Top five mistakes to not make on the Common Application

Leigh Jacobson


It’s November, and most early college deadlines have by now come and gone. Most people would assume that this means that we seniors are by now slightly less stressed, and are energized and newly invigorated to take on second quarter.

Most people are wrong.

The UC deadline is fast approaching, as are many other priority or regular December deadlines, and besides that, we don’t even hear from early schools until December 15, in most cases. And since that’s the first day of winter break, we really won’t start looking alive/healthy again until after school resumes in January.

In light of this, we at The Roar are continuing our college-themed series, this week focusing on the omnipotent Common Application. It’s come to our attention that many people are slightly imbecilic when filling out this critically important form, and so we’ve targeted the most common mistakes so as to stop potential perpetrators in their tracks.

So, for those of you who still have time, here is a list of the top five things NOT to do on your Common Application; do your best to avoid these grievous errors. And, if you’ve already submitted yours and made these mistakes…well, sucks.



1.    Don’t upload the wrong documents.

It’s always interesting to hear how some kids have accidentally included the wrong documents in their applications. I’m not really sure how people manage to click on a completely different file when attempting to upload their Common App essay, but it’s been done. A word to the wise: Colleges won’t want to read your Senior Sermon instead of your inspiring and uplifting Common App essay; they’ll probably react as enthusiastically as the Milken student body does at town meetings.

Common App screenshot 1

2. Don’t write another school’s name in a supplement essay.

Although this seems perfectly obvious, plenty of admissions reps will tell you that they recieve hundreds of applications each year in which the student’s essay states how fervently they desire to attend college… but not their college. Either the student got really lazy with the copy/pasting, or they’re wasting their application fee on a school they really don’t want to go to.

Common App screenshot 2

3. Don’t claim to be proficient in a language that you’re not.

Think about it. What if you apply, and then are notified by the school of the need for an interview? And what if that interviewer questions you about your proficiency in that language, or, even worse, speaks that language and attempts to strike up a conversation with you? Really, just don’t do it.

Common App screenshot 3

4. Don’t write meaningless activities just to fill space.

If you include that one half-hour of SOVA volunteering from summer break in ninth grade that you only did to fulfill your community service requirement, you’re doing it wrong. It just looks bad. Schools are looking for long-time commitments, causes or activities that you’ve devoted yourself to; putting down that one obscure half-hour isn’t going to cut it. And if that’s the only possible activity that you have to put down, you’ve got bigger problems.

Common App screenshot 4

5. Don’t claim to hold a position that you don’t. 

They even say it on the application – most schools can check into it. It’s extremely simple to pick up the phone and verify with the main office whether or not you’re actually the student body president, captain of the varsity water polo team, president of the Israeli-American Appreciation Club and Editor-in-Chief all at once.

Common App screenshot 5


Check in next week for more of our college-themed series.

To read our previous article in the college series about the top five things you will hear on every college tour, click here. 

All photos courtesy of