Road signs and mailboxes may be literally melting in the summer heat in some parts of the country, but for rising seniors, summer break is over. It’s time to start working on those college applications. We’re here to help! Keep reading for tips and tricks to get you through the college application process.

The Common App: What is it and how can it help you?

As of 2017, over 700 colleges accept the Common App. The Common App gives you a one stop show for your college applications. Assuming that all of the colleges you’re applying to accept the Common App (and there’s a pretty good chance they do), you’ll only need to enter your basic application information once. Since C2 Education recommends that students apply to between 6 and 15 colleges, not having to type in your name, social security number, address, and academic data for each school you apply to will save you tons of time.

So I only need to fill out one application? Great!

Not so fast. Although you’ll only need to enter your applicant details once, many schools have supplemental forms or writing tasks that you’ll need to submit. Particularly if you’re applying to highly selective schools where the competition is fierce, it may be a good idea to plan to customize parts of your application for each school. For example, the Common App essay that you plan to submit to MIT might not be the best essay you could submit to a liberal arts college.

Anything else I should know about the Common App?

The Common App will help to keep you organized and on track. It shows you which documents have been submitted to which schools and warns you about upcoming deadlines. But the Common App’s helpful features should NOT be a replacement for your own thorough planning.

Isn’t there an application similar to the Common App?

There is indeed. The Coalition Application is accepted by roughly 150 colleges, including Harvard, Stanford, and Yale. The Coalition Application has a few unique features, including the ability to upload supplementary materials such as essays rather than pasting them into an electronic field, and some students find it to be a more user-friendly interface, but it is not as widely accepted as the Common Application, which could increase the total number of applications you’d need to complete.

When should I start applying?

There’s no time like the present! If you’re applying to one or more colleges through early action or early decision, some of your deadlines might be mere weeks away. Even if you have no plans to apply early, you’ll have a much less stressful application experience if you start early and plan ahead than if you wait until the last minute.

Why so early?

The application itself – the parts where you enter your personal information, grades, test scores, extracurricular activities, and so on – will likely not take too long. But the main essay, supplemental essays, and recommendations take much longer.

How can I make sure to submit great recommendation letters?

Your control over the content of your recommendation letters is obviously rather limited, but there are several steps that you can take to ensure that your teachers, coaches, and counselors give you glowing reviews. First, carefully consider who you’ll ask for recommendations. Clearly it’s in your best interest to ask teachers or coaches with whom you share a strong relationship and who is familiar with your best traits. Second, ask for recommendations well in advance. Teachers are busy – you need to give them plenty of time to write you a great recommendation letter. Finally, provide them with everything they need to make their task as easy as possible. Your teachers and coaches are helping you; the least you can do is make it simpler. When you ask them for recommendations, provide them with a stamped and addressed envelope (if the letter is to be submitted by mail) or with instructions for where and how to submit recommendations online. Consider providing them with a brief note reminding them of some of the accomplishments that you’re most proud of. And after the recommendation letters are submitted, send a thank you note!

Can I see my recommendation letters?

You can, but you shouldn’t. Recommendation letters tend to carry more weight with admissions officers if you waive your right to see them. This suggests to admissions officers that the recommendation letters are more truthful than they might be if the writer knew the subject would read the letter. Ask someone you know has great things to say about you, and you won’t need to worry about what was written.

Anything else I should know?

Tons. We could write an entire book about applying to college – in fact, plenty of people have written books on the subject. Don’t worry – from admission tests to college application essays and everything in between, C2 Education has you covered. Our expert educators can provide detailed, personal guidance through every step of the college application process. Schedule a consultation at your local C2 Education center today!