Common App Tips: Completing the Profile, Family, and Education Sections

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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

 

Personal Information

 

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.

 

Address

 

Remember to include an alternate or temporary addresses here, because colleges will be mailing you important materials.

 

Contact Details

 

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.

 

Demographics

 

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.

 

Geography

 

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.

 

Language

 

Here, you’ll be asked in how many languages you’re proficient. 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.

 

Citizenship

 

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?).

 

Fee Waiver

 

Here, you’ll check off whether you intend to use a fee waiver instead of pay 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

Household

 

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.

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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 her 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.

 

Grades

 

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.

 

Honors

 

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.

 

Community-Based Organizations

 

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.

 

Future Plans

 

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.

 

Key Takeaways

 

  • Be honest

 

Remember that this information is verifiable.

 

  • Be accurate

 

Much of this information concerns how colleges will communicate with you, so need to make sure it’s error-free.

 

  • Be thorough

 

You’re giving colleges an idea of who you are, after all.

 

  • Be cognizant

 

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.

 

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Laura Berlinsky-Schine

Laura Berlinsky-Schine

Senior Blogger at CollegeVine
Laura Berlinsky-Schine is a graduate of Johns Hopkins University, where she majored in Creative Writing and minored in History. She lives in Brooklyn, New York and works as a freelance writer specializing in education. She dreams of having a dog.
Laura Berlinsky-Schine
Laura Berlinsky-Schine
Senior Blogger at CollegeVine
Short bio
Laura Berlinsky-Schine is a graduate of Johns Hopkins University, where she majored in Creative Writing and minored in History. She lives in Brooklyn, New York and works as a freelance writer specializing in education. She dreams of having a dog.