplyingToCollege
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Questions about listing classes on Common App
I’m listing my classes this I am taking for my senior year in the education section, but I have 2 questions.
What would I list my non-ap classes as when it asks for “course level?” For example for general physics would it be listed as regular/standard, or college prep? What is the difference between the two?
Also I’m wondering what to classify some business courses I have/will take as. These courses include financial accounting 1 & 2, and personal finance. I have earned credit at a local technical college for these courses, so does that mean they are dual enrollment? I am not taking these classes at the location of the college, but they are at my high school just like any other class. Does anyone know what these would be considered level wise on the common app?
Thank you for your help!
I think it’s just how your school labels them. Your school report will tell about all the levels available to your specific school. Some schools are “college prep” and name their school and general courses “college prep,” others don’t, others use “college prep” as their version of “honors,” the school report tells the AOs what the deal is. If your school never says college prep on official documents, I’d say just put standard bc the penalty for “lying” is higher than the benefit of calling it “college prep.”
Ask your counselor if those courses mean dual enrollment or something else
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A Guide to the Education Section of the Common App
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The Education section of the Common App is exactly what it sounds like: it’s where you tell your chosen colleges about your high school academic performance. From grades to class rank to what courses you took, colleges will want to get a detailed look at what–and how–you did in high school.
Four years of academic work creates a great deal of information to convey. As with other sections of the Common App, you’ll only have to actually enter this information once, and it will be copied to all the colleges to which you submit applications. Since basically every college requests the same or similar educational information, this can save you a lot of time and typing.
Before you begin filling out the Education section, you’ll want to gather the necessary data from your records and clarify any requirements that are unclear to you. In this post, we’ll go over the specific questions you’ll be asked and the information you’ll be expected to provide in the Education section of the Common App.
Are you unsure what a “weighted” GPA means? Wondering where and how to tell colleges that you graduated early from high school? Stressing out about listing your academic and career aspirations under the Future Plans section? Read on for more application guidance from CollegeVine on these topics and more.
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Accessing the Education Section
First of all, to fill out the Common App’s Education section, you’ll need to get to it. In order to access the Education section of your Common App, you’ll need to log into your Common App, click on the Common App tab, and click on Education in the column on the left side.
The Education section is divided into nine subsections; click on the title of each subsection to open it up. Each part of the Education section will guide you through questions covering different aspects of your educational history, from where you’ve gone to school to how you did in school.
Below, we’ll go through each part of the Education section, from “Current or Most Recent School” to “Future Plans,” with more detailed instructions on how to complete the questions you’ll find there.
The provided screenshots are taken from a sample student Common App profile that we at CollegeVine have set up. Your own Common App profile may look slightly different, depending on what information you’ve already entered.
When you’re finished filling out a section of the Education section, hit the “Continue” button to move along to the next one. You can move directly to other parts of the Education section by clicking the appropriate header.
Current or Most Recent School Section
In this section, the Common App will collect information about the school you currently attend or have most recently attended.
Current or Recent School Lookup
Your first task is to tell the Common App what high school you attend now or most recently attended, as well as various facts about that high school. Fortunately, you don’t have to provide all this information from scratch; the Common App system includes a database of high schools that you’ll search through to find and choose yours.
When you open up the Current or Most Recent School section, you’ll see this:
Click on the Find School link. The box below will pop up:
Now you can search for your high school. On the top of the box you’re given a number of search options; you can search by school name, CEEB code (a number assigned to your school by the College Board ), or location. Fill out whichever of these fields works best for you, and you’ll see your results appear below.
Scroll through the list to find your high school and click on the circle in front of its name; then click the “Continue” button to add that school as your current or most recent high school. When you return to your Current or Most Recent School section, you’ll see that your school and its contact information have been added to your Common App. Below, you can see that our sample student has designed Bronx High School of Science as their current or most recent school.
If you made a mistake or need to change what school you’ve designated, simply click “Change” or “Remove” under the school’s information and use the search function again.
If you have been homeschooled and are a member of a larger homeschooling organization, you may be able to find that organization using the search function. If not, or if you were homeschooled outside of any such organization, scroll to the bottom of your search results and choose the option that says “Home schooled.” You’ll be prompted to enter some additional information manually.
What if you can’t find your school using the search screen? First, double-check the information you’ve entered; then, triple-check it. Try typing only the first word or two of your high school’s name and going through the list, or using a different search field than you initially tried.
The search function can be a bit finicky when it comes to searching by school name, so make sure you’re using your high school’s full formal name, not a nickname. For instance, our sample student would need to search for the full name “Bronx High School of Science,” or perhaps just “Bronx” or “Bronx High School.” Even if some people refer to this school simply as “Bronx Science,” searching for that school name will not bring up the correct result.
If you absolutely can’t find your high school in the database, scroll down to the bottom of the list of school results and select “I don’t see my high school on this list.” You’ll then need to enter your school’s information manually.
Once you’ve designated your current or most recent school, you’ll have to answer a list of questions about that school, seen in the following screenshot. Below the screenshot, we’ll go over how to respond to each of those questions.
One more note on completing this section: if you don’t have a school counselor, fill in these answers for whoever has “overseen your academic progress,” as the Common App puts it, and will fill out the School Report section of your Common App. This might be a school principal or another school official, or a parent if you were homeschooled; it depends on your situation. Ask your counselor or school official if you have any questions about how to identify them in this section.
- Date of entry: Choose the month and year that you started attending this school.
- Is this a boarding school?: Do some or all students sleep at your school? If so, answer yes; if not, answer no. If you answer yes, you’ll be asked whether you personally reside at the school; answer yes if you do, no if you don’t.
- Did you or will you graduate from this school?: Answer yes if you already graduated from this school or if you plan to graduate from this school. Answer no if you no longer attend this school but didn’t graduate from it, or if you don’t plan to graduate from this school. Once you answer this question, the Common App will ask you to specify the month and year you left or will leave this school.
- Counselor’s prefix: Choose between Dr., Mr., or Ms. in the drop-down menu based upon which prefix your counselor uses in official correspondence.
- Counselor’s first name, counselor’s middle initial, and counselor’s last name: Fill in your counselor’s full first and last names, and check your spelling. If you don’t know your counselor’s middle initial, that’s fine; just leave that field blank.
- Counselor’s job title: Fill in your counselor’s formal job title; if your school doesn’t have a counselor, fill in the job title of whichever school official you’re using for this section.
- Counselor’s email and counselor’s phone: Fill in your counselor’s requested contact information. If your counselor is outside the United States, make sure you include the correct country code in their phone number. Also include their phone extension if they have one. Your counselor is an important element of your application, so double-check that you have transcribed this contact information correctly.
Other School Section
In this section, you’ll enter information about any other schools you’ve attended for high school, aside from the one you’re currently attending or most recently attended. For instance, if you moved to a new city during high school, this is where you’ll put information about the school you attended before you moved. If you were homeschooled for part of high school but then attended a traditional school, you’ll list your homeschooling experience as an additional school here.
When you first open up the Other School section, you’ll see the following:
The question reads If you have attended any other schools, please indicate the number of schools . If you have not attended any other high schools, choose 0 from the dropdown menu; you won’t have to answer any other questions in this section.
If you have attended one or more other schools, choose the number of schools you’ve attended, excluding your current or most recent school—the one you talked about in the last section. For instance, if you attended a total of three different high schools including your most recent high school, you would choose 2 in this menu. You can add up to three additional high schools.
If you choose any number other than 0 for this question, you’ll need to add more information about the school(s) you attended. For each additional school, you’ll use the search function to search the Common App database, just as you did for your current or most recent school in the last section. You can refer back to that section for advice on looking up your school(s). If you were homeschooled or can’t find your school, you’ll need to enter its information manually, just as we described in the last section.
Once you’ve chosen a school, your screen should look something like the screenshot below. We’ve indicated that our sample student has attended Los Angeles School of Global Studies.
Notice that for this student, Los Angeles School of Global Studies has been labeled “School 2.” Bronx High School of Science, which our sample student designated as their current school, is School 1. Additional schools that they had attended, if there are any, would be School 3 and School 4.
Below the school information, you’ll need to enter the dates between which you attended that school. Under School 2 from date , enter the month and year you started attending that school. Under School 2 to date , enter the month and year you stopped attending that school. Repeat this process for any additional schools you might have.
College & Universities Section
In this section, you’ll provide information about any colleges or universities you have already attended. This section is relevant to you if you took any courses at a college or university while you were in high school through a “post-secondary option” or similar program. In this context, AP and IB courses do not count as college courses.
When you initially open up the Colleges & Universities section, it will look like this:
The first question reads as follows: If you have taken a college/university course, please indicate the number of colleges . If you have not taken any college courses in high school, choose “0” in the dropdown menu; there will be no further questions for you in this section.
If you have taken one or more college courses in high school, choose the number of colleges you attended using the drop-down menu, up to three colleges. (Remember, this is the number of colleges you were enrolled at, not the number of courses you took.) This will open up additional questions for you to answer.
Once you indicate that you attended one or more colleges while in high school, you should see the following list of questions for each college. Below the screenshot, we’ll go over the details of how to answer each of these questions.
- College 1 lookup: Here, you’ll look up the college you attended in a system very similar to that which you used to look up your high school(s). Our advice above about looking up your high school(s) applies here as well. If you’ve checked and rechecked your search terms and you still can’t find your college, choose “I do not see the college I’m looking for on this list,” and manually enter the college’s information when prompted.
- College 1 from date: Choose the month and year you started attending this college.
- College 1 to date: Choose the month and year you stopped attending this college.
- Degree earned: If you earned a degree from a college while attending high school, choose the degree you earned from a drop-down list. If, like most students, you did not earn a degree from a college while attending high school, you don’t need to answer this question.
You’ll need to repeat these steps for any additional colleges you attended while you were in high school.
In this section, you’ll provide information about your academic performance in high school- specifically, your grades as expressed by your class rank and GPA. When you click on Grades, you’ll see a screen like the one below:
We’ll go over each of the questions you need to answer below. It’s likely that you won’t know all of these answers offhand, but your school should be able to answer them for you. In general, if you don’t know the answer to one of these questions, or if you don’t know what the question means in the context of your high school’s particular policies, you should ask your counselor or equivalent school official.
- Graduating class size: Enter the number of students in your graduating class. Be aware that this number may change from time to time as students’ plans change.
- Class rank reporting: This question covers both how your school ranks students, and what your actual rank is within your class. First, you’ll choose from the initial drop-down menu to indicate whether your high school ranks students exactly or by decile, quintile, or quartile. (Your counselor can explain what this means.) If, as with some high schools, your school has decided not to keep track of class rankings, you’ll choose None. If your school does rank students, you’ll have to answer two additional questions.
- Class rank: If your high school ranks students, you’ll either type in your numerical rank or choose your decile, quintile, or quartile rank from a drop-down menu.
- Rank weighting: If your high school ranks students, you’ll need to choose whether your rank is weighted or unweighted from the drop-down menu. Weighted rank uses weighted GPAs; unweighted rank uses unweighted GPAs. We’ll go over what that means below.
- GPA scale: Choose the number of points in your school’s GPA scale from the drop-down list. This numerical answer might be anywhere from 4 to 100, depending on your school’s grading system.
- Cumulative GPA: Enter your cumulative GPA—that is, your GPA taking into account all the high-school courses you’ve taken—just as it appears in your school’s records. (Your GPA is basically an average of the grades you’ve received on your report cards.)
- GPA weighting: Choose whether your GPA is weighted or unweighted from the drop-down menu. Essentially, a weighted GPA is one in which the number of points awarded for an A grade in the course varies, usually according to how difficult the particular course is. For instance, a high school might use a scale of zero to four for most of its courses, but a scale of zero to five for its honors, AP, or IB courses. If you don’t know your GPA on a 4.0 scale, use our GPA converter to find it .
Be aware that the colleges you’re applying to will have access to your full transcript as well as the information you enter here. They’ll see not only your GPA, but your individual grades, any outliers, and your grade trend across your high-school career. Many colleges will actually recalculate your GPA based on their own criteria, so the information you enter here may not be evaluated exactly as you might think it will be.
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Current or Most Recent Year Courses Section
This section is where you’ll provide detailed information about the courses you’re currently taking, or, if you are no longer in high school, the courses you took during your most recent year of high school. For most students, this will simply mean entering the classes you’re taking during your senior year. Before you start filling out this section, you’ll probably want to have a copy of your schedule on hand.
First of all, you’ll need to report how many courses you’re taking this academic year. The question reads as follows: Please list all courses you are taking this academic year. If you are not currently enrolled, please list courses from your most recent academic year. How many courses would you like to report?
Choose the number of courses you’re taking or took for the year from the drop-down menu. The number you report here will determine what questions you are prompted to answer next.
Once you’ve provided the number of courses you’re taking, you’ll enter information for each of these courses so that admissions officers can evaluate your academic course load. As an example, here’s a screenshot from our sample student’s Common App profile. Note that the sample student has responded that they are only taking one course this academic year; you’ll almost certainly be taking more than that.
For the question Please select the course scheduling system your institution is using, you’ll be invited to choose between the options of “semester,” “trimester,” and “quarter” in the drop-down menu. This question refers to how the school year is split up at your school—into two, three, or four periods, respectively, for which a new set of grades are added to your transcript. If you’re unsure, ask your counselor which system applies to your school.
Next, you’ll be asked to enter information for each course. Under Course 1 title , type the full name of your first course. (This may be different from what you call the course on an everyday basis—you may refer to “Algebra II and Trigonometry” as simply “Trig,” but colleges will want to see the full course title.)
Under Course 1 level, if applicable , click to choose a designation that applies to your first course, if any. For instance, if your World History course is an honors course in your school’s system, you would click “Honors” here. Ask your teacher or counselor if you’re not sure about a particular course. If your course has none of these designations, don’t click anything for this question.
Under Course 1 schedule , select whichever option from the drop-down menu applies to that particular course. (The options you see here will vary depending on how you answered the question about your school’s course scheduling system.) Again, ask your teacher or counselor if you’re not sure.
You’ll repeat these steps for each of however many courses you indicated you’re taking this year or took in your most recent year. They’ll be listed as Course 2, Course 3, and so on.
Course rigor is an important factor for getting accepted to a top school. See how course rigor affects your chances of admission with CollegeVine’s chancing calculator.
In this section, you’ll list and describe up to five academic honors that you’ve received. Since choosing and detailing those honors can be complicated in and of itself, we at CollegeVine have chosen to write a separate post on this issue. Head over to our post on “Reporting Honors and Awards on the Common App” to learn what you should report in this section and how you should report it, from Honor Roll to summer programs to National Merit scholarships .
Community-Based Organizations Section
In this section, you’ll answer questions about any community-based organizations which may have helped you with the college application process without charging a fee. These organizations might include Questbridge, Upward Bound, the Boys and Girls Club, or others.
If you’ve been aided by a community-based organization like these, you likely know it already. If you’re not sure whether an organization that has helped you qualifies under this section, an employee or leader of that organization may be able to clarify its status for you, or your school counselor may be able to help.
When you open this section, you’ll initially see the following:
The question reads, Indicate the number of community programs or organizations that have provided you with free assistance in your application process . If no such program or organization has provided you with free assistance in the college application process, you’ll choose 0 from the drop-down menu, and you won’t need to answer any more questions in this section.
If you’ve been provided with free assistance by one or more organizations like this, choose the number of organizations that have assisted you from the drop-down menu. You can enter up to three organizations. You’ll then need to provide additional information about the organization(s) that you worked with.
If you indicate that you have been assisted by one or more community-based organizations, additional questions will appear for you to answer. That screen should look like the screenshot below. After the screenshot, we’ll provide more details on how to answer each of these questions.
Organization 1: Choose the name of the organization that has assisted you from the drop-down list. If your organization is not listed, choose “Other.” (Hint: the list is alphabetical, and “Other” is listed under the organizations that start with O.) If you choose “Other”, an additional field will appear where you’ll type the name of your organization.
The rest of the questions in this section refer to the individual counselor, advisor, or mentor who worked directly with you in this organization. If you’re not sure whose information you should use for this section, ask whoever you have contact with in the organization, and then speak to that person directly to make sure they are comfortable having their information released.
- Counselor/Advisor/Mentor Prefix: Choose Dr., Mr., or Ms. from the drop-down menu based on what prefix your mentor uses in official correspondence.
- First name, middle initial, and last name: Enter your mentor’s full name. If you don’t know their middle initial, that’s okay—just leave that field blank.
- Email and Phone: Enter your mentor’s contact information. If you have multiple phone numbers and/or email addresses for your mentor, ask them which ones they would prefer you to use. If your mentor is outside the United States, make sure you include the correct country code for their phone number.
You’ll answer the same questions for any additional organizations that you’ve indicated have helped you in your application.
Future Plans Section
Finally, we come to the Future Plans section, where you’ll answer two simple questions about your educational and career aspirations. When you open this section, you’ll see the following:
The first question reads Career interest . Here, you’ll choose from a drop-down menu of possible careers. Our sample student has indicated that they’re indicated in becoming an accountant or actuary, but you’ll have many other options. If you don’t see your intended career path in the list, you can either choose the closest available option or choose “Other.” If you haven’t yet decided on a career path, don’t worry- just choose “Undecided.”
The second question reads Highest degree you intend to earn. Here, you’ll choose from a list of possible academic degrees. Our sample student has indicated that they intend to earn a master’s degree, such as an MA or MS. Again, if your intended degree category doesn’t appear in this list, choose “Other,” and if you aren’t sure, choose “Undecided.”
Being asked to specify your future plans so early on in the application process can be a little overwhelming, but you absolutely don’t need to stress out about the questions in this section. Your answers here don’t commit you to anything. Just answer the questions as best you can, and don’t be afraid to choose “Other” or “Undecided” if those answers suit you best.
Concluding the Education Section of the Common App
When you finish the Education section of the Common App, you’re sure to breathe a sigh of relief. You’ve entered a great deal of information, and that information is extremely important to how colleges evaluate your application.
Remember, however, that your Education section doesn’t present a complete portrayal of you as a student and a person. If you’re not totally satisfied with your grades, you still have a chance to wow admissions committees with the other parts of your application, from your activities to your test scores to your essays. You can’t change your grades after the fact, but when you don’t feel like your grades represent you accurately, your full application offers many other opportunities to show yourself in the best possible light.
Be sure to check out some of CollegeVine’s blog posts on other aspects of the Common App, including:
- A User’s Guide to the Common App
- How to Receive a Common App Fee Waiver
- Reporting Honors and Awards in the Common App
- How to Fill Out the Common App Activities Section
- Why Does the Common Application Ask Where my Parents Went to College?
Curious about your chances of acceptance to your dream school? Our free chancing engine takes into account your GPA, test scores, extracurriculars, and other data to predict your odds of acceptance at over 500 colleges across the U.S. We’ll also let you know how you stack up against other applicants and how you can improve your profile. Sign up for your free CollegeVine account today to get started!
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Online Schools Center
What is the difference between college prep and honors classes?
Are you a gifted student and a future college applicant? If yes, then you are probably considering all of the options available to you in high school if you don’t find your standard core classes enough of a challenge. Maybe it is time to think about enrolling in CP (college prep) or honors classes! Here you will find much more in-depth coursework and projects, more complex reading and writing assignments, and you will develop more impressive transcripts for your college applications.
But, first of all, what does CP stand for in high school? And, what is the difference between college prep and honors classes, anyway? There are actually some important distinctions that are generally held standard throughout most public high schools and some private schools. OnlineSchoolsCenter.com is here to help you understand these differences, which have been broken down below in an easy to read format.
So, what does CP mean in high school and what is a CP class?
This term can be very confusing because it actually has multiple meanings! It is important to understand the differences as they apply to individual schools, but the following describes what CP can mean in all of its capacities:
- At some high schools, CP courses, or college prep courses, are classes that prepare you for your future educational career as a college student. These can be CP classes that teach you to manage your college applications, financial aid and loans, what you can expect out of a college education, and more. These types of CP classes in high school are typically instructed by college advisors who then help you identify, choose, and apply to your favorite colleges and universities. Your college advisor will show you what looks good on an application and what you can do to make yourself stand out.
- At other schools, a CP class can mean courses that provide a tougher workload and courses that demand more of you as a student. In this case, a CP class is different from an AP class, which stands for Advanced Placement. AP classes are courses you can take to earn college credit and are, therefore, instructed at a college level and can be quite difficult. Not all schools offer AP courses. CP classes are different because they do not offer college credit and are not managed by the College Board.
- Sometimes college prep can refer to a type of school entirely, which can be either public or private. College preparatory schools have a more strict and demanding curriculum that prepares students for the rigors of a bachelor’s degree. These schools have more challenging coursework and course topics, as well as more reading and writing assignments and a broader selection of classes. The curriculum at a college prep school still follows the standard national requirements in math, science, history, and English, but delivers such courses at a higher level of instruction.
What does college prep mean? Let’s make it easy!
- A CP class can be a course that prepares you for applying to college, managing financial aid, engaging in college advising (both academic and professional), etc.
- A CP class can be a more challenging course compared to those in your standard high school curriculum but, one that is still math, science, history, or English-based and does not offer college credit.
- A CP school, or college prep school, can be a high school in which the entire array of coursework prepares you for a college-level curriculum. At a college prep school, the classes are more difficult and involve more coursework, projects, and assignments.
When in doubt, always ask your principal, headmaster, or admissions department at your school what CP classes are, and whether or not you qualify to take them.
College Prep Classes vs Honors
Lastly, let’s discuss the difference between college prep and honors classes. If your high school offers both college prep and honors classes, then the CP courses are most likely intended to help you with point 1 listed above. The honors classes will offer more challenging content and look good on a college application (but honors courses do not count for college credit, either). If you don’t find any honors classes at your school, but you do find CP courses, then they correlate with point 2.
So! The difference between honors and college prep classes depends entirely on your school and the structure of the curriculum. Sometimes the difference is stark, whereas other times honors and cp courses are the same thing but offered at different schools.
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Sat / act prep online guides and tips, what are college prep courses and classes.
College prep is a confusing term because it can refer to three different things!
Sometimes, calling something a college prep class is just a way to differentiate it from remedial classes on the one hand, and honors/AP classes on the other. Other times, college prep is a way of describing a bunch of government or private programs that are designed to increase access to college for those who would ordinarily be unlikely to go. And finally, college prep is a short name for high schools that place an overwhelming emphasis on getting their students into college.
But don't worry. Whether you want to read about standard high school classes, learn about programs that will make college easier, or are curious about public and private high schools that really stress college admission, you've come to the right place.
#1: College Prep = Standard Core High School Curriculum
Since the goal of high school is to prepare students for college, it makes sense that the classes that you take in high school are called "college prep classes." After all, the way you get ready for college is by learning what there is to learn in high school!
So, the first and most common definition of the term "college prep" is the core requirements of a high school education . They differ from school to school, but typically go something like this:
- 4 years of English
- 3 years of math
- 3 years of science
- 3 years of social studies
In states and districts that require a high school exit exam in order to graduate, these are the subjects that this exit exam is based on. For example, Massachusetts doesn't let students graduate unless they can pass the MCAS exam in English, math, and one science or technology subject.
College Prep vs. Honors/AP vs. Remedial Classes
Because "college prep" refers to the core set of high school classes, this term has basically become the way to identify the standard class level. College Prep is the class you will take when you are not being challenged by the honors or AP version of a class, and when you are not placed into the remedial version of the class for catch-up.
College Prep Classes and the Big Decision
When you start planning your high school curriculum, you'll face a tough decision. Should you stick with the standard (or college prep) classes in order to have a higher GPA, or should you challenge yourself and take the Honors or AP course where you'll probably do a little worse?
The answer is: challenge yourself - within reason . Typically, you should go with the harder level class if you think you can earn a B or higher because generally, most colleges would rather see a B in an Honors or AP course than a set of straight A's in college prep classes. Straight As in all college prep courses looks like you are avoiding the challenge of honors/AP, and colleges don't like challenge-avoidance in their applicants.
The idea is to demonstrate that you are challenging yourself, and also that you are mastering the material. Getting a B grade says "I'm just very slightly reaching past my grasp." On the other hand, avoiding honors or AP classes where you will most likely get a C or D shows self-knowledge and mature judgment - another thing colleges tend to value. Taking too many honors and AP classes and ending up with mostly C's and D's implies that the standard classes would have been a better fit.
So what should you do? Our advice is to try to take 1-2 of honors or AP courses, maybe in subjects you feel most comfortable in, or those where your strengths lie, or those you're most interested in pursuing further. To check out the different options, check out our guides that break down each core subject progression:
- The high school math classes you should take
- The high school English classes you should take
- The high school science classes you should take
- The high school history classes you should take
#2: College Prep = Programs to Increase College Access
Sometimes the term "college prep" is a way of referring to a set of programs that work to increase college access , especially for students who are least likely to enroll. These programs focus on building academic skills, handle college admissions or financial aid, involve families and mentors, and sometimes incorporate service projects.
Here are some examples, divided into federal, state, university, and community-based categories.
The Federal TRIO Programs
These programs are targeted to assist low-income, first-generation, and disabled students.
- Upward Bound is for students from low-income backgrounds that have inadequate secondary school preparation. Students from traditionally underrepresented groups are exposed to a simulated college experience that is rich in academic and motivational support. Students receive tutoring, counseling and individualized instruction to help get ready for college.
- Talent Search serves low-income, first-generation students. The program provides a range of counseling services to help students graduate from high school and earn a college degree.
- The Student Support Services Program (SSS) helps low-income, first-generation and disabled students attain a college degree. Support services provide students with needed help through academic advising, career counseling, mentoring, tutoring, financial aid guidance, and some financial aid.
- Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP). GEAR UP works to increase college awareness and preparation among low-income and minority students from seventh grade through high school graduation, providing them with intensive tutoring, mentoring, college/career planning information, and sometimes also scholarships.
- New York , California and New Jersey 's Educational Opportunity Programs serve students who have shown potential for success in college but have not completed typical college preparatory programs in high school due to economic or personal disadvantages.
- New York also has the Pre-Collegiate Preparation Programs which develops collaborative partnerships between colleges, schools, community organizations, parents, students, business, and government so that students in New York State have every opportunity to be successful learners.
- California Student Opportunity and Access Program (Cal-SOAP) seeks to raise the achievement of low-income and first-generation K-12 students and provide them with the opportunity to attend higher education.
- Florida's College Reach-Out Program (CROP) provides educational support to low-income, academically disadvantaged students in sixth through 12th grade by helping students develop and maintain the knowledge, skills and attitude necessary to successfully pursue and complete a college education.
- The University of California Early Academic Outreach Program (EAOP) is a pre-collegiate student academic development program that provides academic enrichment, entrance exams preparation, academic advising, and college knowledge.
- The University of Colorado's Pre-Collegiate Program is an academic enhancement program designed to motivate first-generation and underrepresented students middle and high school students to pursue higher education.
Community and Nonprofit Programs
- Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) is a program to prepare mid-rank fifth to 12th grade students for college, bringing out the best in students and closing the achievement gap.
- The " I Have a Dream " Program helps children from low-income areas reach their education and career goals by providing a long-term program of mentoring, tutoring and enrichment with an assured opportunity for higher education.
- ENLACE increases opportunities for Latinos to enter and complete college.
#3: College Prep = Schools Focusing on Successful College Application
Finally, "college prep" can refer to a specific type of high school, where lots of focus is placed on the concept of college . These schools can be public, private, boarding, parochial, and charter schools - just as long as what they most emphasize is getting into and graduating from college.
Here are some examples of these kinds of schools:
- At Gateway High School , a charter school in San Francisco, all 9th graders visit a college on their first day of school.
- At Cardinal Ritter College Prep High School in St. Louis, students earn up to 18 hours of college credit before they leave high school.
- At the Gary Lighthouse Charter Schools , every student researches colleges and develops a list of reach and safety schools and writes a paper outlining their plan for applying to college. In fact, students don't earn a high school diploma if they aren't accepted to at least one college.
Interested in learning more about college preparatory programs in your state? The best place to start is searching NACAC's directory of college access programs .
Want to see how rigorous a curriculum you should go for? Check out our discussion of what makes course load challenging .
Worried your GPA is too low to try for an honors or AP course? See how your numbers stack up in our good GPA/bad GPA roundup .
Exploring your less-competitive college options? Learn about your options for the best colleges with low GPA requirements .
Want to improve your SAT score by 160 points or your ACT score by 4 points? We've written a guide for each test about the top 5 strategies you must be using to have a shot at improving your score. Download it for free now:
Anna scored in the 99th percentile on her SATs in high school, and went on to major in English at Princeton and to get her doctorate in English Literature at Columbia. She is passionate about improving student access to higher education.
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Comet Ultimate Guide to the Common Application
Times have changed, back in the day we had to fill out our college applications by hand with a PEN and MAIL THEM IN . We at Comet envy you and the sweet simplicity of the Common Application. However, with new technology comes new complications. So what is the Common App, how do you use it, and what should you expect? Keep reading to find out.
Feel free to jump to the section that interests you the most:
What is the common application?
What information do I need to complete the application?
How do I access the application?
How do I add colleges to my dashboard?
How do I invite my recommenders?
Finishing up the application
What is the Common Application?
The Common Application (or Common App) is a platform where you can apply to more than 900 (!!!) colleges and universities in the US and abroad using a single application.
How does it work?
Certain parts of the application are “common” to all the colleges on the platform. You only need to fill in this information once, saving you (and your teachers and counselor who are supporting your application) time and a million online accounts.
On top of this common set of questions, each college has a supplemental application containing unique questions and essay prompts.
You will create an account, fill out the common parts of the application, add the colleges of your choice to your “Dashboard”, complete their supplements, and turn in your applications!
When is the application available, and when is it due?
You can make a Common App account at any time. The platform usually resets and updates each July and relaunches August 1, but never fear: you can opt to “ roll over ” your account information and save anything you have filled in!
Colleges on the Common App all have different deadlines and decision plans. You should check each individual college’s website (or supplemental application) for this information.
What information do I need in order to complete the application?
We’ll get into more specific detail about the questions later in this article, but here are the basics:
You’ll need to know your own personal information (where were you born, your address, your social security number) and some pretty detailed information about your family (where your parents went to college, when they graduated, where they work). You should also grab copies of your transcripts and test score reports to have handy.
In order to request letters of recommendation, you will need to know the contact information for your teachers and counselor.
You should write out your essay drafts, as well as drafts of your activity descriptions, in separate documents rather than typing them directly into the application. The format of the app does not make it easy to see what you’re doing or edit your entries, so save yourself a big headache and just copy/paste!
Lastly, you should have a good idea of which colleges you will be applying to and whether they accept the Common Application.
You can make an account here . When you do, you’ll have to first select a student type so the system knows which application to give you. You can click the little question mark next to each option if you’re not sure, but if you’re applying to college for the first time you are a First Year Student.
FYI in this article, we will be addressing the freshman application process. Current high school students will be applying as freshmen. If you are a transfer student, your application may look a bit different.
Be sure to use your full legal name (the one that appears on your transcript, birth certificate, etc.). Please use a professional sounding email address -- preferably the same email address you used to sign up for your standardized tests, college visits/webinars, and any other college-related activities. Colleges will track you by your email!
Save your password somewhere safe, for goodness sake.
Okay, I’m in! I see a bunch of tabs.
Yup! The application is organized into a few tabs to help you stay organized.
The main screen when you log in is your Dashboard . This will be blank the first time you log in, but later it will display all of your colleges and deadlines. The Dashboard will show you which applications you have submitted, and when your applications are due. You can add up to 20 colleges to your Dashboard. If you want to apply to more than 20 colleges on the Common App...you can’t. You’ll have to figure out which colleges allow you to submit your application via another platform and remove those in order to add more.
Why the limit? If you’re applying to more than 20 colleges, you haven’t done enough research! Refine your list, bro.
How do I add colleges to my Dashboard?
Click on the College Search tab and enter the name of the college you want to add. Alternatively, you can use College Search to actually search for colleges of interest. Once you find the school you like, just click “Add to My Colleges”. The college will now appear on your Dashboard and on the tab called My Colleges.
Great! I’ve got my account and I’ve added the colleges to my Dashboard. What should I do next?
Well technically you can work on anything you want. You can log in and out as often as you need to, and you can click around in any order. However, Comet suggests you work on recommendations first.
In order to give your Recommenders as much time as possible to work on their letters, you should go ahead and invite them to collaborate on your application. To do this, you will need to go to My Colleges. Choose any college on your list in the left hand menu and choose “Recommenders and FERPA”.
FERPA is the Federal Education Rights and Protection Act. It keeps your school records safe and makes them accessible to you at any time. Technically, that would mean that you should be able to see your letters of recommendation. However, school staff will not feel comfortable sharing everything if they know you are looking over their shoulder. Moreover, colleges will not trust that your letters are authentic and candid if they know you’ve read them before they were sent.
Basically you must “waive your right” to view the documents your counselor and teachers will send to the colleges.
Waived it! Now how do I invite my recommenders?
If you have spoken to your teachers and you know they are going to help you out, you can go ahead and add them and your counselor or admin to your application. If you’re not sure which counselor/admin to invite, check in at your school -- this is a required component of your application.
Still under the Recommenders and FERPA section under any college in the My Colleges tab, click “Invite Recommenders” and enter the information of each Recommender one at a time. Make sure you spell their names and email addresses correctly! Once you enter your recommenders, you will also see a button called Manage Recommenders where you can edit and delete your entries.
Next, you’ll need to go through the Recommenders and FERPA section for each college in the My Colleges tab to “Assign Recommenders” to each college using the dropdown menu provided. Some colleges will require (or allow) multiple teachers while some only allow one. Choose carefully! If you forget to click “Assign”, your recommender will not receive a notification!
What happens after I Invite and Assign my Recommenders?
Once you have Assigned your recommenders, they will receive an email notification and complete their letters. They each have a login for the Common App where they can see deadlines, so they won’t be late -- however, with dozens of students asking for their help, it wouldn’t hurt to check in with them sometimes!
Conveniently, you can see whether your recommender has Started or Completed the task by visiting the Recommenders and FERPA section under any college. If the letter is complete for one college, it is complete for all colleges. If you forgot to Assign your recommender to a given college, you can still do that even after they have submitted their letter using the dropdown menu.
Note that if you have Naviance or a similar platform at your school, waiving your right to FERPA is the only thing you need to do in this section. Your teacher recommenders will be assigned from the back end by your counselor or admin following your school’s procedures.
What is an “Other Recommender”?
Depending on the college, you can add optional “other” recommenders to your account. An “other” recommender would be a coach, pastor, internship supervisor, mentor, or other adult who knows you well outside of an academic setting. They can provide more information about your character and interests. Some colleges like Dartmouth even allow a “peer” recommendation from one of your friends!
Cool! Colleges, check! Recommenders, check! Next up?
Next up, Comet recommends you start working on your essays!
You can view all the options for the main personal statement here , or by clicking on the Common App tab at the top of the page and using the left menu to navigate to Writing. Here, you can also see which colleges on your Dashboard require this statement.
Each college may have additional writing prompts; usually, these are referred to as “Supplements” or “Supplemental Essays.” You can view each college’s supplemental prompts in a few different ways:
Go to the college’s website and check out their application instructions.
Use this handy guide provided by the Common App.
Go to the My Colleges Tab, choose a college in the left menu, and click through the Questions and Writing Supplement.
Copy/paste the questions (and the word count requirements!) on documents and draft your essays outside of the textboxes. Check out our other article on writing your main personal statements for advice on how to write these essays!
Comet Tip: Colleges often change their prompts for each application cycle. It’s great to get a head start in the summer, but make sure that your college has confirmed their prompts for your Class. Usually, the prompts won’t appear in the My Colleges section until they have been finalized.
Thanks, i’ll start working on those essays now what else do i need to do to finish the application.
You’ll need to fill out everything in the Common App tab.
Here’s a breakdown of the sections:
Personal Information: Name, Gender Identity, Date of Birth
Address: Permanent (where you live) and mailing (where you get your mail)
Contact Info: Phone Number(s) where they can reach you
Demographics: This section is optional! You can share your ethnicity, religion, and relationship to the military if you choose. This information is used for data collection and will not negatively impact your admissions.
Geography: Where you were born and how long you have lived in the U.S.
Language: How many languages you speak and your level of fluency in each one
Citizenship: Your country of citizenship and any identifying numbers (like your Social Security Number). International students and other groups like Permanent Residents may need to upload documentation.
Fee Waiver: You can decide whether to apply for a fee waiver. Each application you complete on the Common App will cost between $45 and $95, and you can qualify for a waiver for each one if you meet certain criteria .
Household: Your parents’ marital status, which parent(s) you live with, and whether you have any children
Parent 1 and 2: Whether your parents/guardians are still living, their names and contact information, their occupation and employment status, their job title and employer, their education level, the colleges they attended (if any), and the year they graduated (if applicable). You may want your parents or guardians to sit with you as you fill out this part of the application! If you don’t live with your parents or you don’t know this information, you can click “I have limited information about this parent” and opt out of some of the required questions.
Sibling: Whether you have any siblings, their names and ages, and their education level. If they are in college or already graduated college, you will be asked which college they attended and the degree they earned, and in what year they graduated.
Current or Most Recent Secondary/High School: Name of school (use the search tool), date you started attending, whether it is a boarding school, whether you will graduate from this school, the date you plan to graduate (month/year), and whether there was any interruption in your education (e.g. did you take a year off, will you graduate late).
Other Secondary/High Schools: If you attended any other high schools, including online high schools where you took electives, you will be asked to report the same information. Note that official transcripts from any high school you list in this section or the section above will likely need to be sent to each college on the Common Application. You can review each college’s admission requirements on their website to check.
Colleges and Universities: if you took any courses at a college or university (even as part of a summer program), you should list it here. Look up the college using the search tool, the dates you attended, and the degree you earned (if any). Some notes about this section:
If you attended the college for multiple terms (like Summer 2020 and Summer 2021), you should put the “from date” as the start of the first term and the “to date” at the end of the second term. So I would say “from date” June 2020 and “to date” June 2021.
If you are still attending, you can put the “to” date in the future.
Select “Dual enrollment with high school” if your high school put the course on your high school transcript. Select “Summer program” if this was an educational preparation program you applied to. Select “Credit awarded directly by college” if you took the course and received a transcript from the college. You can select multiple options if needed.
Grades: the size of your graduating class (ask your counselor if you’re not sure), your class rank (if applicable), your school’s GPA scale (usually 4.0), your cumulative GPA copied directly from your transcript at the high school you will graduate from, and whether this GPA is weighted or unweighted. Some tips:
Do not calculate your own GPA from multiple sources. Report your GPA as it is on your current transcript so there is no confusion. Send all of your transcripts so colleges can calculate an overall GPA.
If your transcript does not report your weighted GPA, do not calculate it yourself. Again, it is important that there are no discrepancies between what you report and what is reported on your transcript.
Current or Most Recent Year Courses: You will list each course you are taking now (or took the last year you were enrolled in school) exactly as it appears on your transcript. You will type in the course name, select the course level (regular, accelerated, advanced, AP, A-level or College Prep), and which term(s) you took the course. Some tips:
Make sure to count the number of courses carefully and select the number in the dropdown before you begin. If you end up needing to add or remove a course, the course levels and schedule for the courses you already entered will disappear and you’ll need to re-enter them.
If you don’t know the “level” of your course you can leave that box blank.
If your school gives you one grade per term, select each term in which you received or will receive a grade instead of selecting full year even if you took/are taking the course for the whole school year. Selecting “full year” implies you will receive one grade for the whole year vs. one grade per quarter or semester.
Honors: You can list any honors or awards you have received for your academic accomplishments. Note the instruction to include only academic honors rather than awards you received for athletics, arts or service. You can list up to five honors/awards. You will include the title of the award, the year it was given to you, and the level of the award (school, state/regional, national or international). Some tips:
If you want to provide more details about these awards, you can use the Additional Information section later in the application.
If you’re not sure about the “level” of your award, you can leave that section blank.
If you won the award multiple times, you can select multiple grade levels in one entry vs. entering the same award again.
Some examples of academic honors/awards include: Honor Roll, National Honor Society, AP Scholar Award, foreign language honor society, USACO, AMC, National Merit Scholarship, Department Awards, science fair awards, and academic olympiad/bowl awards.
Community Based Organizations: If you received free assistance with your college application from a formal organization, you should include that information here. Colleges want to be aware of students who are served by CBOs so they can identify low-income, first-generation, or traditionally underrepresented students more easily.
Future Plans: This is not you selecting your major, so don’t take it too seriously. Just identify the direction you envision for your life, or select Other and enter your own! If you truly are unsure, you can select Undecided. There is no downside to this, just answer honestly.
You can choose to self-report your test scores in the Common Application. You can also choose to just send your score reports directly to the colleges and leave this section blank. If SAT/ACT testing remains optional and you are applying to multiple colleges on this platform, Comet suggests that you report your AP/IB and English proficiency scores here and send score reports for SAT/ACT to the colleges you want to consider your ACT/SAT scores for admission. If testing becomes required again, we suggest you enter all scores here to make it as easy as possible for colleges to learn about you.
Tests Taken: In the dropdown you can select multiple tests to report. You should also include tests you plan to take. Selecting test types will create a subsection for each type below. If you end up choosing not to take your “planned” tests, you should notify the college admissions office as a courtesy. Otherwise, they will expect to receive your official score reports at some point.
Make sure you copy your scores directly from your official score report. You can usually download or view this through the testing agency’s website.
You can list up to ten activities from 9th-12th grade in the Common App. Remember, your academic honors go in the Education section and you can always use the Additional Information section (see Writing below) for activities and awards that don’t fit here.
Before you start filling out this section, list out your activities/non-academic awards and put them in order from most to least important. How do you decide what’s important? Ask yourself these questions: The more times you answer “yes”, the closer to the top of the list the activity should be:
Does the activity relate to my major?
Is the activity a long term involvement?
Did I have to apply to be part of this activity, or to win this award?
Does the activity involve leadership?
Am I the only person at my school/in my friend group doing this activity?
Once you have a top 10, you can start drafting your descriptions. We recommend you do this draft on a separate document and then copy/paste it in. Use the character counter in your word processor to double check your lengths.
Each description includes the following (with some Comet tips below!):
Activity Type (choose from a dropdown)
This should be pretty self explanatory! If your activity falls into multiple categories, just choose one. You can also just select Other.
Position/Leadership Description: 50 characters
You should include your title if you have one. For example, President, Team Leader, Founder, Treasurer, Captain, etc. If you don’t have one (or there isn’t such a thing in the activity you are describing) you can just say something like Member, Participant, Creator, or Student.
Organization Name: 100 characters
This is the name of the club, activity, workplace, or organization you were part of. If you are describing a personal project, you can leave this blank. If you participated in a school-based activity, you can just use your high school name as the organization.
Description: 150 characters
Explain what you learned, contributed, or accomplished as part of this activity. 150 characters is not very much room, so it’s best to use resume format (phrases separated by commas or semicolons). Remember you can provide additional context in the Additional Information section. Try to use numbers to quantify your accomplishment as much as possible (defeated 12 teams to win regional competition) and don’t waste time explaining things that are self-explanatory (everyone knows what basketball is).
Participation Grade Levels (check boxes)
Time of participation (Choose one: school year, school break, all year)
Hours per week (enter in textbox)
Weeks per year (enter in textbox)
I intend to participate in a similar activity in college (Yes or No)
When you’re done, you can view a PDF of all your activities so it’s easier to read and check for typos. Just click the Preview button at the top of the page!
The Activities section and the Writing section below are the two places where you can add character and depth to your application. Take your time on this and take it seriously. You will probably want to write multiple drafts so start early!
The Writing section is where you will input your main personal statement. Select the prompt of your choice and copy/paste your final draft into the box. You can also opt to connect the Common App to your Google Drive account and import the essay directly -- just use the Drive icon.
Here are some tips for this section:
When you copy/paste an essay in, it will automatically bold. If you don’t want it bold, just select all the text and click the B icon.
Double check that your essay meets the word count. Some word processors count differently than the text box, especially when it comes to em dashes (these guys: --). You will see a red alert message if your essay is under or over the requirement (250-650 words).
You can use some text style tools (bold, italic, underline) but special characters and formatting will not work.
You will not be able to use “tab” to create indentations. Simply enter one line in between each paragraph for easy reading.
You can select the Preview button at the top of the section to see what your essay will look like in the final application submission.
Remember that this essay is going to a lot of colleges, so ensure that you do not include any specific messages or mentions about schools in this essay.
You can change the essay as many times as you want to, even after you submit an application. Comet recommends that you stick with one essay that you polish and perfect rather than making a bunch of alternate versions.
Under the main personal statement are two more sections:
Disciplinary History: here you will disclose whether you have been suspended, expelled, dismissed, or put on probation from any academic institution. You will have a chance to explain if you say yes. Your counselor will be sending along a recommendation and will likely include information about this infraction, so it’s in your best interest to be honest and up front.
Additional information: here you can include anything that didn’t fit elsewhere in your application. Do you need to put something here? Absolutely not. Comet recommends using this section to describe special circumstances surrounding your academic record, activities, and family/personal situation that will give the colleges more context and help them understand you better. You should present this information in a very straightforward manner; a list is fine. You do not need (and should not write) another essay in this section.
Some information you should include:
If your grades dropped significantly, you should explain what happened.
If you were not able to take classes you wanted to take, explain why not.
If you did not have enough room to fully explain an activity (for example, if you completed a research project or paper that was complicated, or if you won an award and you want to explain how difficult it was to win), you can elaborate here.
If you did not have space to include an activity or award that is important to you, you can add it here.
Comet cautions you to not add too much fluff to your application -- sometimes less is more.
Some information you should not include:
Complaints about your school or a specific teacher who dropped your grade.
Things you did in middle school.
A personal note to a college or university (“I know my academic record isn’t the best, but pick me and I’ll make you proud!”)
Courses and Grades
Depending on the colleges you apply to on the Common App, you may not have to complete this section. If one of your colleges requires Courses and Grades, you will need to fill this out unless you are for some reason unable to access your transcript.
As you move through each grade level in this section, you will enter each course you took, each grade you received, and how many credits each course was worth. You will choose your school, the school year, the grading scale (e.g. A-F), the schedule (e.g. semesters), the subject (e.g. English) and the course level (e.g. Honors) from drop downs. You will write in the course name yourself. Copy this directly from your transcript. Some tips:
For some reason, the form has an asterisk next to “final grade”. Most high schools issue one grade per term (quarter, semester) and there is no final grade. If you do not have a final grade, you can actually leave this box blank and move on.
Under each grade level, you will be able to add courses from other high schools. You will not be able to input community college coursework here. Simply send the official transcript to the college for evaluation.
Even though you fill this section out, the college will still need your official transcript. Make sure you follow your high school’s instructions for sending this.
If you took a class in the summer vs. the school year, you can use the Other Courses section to include this course.
Everything in the Common App tab is filled out. What next?
Now you need to go to the My Colleges tab and complete the Application section (and Writing Supplement section, if required) for each college on your list. You can fill out this information for one college at a time, no need to have everything ready at once. While the information on the Common App tab is collective to every school on your Dashboard, the information in My Colleges will only go to the individual college.
Some common things to expect:
Start term and deadline: for each college, you will need to indicate when you would like to start (usually the following fall) and which deadline you would like to apply under (early action, early decision, early decision II, regular decision).
Majors or academic interests: colleges will ask you what you intend to study. Sometimes you get a lot of options and sometimes you can just pick one or two.
Honors programs, specialized academic programs, or scholarships: some colleges will ask if you would like to apply for certain programs in addition to completing the application to attend. You can opt in or out of these at your own discretion, just double check the requirements and deadlines.
Art and music supplements: some colleges offer the opportunity to submit materials like an art portfolio or music audition. On many occasions, you don’t have to major in art or music to submit these supplements -- they provide extra information and insight into you and your passions! Simply say yes (or no) and then follow the instructions. Again, just double check the requirements and deadlines.
Writing supplements: most colleges will ask for additional short answers or essays. Remember not to repeat what you discussed in the main personal statement! If you are asked to address your major, make sure that you mention the same major you selected! It is best to copy/paste these in from another document; check the instructions for the Writing section above for some tips.
Okay, I have everything in the “My Colleges” tab and the “Common App” tab filled out -- I see a lot of green check marks! How do I submit my application?
When you’re ready, you can go to the My Colleges page, select the college in the left hand menu, and click “Review and Submit - Common App”. You won’t have this option until you are done filling out the app, and you can’t submit an app without payment, so don’t worry about accidentally submitting too early.
Once you click Review and Submit you will have a pop up window with the option to review the PDF of your application. Comet strongly recommends that you ask someone else to proofread your application before you turn it in to make sure there are no typos and everything is clear and correct. You can even print the PDF for easier review!
After you review the PDF and click the box that says “I have reviewed the PDF”, you will move on to Payment. If you have applied for a fee waiver earlier in the application, it will be applied here (your application will say you have already paid or your fee was waived). Otherwise, you will be redirected to another site for payment -- make sure your pop up blockers are off!
Once you pay, you will be automatically redirected to the Common App to finish your application. You will have to check some boxes to agree that the information you provided is correct and your own work, that you understand you cannot make changes from this point forward, etc. Then you will sign and date the form and click Submit.
Confetti should appear on your screen! But don’t celebrate yet.
For colleges that have a Writing Supplement on the My Colleges tab, there is one more step to complete. You must go to My Colleges, click on the college, and then click Review and Submit - Writing Supplement. You cannot do this until the Common App has been submitted to the college.
When you click Review and Submit, you will get the same option to review the PDF of the writing supplement. Once you approve the PDF, you will go through the agreements again (promising that all the work is yours and factual). Once you agree, you’ll sign and date again.
More confetti! Now you can do a happy dance.
How can I be sure my application was submitted?
Go on your Dashboard and select the college you’re curious about. It will tell you whether the application and supplement are pending, submitted, or downloaded by the college. If it says submitted or downloaded, you’re done! You should also receive a confirmation email from the Common App and a confirmation email from the college with information about next steps.
We recommend that you download a copy of your submitted application (and supplement) for your records and don’t delete your email confirmations (including your payment confirmation) just in case any issues arise.
Cool! A couple more questions.
What do I do with the Financial Resources tab?
Nothing! It’s just information for you.
Do I need to check the Common App for my admissions decision?
Nope! After you submit, you will deal directly with each individual college and complete all your communication over email or your student portal. The Common App is now an empty husk.
Can I check whether my recommenders submitted their forms?
You can do that through the Common App. Click on My Colleges, pick a college, and go to Recommenders and FERPA. Scroll down to check and see if your letters were submitted or in progress. If not, you can resend the invite or check in with your teacher/counselor.
If your school uses Naviance, you won’t see this information here. You will need to check Naviance instead.
What is a Mid-Year Report?
Your counselor will upload your first semester (or mid-year) grades to the Common App. All of your colleges will receive this update. You shouldn’t have to do anything, but you can check whether your report has been uploaded on any Recommenders and FERPA page. Once your mid-year report is submitted to one college, it is submitted to all colleges.
How can I tell if my college needs additional information from me?
Use your student portal, contact the college, or check the college’s website. Common App is just for the applications and their employees can’t answer specific questions about your application status or a given college’s requirements.
What if I notice an error after I submit my application?
You can correct the error in the Common App platform before you submit your application to any other colleges. To correct the original error, you will have to email the college directly. Comet recommends you only do this if it’s a big mistake (like you said you won the Miss America pageant but really you won the Miss California pageant) rather than just a typo.
What if I don’t have 5 awards, 10 activities, and a 650 word statement?
That’s totally normal and fine. Most students don’t fill up all the space on the application, and you’re not expected to do so. If you can express yourself more succinctly, or if you spent your time focused on a few key accomplishments, that’s wonderful. Trust yourself!
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