Varsha Sayana
May 20, 2024
min read

Common App Confusion? The 7 Sections Explained.

Written by
Varsha Sayana
University of Virginia

Good morning fellow readers! It is officially college application season!

We understand that this time may be difficult and stressful for many of you (we see you out there High School Seniors- HANG in there!), so we would like to help relieve some of this stress through the information presented on our blog.

Speaking of help, let's get started with our week's topic: the various sections of the Common Application.

So, What Is The Common App?

The Common Application is an organization which colleges/universities join by accepting this free online platform for the college application process. The Common App’s goal is to ensure that every student utilizing this platform is given equal opportunity and consideration during the college application process. The most important aspect of the Common App is that it allows you to apply to more than one school with the same application! Thank LORD!

Ready to craft amazing applications? Work with a College Contact mentor from your dream school!


Explaining The 7 Sections of the Common App

Moving on to the Common Application sections, there are seven sections: Profile, Family, Education, Testing, Activities, Writing, and Course & Grades.


In the profile section, you will be asked to provide necessary information about yourself, like your name, contact information, and address. You must follow the proper rules for capitalization as colleges often pay close attention to these intricate details. While filling in the demographics part is optional, colleges typically like to have this information. Residents must upload their residency cards, and it is recommended that all students enter their Social Security Number regardless of whether they are applying for financial aid. If you qualify for the fee waiver, remember to answer “yes.” Who wouldn't want to save some extra $$?


There are four parts to the Family section of the Common Application. In the first subsection called Household, you will be asked about your parents’ marital status and who you live with. In the other three sections (Parent 1, Parent 2, and Siblings), you will be required to fill out necessary information regarding your family members.


The next section is Education. This is an area of high importance as you will enter information about your high school, GPA, and classes. MAKE sure this information is 100% correct. Triple make sure because if you accidentally enter a B- instead of a B+ in AP Physics, that is only going to hurt YOU. Also, information about your college counselor is necessary for this section. If you aren't sure what to put for that section, talk to a teacher.


In the Testing section, you should enter your standardized test scores (SAT and ACT), SAT Subject Test scores, and AP Exam scores. Some schools this year though will not require testing (thanks COVID!). MAKE SURE you do your research and see if your colleges are test-optional or not before submitting your application. If they are test-optional and you do have scores, only submit them if you are happy with them/if you feel they represent your academic ability.


For the Activities section, you will have the opportunity to enter up to 10 extracurriculars that you may have participated in throughout high school. It would help if you kept the descriptions of these activities concise as there is a 150 character limit. You must include the hours you invested in each activity as well. This section is commonly one of the hardest because you have to be very concise while also detailing the value of the activity. Here is an example of 150 character response:

Title: Personal Tutor Consultant

Hours: 100 hours

Description: (148/150 characters)

Selected to be a tutor for students struggling academically; tutor in physics & biology; assist with student homework; craft study plans & materials


Most importantly, you will include your college essay in the Writing section of the Common App. Tip: if you need help with this section- check out our website- we offer one-on-one help!


While the Additional Info Section is optional, you should use this section to explain something that isn’t mentioned anywhere else on your application because you have such limited space on the Common App. Things you could mention here include explanations for financial burdens, dips in grades, sicknesses (missing school), extenuating circumstances etc. that may have affected your academic performance in high school. Remember, this is still going to be judged by a college advisor, so continue to use proper grammar and spelling.


The final section, Course & Grades, on the Common App allows a student to report the classes they took in high school and their final grades in those courses. Make sure to input this information correctly!

Hopefully, this post provided you with enough information to understand what information is required on the Common Application and where it goes.

If you need more help with the college admissions process, reach out to a member of our team at and we will pair you with an advisor to get you started!

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