University of Virginia

Common App Tips

1. Be a tech Luddite: In this day and age of “cloud this” and “swipe that”, we tend to take for granted how we push the envelope tech-wise. Not every website can keep up with all the browser variations and operating systems that are out there. You don’t want to find out that something about your computer doesn’t agree with the Common App’s computers.

The Common App lists system requirements on the homepage (look near the bottom.) If at all possible, pick one computer to use that meets these requirements and stick with it throughout the process. Once you’ve started, don’t rush to upgrade to the latest and greatest. Stick with an arrangement that works. For example, some people don’t like the Common App on Safari.

Have plenty of ink on hand for your printer. Most color inkjet printers these days require the color cartridges even to print black text.

2. Provide your best SAT/ACT scores in each area, even if they are from different test dates. If you plan on taking future tests, answer “yes” to that question so the admissions office will be on the lookout for those scores. It’s also a good idea to check the specific test reporting policy of each of your colleges which you can find on their websites.

3. Say yes to financial aid and merit scholarships, even if you don’t think you will get any aid. You can always turn down any financial aid that is offered so say yes now.

4. Submitting the completed application does not mean you are finished. You have to also submit the supplements to your colleges and you have to pay. Consider these to be three separate steps. Make sure you do each and then check your My Colleges page to be sure the status for each application is correct.

5. Print Preview matters – a lot! When all required questions have been answered, a PDF will be generated for your review once you click on “Start Submission.” Print it and read it carefully. Check each line to be sure characters were not cut-off. The fact that you could type the characters on the screen does not mean that they will print out correctly.

Bonus tip: Don’t wait until the last minute. If you are planning on doing the Common Application over Christmas Break, for example, many college offices are closed. That’s not the time to be trying to get your questions answered. The My Colleges tab will show you the deadline information for each of your schools.

Bonus tip #2: Add to your email contacts so important messages don’t get marked as spam.

Have questions? We’d be glad to help. Drop us a note at