Welcome to the AXS Companion to Common App! In this resource we have combined printed and video explanations to help your student understand how to apply to colleges and universities using Common App, an online application that is accepted by over 1,000 colleges and universities. The AXS Companion to Common App also contains helpful links to additional resources and advice on topics that include how to find colleges that are generous with financial aid and how to understand a financial aid award letter.
On this page of the AXS Companion, we have provided videos and suggested resources that might be particularly helpful for parents who are supporting a student who is applying to college. All of these resources, and many more, are also found in the Student section of the AXS Companion. Parents may access any portion of the AXS Companion. Unless otherwise noted, when we refer to “you” or “your,” we are talking to the student. So if instructions say to give “your” phone number, it is referring to the student’s number.
Questions About Nationality
Common App asks students for information about their name, address, gender, date of birth, demographics, languages spoken, and nationality. There is also a section where students can indicate that they qualify for a fee waiver.
In this video, we discuss how to complete the Geography and Nationality section of Common App. Colleges want to understand the student’s background and want to create a class of students that is diverse.
Tips & Reminders
- If a student is applying for federal financial aid, they will need to enter their social security number. Parents do not need to have a social security number in order for their student to apply for financial aid.
- Fee waivers for Common App are available for students who have financial need. Students who need a fee waiver must indicate that need by checking the box on Common App.
Questions About Family/Parents
Common App asks students questions about their parents’ marital status, which parent(s) they live with, their parents’ occupations, education, and contact information, and information about the students’ siblings, if any.
In this video, we discuss how to complete the Family section of Common App. This section includes information about parents’ marital status, who the student lives with, the parents, and siblings.
Tips & Reminders
- Parents’ marital status is required information. If the student does not live with either parent, they should select “Other” and they will be given space to explain their situation.
- When deciding what to list as a parent’s occupation and education level, advanced professional degrees like JD or MBA can be considered the equivalent to graduate degrees like a .
Questions in the My Colleges Section of Common App
All colleges that accept Common App require applicants to complete the questions found under the Common App tab of the application. Some colleges have additional questions and essays found in the My Colleges tab. In order to complete this section, students will need information about where their parents attended college and/or graduate school and dates of graduation, if applicable. It is ok if parents did not attend college. Many colleges have special programs to support students who are the first in their family to go to college.
In this video, we discuss the Family and Residency sections of the My Colleges section of Common App. The purpose of these sections is for students to share with colleges information about their family’s educational history, their state of residency, and their academic background. It is ok if a student’s parents did not attend college. Many colleges have special programs to support students who are the first in their family to go to college.
Tips & Reminders
- Students should review their application carefully before submitting to find any errors or typos.
- Once they have submitted an application, they will receive a follow-up email from the college. They should read the email and all emails from that college because these often contain important information.
- After a student submits an application, the college might ask them to create a portal on the college website. Students should do this. The portal is used to track their application and make sure that the college receives all of the parts of the application, including the student’s transcript, test scores (if relevant), letters of recommendation, and other pieces.
- It is the student’s responsibility to ensure that all parts of the application are received.
- Total Cost of Attendance (COA): The total “sticker price” of a college. The Total COA includes tuition, fees, room and board, books, transportation and personal expenses.
- Net Price: The total cost of attendance minus all grants and scholarships. Grants and scholarships are free money that does not have to be paid back.
- Expected Family Contribution (EFC): Expected Family Contribution (EFC) is the amount of money that a student’s family is expected to contribute to college costs for one year.
- Need-based aid: Need-based aid includes scholarships and grants, work study, and subsidized loans that students may receive to help pay for college. Need-based aid is awarded based on a family’s financial need.
- FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid): The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is an application that must be completed annually by students in order to receive need-based financial aid. Almost every college uses FAFSA information to calculate the student’s eligibility for need-based aid.
- CSS Profile: An application for financial aid required by approximately 175 colleges and universities for students applying for financial aid. These colleges and universities will require both the FAFSA and the CSS Profile in order to determine the amount of financial aid a student qualifies for.
- Grants: A grant is a form of financial aid that doesn’t have to be repaid.
- Loans: A student loan is money that you borrow to help pay for college. You must repay the loan as well as interest that accrues.
- Merit aid: Merit aid is non need-based financial aid that is awarded based on achievements related to things like academics, athletics, music or civic participation. Merit aid awards are not based on a family’s ability to pay.
- Work Study: Work study is a type of financial aid that provides part-time jobs for students with financial need, allowing them to earn money to help pay education expenses.
In this video, we provide an introduction to the Financial Aid tab of Common App and discuss some of the resources linked to in that section. This video takes approximately 3 minutes.
In this video, we discuss why you should ignore the sticker price of a college. The sticker price is not what many students pay for college. Instead, what a student actually pays is determined by what the federal government and the college calculate based on parent and student income and assets as well as demographic factors.
In this video, we discuss the parts of a financial aid award and why you should apply for need-based financial aid.
In this video, we discuss using loans to help pay for college. Student loans are usually part of financial aid awards. We also discuss how to distinguish between reasonable and excessive debt.
In this video, we discuss merit aid, what it is, who gets it, and where to find it.
In this video, we discuss how to create a list of affordable colleges to apply to. There are three components of a smart college list: financial fit, social fit, and academic fit. We show you resources you can use to identify colleges that will be affordable for you and your family.
Tips & Reminders
- Approximately 85% of students in the US do not pay the full sticker price for college. There is a possibility that you could receive financial assistance for college.
- Most students have to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) in order to be considered for financial aid. Approximately 175 colleges and universities also require the CSS Profile, a second application for financial aid.
- Applying for financial aid with the FAFSA is free.
- Students with little or no demonstrated need should look for colleges that are generous with merit aid. Students with moderate to high financial need should look for colleges that are generous with need-based aid.
- To determine if you have high, moderate, or low financial need, you must calculate your Expected Family Contribution (EFC). You can also calculate your expected costs at a particular college by using a Net Price Calculator (NPC) for that college. You can find links to these resources below.
- College Board Expected Family Contribution (EFC) Calculator
- FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid)
- CSS Profile – An additional financial aid application used by some colleges and universities
- Find colleges that:
- Meet 90% of financial need or more
- Are generous with merit aid or that have lower sticker prices
Big J Educational Consulting’s Domestic Financial Aid Chart
The Ph.D., or Doctorate of Philosophy, is one of the highest degrees that is awarded by a graduate school in the academic field a student has chosen to pursue. This degree usually takes anywhere from three to five years or more of graduate study after the Bachelor’s degree. Even though the title says Philosophy, a Ph.D. will be in the field the student has chosen to study.