Student/Parent Guide to the Common Application

Student/Parent Guide to the Common Application

Student/Parent Guide to the Common Application

Using the CommonApp to Apply to Colleges:

 A Guide for Students and Parents

What is the CommonApp?  The CommonApp (CA) is a common format that many colleges use for the college admission process.  It simplifies the college application process for both students and school staff because students can apply to multiple colleges with one application process.  The CA uses a holistic selection process.


How do students get to the CommonApp?  Go to .  From there students will start by making sure they are under the Applicant tab and then create an account.  Students will begin by entering applicant information followed by information about future plans, demographics, family, education, academics, extra-curricular and work experiences, and an essay.


What schools use the CommonApp?  There are approximately 670 universities in the US and around the world that use the CA.  To see if this format is used by schools which interest your student, go to the website listed above, and under Explore Colleges, type the name of the school.  Make sure to spell and write it correctly (University of Ohio will yield no results.  Ohio State University will be listed as a member school.  Students may also type the city and see a list of all CA schools in that city.) Many Ohio schools use the CA, but not all. Some schools require you to use the CA as the only method of application.  Some allow you to use the CA or apply through the college website.  If students will be applying to several schools, it is to their advantage to use the CA so they only have to answer many of the application questions once.  It is also easier for teachers who have to write recommendation letters to only have to submit them through the CA one time.  Some of the Ohio CA schools to which many Shawnee students apply include Bowling Green State University, University of Cincinnati, University of Dayton, Findlay University, Miami University, Ohio Northern University, Ohio University, The Ohio State University (main campus), and University of Toledo.


When can students start applying to colleges with the Common App?  August 1, 2016 is the date the CommonApp opens.  Students can start now!!!


How long does it take to applyThe time will vary depending on the number of colleges a student applies to using this process and if the student has all necessary information gathered.  Students applying to more colleges will require more time.  Plan to have about 1.5 to 2 hours to begin.  If students don’t finish, they can stop and return to the application at a later time.  Students will complete an essay.  There are five prompts from which students can choose and write only one essay.  They should not rush through this.  Students can fill out the question and college portions of the process and add the essay once they have had time to write a thorough, well-constructed essay that addresses the topic appropriately.  Students should NOT submit their CA application until they have completed ALL questions, essays, recommenders, and all parts of the applications.  Once students submit their applications, if they find an error or want to add information, they will need to work with the admission office of the appropriate schools to make any changes (Students: this does not look good for you!)


What if students submit their CA application then decide to apply to another school that uses the CommonApp?  They may add schools to their list (without penalty) after the initial submission date.  They just cannot change or correct application answers after submission.


What Students Need to Know to Complete the CommonApp:

High School:  Shawnee Senior High School

Graduation Date: June 4, 2017

Prior Schools: This is asking for high schools students have attended other than Shawnee.

Counselor Name and email:  See attached email list.  Use only these email addresses.

Counselor Phone Number: 419-998-8004

School Fax Number: 419-998-8026

CEEB code for Shawnee High School: 362985

How is Class Rank Reported: exact rank

Class Rank:  Students will need to see their counselor once school starts to obtain this information.  Seniors will receive a transcript at out first senior meeting in September which will have this information.

College Credit Awarded: This is asking for post-secondary, dual-enrollment, College Credit Plus or other college courses students have completed in high school.

Testing information:  Students will need to know the number of times they have taken the ACT or SAT, the dates they tested, sub-scores, composite scores, and dates they plan to take these tests in the future.  Students will need to access this information from their ACT or SAT account.  Most colleges require having the test information sent directly from the testing company, not the high school.  If students did not have scores sent to the college when they signed up to test, they will need to contact the testing company to have scores sent.  There is a charge for this.

Activity List:  Students may list up to 10 items.  Items that should be listed include: extra-curricular activities (sports, clubs), church activities, community service/volunteer experience, work experience.  Students will need to know dates for these items, hours per week and weeks per year.  This is the time to think about all of the honors, experiences, and activities students have been a part of in high school.

If students have more than 10 items, they should prioritize the list to show leadership, diversity, character, and unique opportunities.  Students should not list activities or honors that occurred prior to the start of high school.

Essay:  There are 5 choices.  The student should select one essay for which he can compose a well written, meaningful response.

Individual College Information:  When students list colleges to which they will apply, they should be aware that each college may have additional questions for the student to complete.  They may also have additional writing prompts.  Each college will list information students need to have sent to them.  Students should write this down.  They will need to list it on a pink form for their counselor.  Once a student has added college(s), the student must go through the recommenders and FERPA tab for each college to which they are applying and add the recommenders.  He will only need to answer the questions regarding waiving FERPA rights once.  He will only need to add the counselor once. All other recommenders must be added individually to each school. See more information under Recommendations below.

Submitting the CommonApp:  The submission process is a three-step sequence.  First students review a copy of their application.  Second, they pay the application fee.  Finally, they sign the affirmation and complete submission.  Some students are stopping the sequence after paying the fee but before submitting the application.  For this reason, it is a good idea for students to check their Dashboard for confirmation of submission status.

What Students MUST do after Applying:  Once a student has submitted the CommonApp (or applied to a college through the college website), he will need to complete a pink form in the guidance office which will inform the guidance office what the student needs from the counselor.  The student will only need to complete one pink form for all CA schools.  An additional pink form must be completed for each college application that is not done through the CA.


What students should know about the Common App process:

Changes/ Additions:  Once students submit the CommonApp, if they need to make a change, they will need to contact the Office of Admission for each college in order to make the change.  Shawnee counselors cannot do this.

Accurate Information/ Attention to Detail:  Students should be completely honest about all information on the application.  Answering dishonestly may be grounds for denied admission.  Students should take the time to proofread answers (more than once!) to make sure the application is accurate and error free.  Be thorough but not wordy.


  • Students should give careful thought to the teacher(s) they ask to write recommendations.  Teachers write honest assessments of students’ ability, achievement, and motivation.  It is better for students to ask for recommendations from teachers who have good experiences to report.
  • Before listing a teacher to provide recommendations, students must personally ask that teacher if the teacher is willing/able to write the recommendation.  Some teachers get asked to write dozens of letters (especially near the deadline).  Teachers may reach a point where they simply don’t have enough time to write any more letters.  Make sure to give the teacher at least two weeks before the deadline to write the recommendation.  Use the email address listed on the published teacher email list.  This is the email that teachers must use.
  • Students will need to list the counselor and teacher(s) who will be giving recommendations.  The student must then invite the counselor and teachers to make the recommendation in the section Recommenders and FERPA under each individual college added.  If a student is using the same teachers as recommenders for multiple colleges, the student will need to invite the recommenders for each college.  Once the teacher agrees to give a recommendation, invite them right away.  You do not need to be done with your application to invite the teacher.  This gives the teacher more time to complete the recommendation. 
  • Counselors are required to submit a recommendation for each student apart from the teacher recommendation.  If students are asked to submit two recommendations, realize that the counselors will already be providing one in addition to any teacher recommendations.  Be aware of the number of recommendations required for each school.
  • Be aware of deadlines.  Some schools have deadlines as early as November 1.  Each school that students apply to may have different deadlines. Students should invite counselor and teachers well before the FIRST deadline (Go to My Colleges tab, look under FERPA and Recommendations tab).  Students will be able to see if recommendations have been submitted.  If you see that a recommendation has not been completed, check with the teacher to make sure the teacher received the email invitation to make a recommendation.
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