Top 8 Tips You Need to Know about the Common App

As many of you know, there have recently (and not-so-surprisingly) been various reports regarding bugs within this year’s Common Application. Many of these bugs have understandably caused a bit of anxiety as students scrambled to complete their applications for early decision. I wanted to share some of the issues that we have found so far as well as some simple tips to work around them. These tips will help you regardless of when you are applying, though keep in mind that you should not wait until the last minute, just in case larger technical errors occur.

The Common App Has Essay Quirks

1. The Common App cannot recognize indents. Even though the application has formatting issues, you will still want to organize your essay for the admissions reader. Instead of adding indents, double space between paragraphs with a hard return.

2. The common application has a hard time transitioning from a Word document. You can use Word for the initial drafting, but when you are ready to go, upload copy and paste the document to a text editor. TextEdit or WordPad work, but I prefer using Google Docs.

3. After your essay is saved in a text editor, and you designate paragraphs with a double space between them, copy and paste your essay back into the Common App.

WARNING: Even after you take these steps, you will still get a message that the program changed the document and the paragraphs will look run-together in the Common App; however, the Print Preview should show the proper formatting, and if it shows up properly there, you should be fine.

Submission Bugs and other Problems You Should Be Aware of

1. It can take a very long time for the print preview to load. Sometimes the preview will flash on the screen and then disappear. If this happens, click continue and then back. You should now be able to see your formatted essay.

2. Aureus Prep has witnessed two submission bugs so far this application season.

  • One of the issues is a payment redirect loop. The loop happens when you do a print preview and go to the payment page. You enter the payment successfully but instead of being taken to the signature page, you are taken back to the payment page. This is a known bug. If it happens, do NOT pay again! Instead, you just wait to check back in a day or two. You should be able to go through the process again and this time it will show you paid, and you can submit. Make sure when you submit the payment you print out the receipt for future reference!
  • Another bug that we have witnessed is that after an applicant pays, they are sometimes kicked out of the application altogether. They then sign back in and try to submit, but the system ignores them. If this happens, just wait (it can take up to 48 hours) and try to submit again. Make sure you give yourself plenty of time to complete applications before the deadline.

3. Check your word count on supplement essays. Unfortunately, many colleges do not ‘reveal’ in the common application the word or character count of short essays in their writing supplements. Often you might not find out until after you’ve written, entered, and attempted to save or submit your supplemental essay. Only then might you receive a message saying “you are 10 words over” or “you still need 10 words to reach the 275 word minimum.” Alas, there is no way to fix this other than adjusting word count! However, you should always check the college website to see whether they list the essay word count requirement PRIOR to submitting. Finally, NEVER write directly in the Common Application program. If you write your essay in a document/text editor, you can just adjust the wording to fit the corrected word count and save multiple versions.

Hopefully some of these tips will help solve your Common App frustrations. If you witness any other issues in the application process, please contact Aureus Prep today, and best of luck to all of our college applicants!

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