It's college application time!

Yes, the Common Application is "live" as of August 1. [More on that in a moment...]

First, The College Whisperer sends out a great big thank you to his college planning colleague and compatriot, The College Answer Guy, for the kind words (all true, but still kind ;-) offered up on his blog. Check it out at I Have a Twin!

It's nice to be thought and spoken of highly, especially by one's peers. And, if two heads are better than one, college-bound students will benefit by taking advantage of everything The College Answer Guy and The College Whisperer have to offer.

Now, back to the Common App...

The Common Application will be the portal to admissions for most colleges, and a site that high school seniors will likely become very familiar with over the course of the next several months.

As of August 1, students will be able to register (set up a Login and Password), and begin completing the Application, working on essays and personal statements, and tinkering with supplemental applications, as may be required.

Okay. So the Common App is going "live." Now what?

Well, just because the Common App can be completed and sent to colleges as of August 1, it doesn't mean you should hit the "submit" button on August 2.

As much as we'd all like to be done with the college admissions process, if not during the Dog Days of August, then certainly before school starts in September, DON'T RUSH IT!

There is plenty of time to complete (and we mean complete. There is no "undo" once you submit!) your application, to tweak and enhance it, to make absolutely sure that it places you in the best possible position for the most favorable consideration. [Remember. You get one shot at this college admission stuff. Do it right the first time!]

While it may seem that the Common Application is, more or less, "fill in the blanks" (and to some extent, it is), don't overlook the many opportunities to personalize the seemingly impersonal, to optimize what will become part of your matrix on the college admissions officer's screen, and, quite literally, to make the Common App yours.

This is your brand, boys and girls. Your chance to market yourselves in a unique and positive way. Seize not only the day, but your moment to truly shine!

For starters, preview the main Common App form, becoming familiar with its content. Check out the suggested topics for your personal essay. Begin to list your school and extracurricular activities, work history, honors and awards (you've probably got more under your belt than you realize). And gather up requested information -- assuring its accuracy -- so you will have it all at hand when the time comes to actually get started on the Common App itself.

Check out the colleges and universities that accept the Common App. [Some schools require their own, proprietary (good SAT word) applications (check the colleges' websites), while others utilize the Universal College Application.]

At this point (assuming it is August 1 or later), you should register. [Do write down your Login and Password, and put them in a safe place. You will need both to access your work in progress on the Common App, which you will do often!]

You will also want to review the requisite Common App forms that are part and parcel of the complete application packet. You may think you're done with the Common App when you've filled in the "Common" portion of the Application. YOU ARE NOT. Remember, colleges will not even look at your application, in most instances, unless and until it is complete. [And don't rely upon the college admissions office to let you know that something is missing. Some will. Most won't.]

After you've set the table, you are ready to carefully and methodically start the application process. Don't expect to have this done in an hour, or even a day. They don't call it a "process" for nothing!

And did I mention your personal essay (not to mention the supplemental essays required by many colleges)? More than simply dotting the "i"s and crossing the "t"s is needed here, to give voice to that which will set you apart from the crowd, catch the eye of the reader, accentuate your best attributes, and give you the leading edge you must have in today's fiercely competitive college admissions environment.

Keep in mind -- it's not just checking off boxes and committing any old 250 words or more to paper. It's creating and optimizing a formidable game plan that is, in all respects, a winning college admissions strategy.

What's the difference, you may ask? Well, to put it bluntly, to plan and prepare is to prevail. What you say on your college application, and how you say it, posture it, and present it, is the difference between a letter of acceptance to your college of choice, and going somewhere else.

Sound daunting? It can but need not be. Get started. Ask for help. Avail yourself of all pertinent resources, from your guidance counselor and select online sites, to an independent college planning counselor. Give yourself the advantage. Take it from The College Whisperer. The successful candidate for the Class of 2015 will need all the support, collective wisdom, and good counsel s/he can muster!

The views and opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of The College Whisperer.
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