What’s the Common App?

Tired of entering in the same application information, multiple times?

Shawna Newman

November 12, 2021

Discover why high school seniors—even juniors—should consider this type of college application.
What’s the Common App?
Applying for college takes a lot of work. Add in applying for multiple colleges, and you’ll begin to feel like you’ve done this before. You’re not alone when it comes to feeling overwhelmed and frustrated by repetitive data entry just to see if you’re accepted to your top college choices. Most high school students are juggling a lot in their senior year of school. There is a solution to help you make applying for multiple colleges easier: The Common Application.

What is the Common App?

Introduced 46 years ago, the Common App simplifies the college application process. Through the free-use platform, first-time and transfer students can apply to multiple colleges. According to the Common App website, more than 900 colleges and universities are accepting the standardized college application. U.S. News highlights “...46.5% of [Common App] member schools don't charge application fees for first-year students...” Some member institutions offer application fee waivers too.

Which colleges accept the common app?

Both private and public colleges in all U.S. states participate in the Common App college admissions process. After you’ve narrowed down your list of colleges you’d like to attend, check to see if they’re accepting the Common App.

What is on the common app?

The Common Application looks like most college applications systems, with all the usual fields for name, address, school and test data, as well as questions about your work experience and volunteer activities.
  1. General Application Information
  2. You’re encouraged to gather important information after you create an account and before you apply for the Common App. This information includes: • High School Transcripts • List of Activities, Work and Family Responsibilities • ACT/SAT Test Scores and Dates • Parent or Legal Guardian Information • Academic Honors and Achievements
  3. Letters of Recommendation
  4. After you’ve created your Common App account, you’ll have the opportunity to invite your teachers, counselors, and mentors, to submit letters of recommendation within your Common App account. Most colleges will require letters of recommendation. The Common App makes it easy to invite recommenders to submit entries.
  5. The Writing Section
  6. Many colleges require some type of essay, whether that’s a personal statement or a prompted essay specific to a university. • The first portion of the Common App’s writing section is the Personal Essay. Some colleges make this a requirement for you to complete. If it’s not required by a college on your list, you can still complete it. In fact, we encourage you to complete this portion of the Writing Section to keep your application unique. The personal essay portion of your Common App writing portion will provide you with seven essay prompts to choose from. You’re expected to submit 250-600 words inspired by the prompt you chose. • The second portion of the Writing Section includes supplemental questions regarding your disciplinary history and the impact of COVID-19 on you personally and academically. You may be asked to explain your disciplinary history depending on how you answer this question. New this year, the Common App has included an optional, COVID-19 question. In 250 words, you can explain how the pandemic may have affected your school life and plans with the college you're applying for.
  7. Supplements, Additional College Requirements
Many colleges and universities require a supplement in addition to the Common Application. Supplements are considered portfolios, or additional, institution-specific questions and, in some cases, additional essay questions. Common App has created a requirements grid PDF to see a full list of requirements by college. Plan ahead; compare the PDF with the top-choice colleges you’re applying for via the Common App.

What’s great and not-so-good about the Common App

The Common App saves you a lot of time. • Instead of typing the same information multiple times, you have only to do it once. • You can write one personal essay (in most cases). Channel all your efforts into crafting a single, flawless essay. • Request and cohesively store your recommendation letters within your Common App profile. This helps you stay organized. • Even high school juniors can begin their Common App. It’s recommended that college-bound students begin to explore the application in the spring of their 11th grade year . The cool thing is you can rollover your Common App account year to year. One Common App disadvantage is its limited acceptance. • While nearly 900 colleges currently accept the application, it’s still a fraction of the 6,000+ institutions around the country. Each year it continues to grow in acceptance. • With its easy-to-use and apply for design, it can enable you to apply to more schools than you really want to. If you decide to go this application route, stick to your top colleges.

While You’re on an Application Roll...

Just as the Common App has helped to simplify the college process, Fastweb has made paying for college easier. Create a free Fastweb account to find the perfect college scholarships for you and to explore financial aid opportunities.

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