Does it ever feel like it takes a college degree to navigate the college application process? What specifically are “best-fit colleges,” and how does one find them? How does a student apply to best-fit colleges once they have been identified? How exactly is the Common App used to apply to colleges? 

Luckily, there are multiple free resources that guide students, especially first-generation college students, in this complicated process. For high school seniors planning to begin college next fall, there is no time to waste. Some colleges have application deadlines as early as the first of November. So, let’s get to those free resources and get started!

Applying to Colleges with Common App

Over 1,000 colleges are members of Common App. After gathering the materials, creating an account, and adding the colleges to which they are applying, students can use Common App to submit college applications.

Recently, IECA, a not-for-profit professional association representing experienced independent educational consultants, designed a free resource called AXS Companion in collaboration with Oregon State University. The resource is designed to guide students through Common App as a side-by-side companion. AXS Companion aligns directly (section by section) with Common App, providing explanatory videos and helpful tips. It leads students through Common App in the same manner as independent educational consultants guide individual students, and it’s absolutely free!

AXS Companion includes a written introduction to each section of Common App and provides a corresponding estimate of the time required to complete the section. Students just open AXS Companion alongside Common App, and it’s like having a personal consultant guiding them through the application process. Additional professionally recommended resources are provided throughout AXS Companion, revealing further higher education insight and advice from admissions officers, writing professionals, and college affordability specialists.

A Word About College Affordability

When building a college list, it is interesting and even fun to explore each college’s academic offerings and campus culture. But the third factor of a “best-fit college,” affordability, is often overlooked by prospective students and families.

Failing to take college affordability into consideration can cause parents and students a lot of stress when making a final decision. Students should be mindful to include at least one college on their list, which would be affordable even without financial aid in the form of grants or scholarships. The affordable college should be one that is an academic match, meaning the student will likely be admitted based on their high school record and test scores.

The Financial Aid & Resources Section of AXS Companion provides valuable insight when building a list of affordable colleges to apply to. View the final video, “Financial Aid Information for College: Building a Smart College List,” to learn about excellent tools that help distinguish between affordable colleges versus those that are not.

Next Steps, After Submitting Your Applications

After submitting your applications through Common App, most colleges will send an email confirmation that it has been received. The college may provide you with a student number and ask you to create an account through a portal. It may be a good idea to create a Google doc or a spreadsheet to keep track of the login information for these accounts. It is the student’s responsibility to check the accounts and verify that each application is complete. 

More Common App Resources

 College Admissions: The Ultimate Guide by Heinrich Bauer Publishing

College gets more expensive and more competitive every year, adding background stress for every forward-thinking parent. Will our child get into the school that’s right for them? Will they be happy there? And how on EARTH are we going to pay for all this? Now, this comprehensive practical guide gives parents the know-how they need to navigate the complicated, frustrating, and expensive process of college admissions. How to understand the common app, early decision vs early action choices, and whether standardized tests still matter. How to help your children find schools that are best fits for them, and create a realistic shortlist. How to produce an application that makes admissions departments sit up and take notice…including those dreaded essays. Bonus: A special section on 2022 scholarships: what’s available, who’s eligible, and where to apply. For anybody about to apply to college—and the parents who love them—this one-stop information source provides everything they absolutely need to know to get it right.

With candor, humor, and tons of tips, [this book] leads you step by step through the entire process of crafting a killer college application essay. See how to brainstorm ideas, use easy-to-understand examples as a model, and read inspiring real-life admissions success stories.