26 Weeks to College: Week 4

This week, you’ll get started on the Common Application, while continuing to make progress on other application related tasks.
August 29, 2019

Ready. You’ve made your big decisions, you’ve done your pre-work, and you have a plan. You are now ready to apply to college.

Set. Many college applications for this application year are now available and the Common Application is live.

Go! From now until the end of December, it is all about cranking out the applications. This week you start running the college application marathon.

Thanks to the work you’ve done over the last three weeks, you are ready to go. Congratulations! This week, you’ll get started on the Common App, while continuing to make progress on other application related tasks.

Remember that every single part of your application matters, so the non-writing components of the application matter as much as the essays. Because the Common App starts with the non-writing parts, you’ll start there too. We have a bunch of tips below to help you do that.




  • Check your email, voicemail, texts, and snail mail for any communications that relate to applying to college. Read them and take whatever action is necessary.
  • Update your parents about what you’re doing. This regular communication will work wonders in your relationship with your parents during this stress-filled year.


  • Get your Common Application account set up. You have to register online and enter some basic information about yourself. Take your time with your data entry — it will be the data that gets pulled into all of your applications!
  • Complete the non-writing parts of the application. In the Common App those sections are labeled Profile, Family, Education, Testing, and Activities.
  • Download your free copy of Inline at inlinecoach.com to help you with each of those sections.
  • Begin working on supplementary materials such as portfolios, audition materials, research abstracts, and the like. Note: very few of you should have this to-do on your list because you are following last week’s advice about exhibiting restraint when it comes to these kinds of materials.
  • Register for standardized tests. Fall test dates fill up quickly, so don’t delay registration. Get it done now for all the tests you expect to take.
  • Choose your test preparation method and add your test preparation into your calendar. People who prepare for the standardized tests do better on them. It is as simple as that. So build time into your calendar for test preparation. Check out this post about what study methods work best.


1. Check that you've filled out the factual questions accurately and to your advantage. What are factual questions? These are questions asking you about you and your family: your age, your gender, your state of residence, your citizenship, your languages, your ethnicity or race, and your veteran status. If you don't feel as if the boxes on the application really represent who you are, check the ones that come closest, and then use the Additional Information question of the Writing section of the application to elaborate. If you're a legacy, see if you can work that in. Also make sure to use your legal name on all your college application documents so that your name is consistent (that will save you lots of headaches later). Follow the U.S. format for dates (month/day/year). Use a reliable snail-mail and email address. Proofread!

2. Check that you haven't missed any miscellaneous questions. Those are questions about whether you're applying for financial aid, your academic interests, and any demonstrated interest in that particular college ("Have you visited?" "How did you learn about our college?"). Don't have particular career interests yet? It's OK if that's still up in the air. But you should at least be able to articulate your academic interests. (College is an academic enterprise, after all.) Make sure that the interests you list align with your story (Week 2). If you are on the fence about whether to apply for financial aid, check whether the college is "need blind" or "need aware" — you might decide that it's not worth applying for financial aid at a "need aware" school if that school is not that important to you.

3. Make sure you know which program or division you're applying to. Some colleges have just one application for one entire, unified undergraduate program, and you can decide later what division you want to be in and what you want to major in. Other schools make you decide upfront whether you're applying to a particular division (or program or college-within-the-college). For example, some schools make you decide at the application stage whether you're applying to the School of Liberal Arts or to the School of Engineering. Make sure to read the instructions for each college carefully so that your application ends up in the right hands.

4. Check that your activities list conveys the Core Four. Go back to the work you did in Week 2 and as you review your activities list in the application, make sure you've communicated all the activities that tell your story, and that you've conveyed the Core Four (don't forget impact in particular). Also make sure you've made use of the space available to you in the activities list.

You can read more tips for these sections in chapters 3, 6, 7, 8, and 14 in our book and in your free version of our Inline software.

Anna Ivey is one of the founders of Inline. An experienced admissions consultant and a frequently cited media expert on the topic of college admissions, she is also co-author of the book How to Prepare a Standout College Application. Learn more about Anna's background here.


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