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Facebook Live Recap and Bonus Questions: Filling Out the Application

Finishing your college applications is a great feeling, but getting there can be intimidating. My recent Facebook Live Q&A covers everything you need to know about filling out the application.

In case you missed it, here’s a recap with a list of the questions I answered, the full video of my session, and bonus questions that I didn't get to answer live!

  • What are the basic pieces of the application?
  • If a college offers their own application, but also offers the Common Application, which do you choose?
  • I've never heard of the Coalition Application. What is it?
  • What should a student do if they're applying to multiple colleges that don't all accept the Coalition App?
  • How early can you fill out applications?
  • Should students self-identify their race on their applications?
  • How should students fill out the language section on their applications?
  • Why do colleges ask about parents' jobs, whether they went to college, degrees, etc.?
  • My son transferred into a new high school halfway through junior year. How much detail should be included on the application as to why the transfer occurred?
  • Why do students need to self-report their GPA, when it's already listed on the high school transcript?
  • When should a student fill out the class schedule section on their applications?
  • How do you decide when an honor should be listed under the activities section or on the honors/awards section?
  • How should a student fill out the "Future Plans" section on the Common App?
  • Should my child submit to colleges a passing AP score that is a 3, or should she only submit the score if it is a 4 or 5?
  • My daughter received 5's on three of her AP exams, and 3's on two of her AP exams. Should she report all of her scores or just the 5's?
  • My daughter will be applying to very selective engineering programs. Her combined ACT score was a solid 35, but her English score was better than her Math score. Her SAT was a 1570, but her Math score was better than her English score. Which scores should we send?
  • If SAT Subject Tests are recommended but not required, is it best to only send your scores if they are stellar?
  • My daughter has worked at a local food pantry throughout high school. During the year, she works sporadically, probably about an hour a week. But in the summer, she logs about 4-6 hours a week. How should she handle this in the weeks/year and hours/week part of the activities section?
  • My son does a lot of extracurricular activities. After tallying the hours for activities as an hr/week list it looks almost impossible that he could get this all done on top of work and volunteering after school and weekends. Do admissions officers take this into account or should we explain?
  • How do you decide when to bundle different aspects of an activity into one listing and when to list them separately?
  • I am an Eagle Scout. As a scout I participate in many different activities from leadership, to camping, and community service. Should I only list scouting once on my application or everywhere it fits?
  • How do you differentiate on your applications between summer programs that are applied to and fully funded and "pay-to-play" programs?
  • This past summer, I had been accepted to a selective summer camp. In fact, I was one of the only two people from my country to have been accepted. Unfortunately, I was not able to attend due to personal reasons. Should I list this in my Common Application activities section?
  • In the activities section of the Common App, it asks if you intend to participate in a similar activity in college. Should I say yes even if I most likely won’t?
  • I have heard you say that something that appears in the application shouldn't be repeated in the essay - why not? 
  • How would you recommend handling a scenario where a class that shows up on the transcript does not reflect the degree of responsibility/level of commitment/leadership the student has achieved?
  • Do I need to provide a resume with my application?
  • Should a student write their main essay about their intended major?
  • Can I write the same supplemental essay for every college if the majors I'm applying to are in the same general field?
  • How is an application tailored to an international student?


1. What kind of essay should be written for the optional additional essay at the end of the Common App? Should it take on a creative style like the personal statement or should it be more factual?
Are you referring to the "Additional Information" section of the Common App? If so, typically this section shouldn't be used for an optional essay. I would only use this space if the student really needs to explain an unusual situation or issue or truly runs out of room on the activities/honors list and wants to add another activity or honor using the same amount of characters on those sections. Use this section sparingly as admissions officers don’t want a lot of extra information they have to read.

2. My daughter participates in student government, but she's held different positions each year. Should she separate each office into a separate activity or combine under just student government?
I'd probably combine it into one. But for the title/organization, I'd lead with the most impressive title. For example, if she is president of student government for senior year, I'd list it as "President, Student Government." And then in the description, she can list the other titles she had (VP, Secretary, Treasurer, etc.).

3. Do you think it is a disadvantage if my son dedicates most of his community hours (that he is passionate about) to the same non-profit that I work at?
A careful admissions officer (AO) would connect the name of the organization to your employer listed under the "Family" section. Some AOs might think that the student got the opportunity only because of the parent even if it's not true. Your son has a few options. First, if he has a lot of other activities, it's fine to have one connected to a parent's employment. I probably wouldn't list this first on his list, though. Second, if he doesn't want an AO to misjudge him, he doesn't have to list the organization's name on his activities list. He can list his role and what he does and leave it at that.