In the previous chapter of the Ultimate College Prep Guide, we laid out our three-step plan to help your student decide where to apply to college. By pinpointing your academic interests, building your college list and visiting schools, your student can get a clear idea of what college is right for them.

In this chapter, we’ll give you a comprehensive run-down of the things you need to know about actually applying to college. We’ll provide the resources and information about things like filling out applications and deciding when to apply, that you need to make sure your student doesn’t miss a step in their college application process.

Here’s what you’ll learn in this chapter:

Start with the Common Application and Secondary Applications

The Common Application is an integrated undergraduate and transfer application shared between 695 colleges and universities, ranging from small liberal arts colleges to large public universities.

The Common App asks for information such as:

The essay prompt selection for 2017-2018 has already been released so your student can start thinking about which topic inspires them the most. We’ve copied the essay prompts below:

1. Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.

2. The lessons we take from obstacles we encounter can be fundamental to later success. Recount a time when you faced a challenge, setback, or failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience?

3. Reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea. What prompted your thinking? What was the outcome?

4. Describe a problem you’ve solved or a problem you’d like to solve. It can be an intellectual challenge, a research query, an ethical dilemma – anything that is of personal importance, no matter the scale. Explain its significance to you and what steps you took or could be taken to identify a solution.

5. Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others.

6. Describe a topic, idea, or concept you find so engaging that it makes you lose all track of time. Why does it captivate you? What or who do you turn to when you want to learn more?

7. Share an essay on any topic of your choice. It can be one you’ve already written, one that responds to a different prompt, or one of your own design.

Remember that while the Common App is a broad application that is sent to many colleges, there are significant differences in things like due dates (orange) and requirements (blue) for each of