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If you’re applying to college soon, odds are good that you’ll use the Common Application. After all, more than 800 colleges accept the Common App, and you’re probably applying to a few of them.

Since the Common App is such a big part of the college application process, it can help to have some tricks up your sleeve. Read on for tips and tricks to make your Common Application experience go as smoothly as possible.

Plan ahead.

Check out the application requirements for the schools you’ll apply to. (The Common App has a helpful requirements grid, but be sure to double check all information with the individual school websites.) Make a list of everything you need, from the application itself to essays, supplements, test scores, and recommendation letters. Don’t let pieces of your application slip through the cracks!

Start early.

The sooner you start, the less stressful the application process will be, and the more time you will have to revise your application. The application platform opens August 1!

Review the application before you begin.

Get a feel for each section of the application so that you know what information you’ll need to be ready to provide. Here’s a quick overview of the Common App:

  • Profile: Basic demographic information
  • Family: Household information
  • Education: Your high school and guidance counselor information and your courses and grades
  • Testing: Your official test scores—you’ll also need to send official score reports to each college!
  • Activities: Extracurricular activities and descriptions
  • Writing: The main essay and the additional information section
  • Supplements: School-specific supplements

Take your time.

Silly mistakes reflect poorly on you as an applicant, so don’t rush through seemingly simple application components. You don’t want to be the person who misspells their own name on the application!

Do your writing in advance.

Don’t try to write things in the Common App platform. For one thing, it doesn’t have spellcheck. You also risk losing your work if a glitch happens, and it’s harder to see the bigger picture when each piece of writing is in a different part of the application than when all written components are put together.

This advice isn’t limited to essays and supplements: your activities descriptions count as written responses, too! The Common App allows 50 characters for your position description and organization name and 150 characters for details and accomplishments—use them to your advantage! Include plenty of action verbs and vivid descriptions to make the most of this part of the application.

Print the PDF.

The Common App allows you to view your entire application as a PDF. Don’t just pull the document up on your screen—print it out and carefully review each and every field. Look out for typos, formatting issues in the essay, cut-off descriptions in activities, or anything else that doesn’t seem right. After you give it a first pass, fix any mistakes, print it again, and ask someone else to review the application, too; a second pair of eyes can catch things you might have overlooked.

Submit ahead of the deadline.

It’s not unheard of for the Common App to experience widespread technical difficulties on high-traffic days. Don’t get caught off-guard by possible problems—submit your applications several days ahead of deadlines so that you have time to troubleshoot any last minute problems.