Ivy League Admission Tips: Strategies for the Common App

The Common Application, also known as the Common App, is a standardized college application that is accepted by over 900 schools. It can save you significant time and effort if you are applying to multiple colleges.

In this article, we’ll provide a few Ivy League admission tips on how to fill out each section of the Common App. These guidelines will help you write a compelling Common App and impress the admissions officers.


The Common App begins with fields for personal data, such as your legal name, birth date, address, and so on. This information needs to be filled in completely and accurately.

The next components of the Profile section are fields related to demographics: religion, ethnicity, birthplace, and language. Including your ethnicity is optional. However, if you don’t include this information, the admissions officer might think you are trying to hide information. Admissions officers value honesty and transparency. Also, if you are Black, Hispanic, or Native American, you will be classified as an underrepresented minority (URM) applicant and will thus have an advantage over other applicants.

The optional language fields are also important to complete, so you should list any languages you have studied in school or speak at home.


The Family section of the Common App is used to gather basic information about your family background, including what colleges your parents and/or siblings attended, if any. This information helps colleges determine whether you are from a privileged background or if you could qualify as a legacy applicant to a particular institution.


The next section of the Common App is for basic information regarding your high school, such as its address and whether it is public or private. The form also includes fields for any additional high schools you have attended, including summer schools and programs.

Other information in this section includes your class rank and GPA. You should also report every class you will take during your senior year, including any independent study, online, or dual enrollment courses. Include the full name of your AP courses, not abbreviations. Additionally, this section asks you to list any college courses you have taken during high school.

The Education section also includes space for your top five awards or honors. Be sure to include your most impressive honors.


In this section, you need to include your SAT, ACT, and AP exam scores, as well as any planned test dates. Remember that you also need to send the official scores directly to your target colleges.


The Activities section is optional, but you should definitely complete it. You can list up to 10 activities. Include extracurricular pursuits, academic interests, research projects, community service, family responsibilities, cultural or religious activities, and hobbies. Generally, you should list these activities in order of importance.

You should select the most significant and impressive activities you participated in during high school. The best choices are those that demonstrate exceptional skill, knowledge, innovation, leadership, or commitment—and these activities should fit into your overall narrative. We highly recommend including any work experience in this list.


The Writing section includes three primary elements: the personal essay, disciplinary history, and additional information.

The personal essay should tie together all the other elements of the Common App. This essay is the main vehicle through which you will convey your unique theme and narrative.

For disciplinary history, you must indicate whether you have been in trouble at school (i.e., serious infractions involving the principal) or in trouble with the law (i.e., arrests and convictions).

Finally, you will have 650 words to add any additional information. This part of the Writing section is an ideal place for you to explain any situation the college should know about. For example, if there were illnesses or deaths in the family that had tangible effects on your education, this is the place to explain those circumstances.

Filling out a compelling Common App requires hard work and careful planning—you need to make sure that your information and the way it is presented will portray you as the ideal applicant. These Ivy League admission tips will help you achieve these goals and craft an exceptional admissions profile.