Common App Tips: Completing the Profile, Family, and Education Sections
Do you know how to improve your profile for college applications?
See how your profile ranks among thousands of other students using CollegeVine. Calculate your chances at your dream schools and learn what areas you need to improve right now — it only takes 3 minutes and it's 100% free.
You’ve just created your Common App account and are a bit lost on where to start. How do you complete each section? Don’t worry! At CollegeVine, we’ve outlined the most important components of your application starting with the Profile, Family, and Education sections. Read on for valuable tips on how to fill them out.
The Profile Section
In this section, you’ll be asked for details such as your name, sex, and date of birth. You must choose male or female for your sex, but you have the opportunity to elaborate if you’d like to discuss your gender identity in more detail.
Remember to include alternate or temporary addresses here, because colleges will be mailing you important materials.
Think carefully about which phone number to give—home or mobile. It should be a number to a phone that’s readily accessible to you. You should also make sure your outgoing voicemail greeting is professional-sounding and includes your first and last name.
Colleges use information such as your race, religion, and other factors to help them better understand the applicant and build a diverse class. Providing this information is optional, but it’s in your best interest to be forthcoming. Nothing you write in this section will detract from your application in any way.
Here, you’ll provide information about where you were born, have lived, and live currently. Again, this is for adcoms to get a better sense of your identity.
Here, you’ll be asked how many languages you’re proficient in. Remember to include English, but don’t exaggerate your proficiency in other languages. Use the rule of thumb that you should include it if you speak it at the conversational level. Colleges ask this to inform them in building both a diverse and multi-talented class.
Be honest about your citizenship. It won’t affect your admission ability, but it will give colleges a sense of how you will pay for school, since foreign students aren’t eligible for federal financial aid. Non-U.S. citizens should read Schools that Grant Financial Aid to International Students: A Complete List.
Most colleges don’t prohibit undocumented students from attending, but a few do. For advice on completing your application as an undocumented immigrant, read A Guide to the Citizenship Section of the Common App (Can I Still Get Into College if I’m Undocumented?).
Here, you’ll check off whether you intend to use a fee waiver instead of paying the application fee. If you qualify, this decision must be verified by your guidance counselor or another school administrator.
Keep in mind that using a fee waiver won’t affect your admission, even at schools that are need-aware, meaning they factor your need for financial aid into your admissions decision.
The Family Section
This section asks about your parents’ marital status. You’ll also have the opportunity to list stepparents if you have them.
Parent 1 and 2; Siblings; Stepparents
These sections ask you to list information such as the education levels and occupation levels of your parents, siblings, and stepparents. You’ll also be asked whether these relatives are living or deceased. Colleges are looking to gain insight into your background and circumstances. For example, if you’ve faced tremendous hardship, adcoms will factor this information in when making their admissions decisions.
If you have faced personal circumstances that affect your transcript or other aspects of your application, you should explain them in the Additional Information section or your essay. Doing so allows colleges to understand how your schoolwork was impacted and could influence their decisions.
The Education Section
Current or Most Recent Secondary School
List your high school here and make sure to include your guidance counselor’s complete information. Ask them to verify it; it will be used for communication purposes, so it must be accurate.
Other Secondary Schools
If you’ve attended other schools, provide their information and give a brief summary as to why you left.
If you were expelled from a previous school, you should be honest. You’ll also be asked if you’ve had a disciplinary action taken against you in the Disciplinary History section in the Writing portion. Since you have limited space here, you should go into greater detail in that section, focusing on what happened, what you learned from it, and how you’ve changed since. Read How to Deal with Disciplinary Problems on your College Application for more advice. (And definitely don’t attempt to lie or mislead adcoms here.)
Colleges & Universities
List college coursework you’ve completed. You should only list schools where you’ve earned credits—not summer/pre-college programs unless they were credit-bearing.
While you are asked about graduating class size, GPA, rank, weighting, and scale, you only need to include your class size. It’s best to leave the optional questions blank because colleges will have your transcript and will likely recalculate your GPA according to their weights and measures. Plus, you may not know the intricacies of your school’s GPA weighting or class rank.
Current or Most Recent Year Courses
In this section, include all senior-year courses. Make sure it’s accurate and have someone read it over to double check.
You may list up to seven courses, so include your core courses (English, math, science, history, and foreign language) first and electives later if you have room. Also, be sure to note the level in the title, not just in the level section, so colleges can immediately see the rigor of your curriculum.
Report academic (not extracurricular) honors here. These honors may be at the school, state, or national level, and you’ll include the designation. If you have too many to include on the Awards page, you can use this to accommodate the spillover, and remember to use the 100 characters to explain them.
This refers to organizations such as Upward Bound that assisted you with completing your app (not places where you volunteered). Include this information if you’ve received this type of assistance.
Of course, you’ll elaborate more about your plans in other sections of your application such as the essay and your intended major, but this is a succinct way to give the college an idea of what you hope to do. Provide a general career area, such as physician or foreign service worker, and include the highest degree you plan to earn, consistent with the profession you intend to pursue. For example, for a physician, you would put doctorate.
Remember that this information is verifiable.
Much of this information concerns how colleges will communicate with you, so need to make sure it’s error-free.
You’re giving colleges an idea of who you are, after all.
Information about your demographics and family won’t hurt you in the admissions process; in fact, it could even help you if you have an unusual background or have faced difficult circumstances. Know how colleges are using your information to include the most relevant and important details possible.
Check out our Common App posts for more information on how to best complete your application.
Curious about your chances of acceptance to your dream school? Our free chancing engine takes into account your GPA, test scores, extracurriculars, and other data to predict your odds of acceptance at over 500 colleges across the U.S. We’ll also let you know how you stack up against other applicants and how you can improve your profile. Sign up for your free CollegeVine account today to get started!