August is CommonApp month. The CommonApp opens, supplements are posted, guidance offices open their doors for the new school year, and nationwide seniors start stressing out. Suddenly and all at once, applications are real. But you’re savvy–you read The Prospect. You’re going to come into the CommonApp a lean, mean, application machine. Or at the very least, you’ll be ready to start your applications when they start coming out. Fall of senior year is rough, so you’re best off being prepared and proactive. There are three major things you should finish before the you get all gung-ho on the CommonApp.
1. Have Your Basic School List
I recommend you have at least five schools on your list. This should include one hardcore safety (as in, you know without a doubt you’ll get in and be able to afford it), a low match, two true matches, and one “bonus” school.
Early August is a great time to start touring and researching schools. So start checking out what your options are, it’s a ton of fun to check out schools. Each school you consider is essentially a possible self that you might be. And that’s awesome; you’re going to have more choice than you’ve ever had before for education, so cherish it. Remember that you must be willing to attend any of your five schools. If you wouldn’t want to attend, don’t waste the money to apply.
Many students will apply to far more than five schools, but it’s best to have a core of five solid, realistic choices to start your search. It is also great to have these five ready to go far in advance of the opening of the CommonApp, so you’ll have a good base to start your applications when it opens next month.
2. Think About Essays
The college essay is probably the most stressful part of the process. You have complete control over it, but it’s elusive and there’s a fine line between success and failure. Don’t put pressure on yourself to have a full draft done, or even a topic ready in July. You still have time to change your mind.
However, it’s not a bad idea to start brainstorming possible essay topics. If you’re stuck on the CommonApp essay, just start writing out answers to all of the questions. Come up with a few possibilities for each of the essays, and write drafts of whichever ones seem most interesting. It’s a lot of work, but you never know which topics will work until you start writing them.
I also recommend doing this because it might give you some inspiration for supplements. Maybe your story about how you got lost in the airport in Panama isn’t great for a CommonApp essay, but it might work perfectly for a prompt about “The Road Less Traveled.”
3. Start Preparing Your Resume
(Sits in rocking chair): Back in my day we were expected to create and upload a resume to the CommonApp. But as CommonApp does, they said “Screw that,” and deleted that option for a “simplified” version.
Nowadays, you get 10 slots to express your extracurricular interests and accomplishments. It’s a total pain to do, easily the most tedious part of the application because the word counts are a pain in the behind. But if you get it over with now, it will save you a ton of time and grief later.
Basically, prioritize your top ten activities (it’s totally fine to have fewer!), and come up with “twitter length” explanations of what it is and what you do for the club. You’re going to have to use your words carefully and concisely. It’s going to suck. So do it now, before the CommonApp opens.
If you need more on how to fill out that particular section of the CommonApp, check this out.
Summer prep is a bit of an application lull: nothing is really happening, summer is in full swing. Take advantage of that, and future you will be eternally grateful. Good luck!