What is the Common Application?

A standard admissions application for undergraduate students is the common application or the common app. Over 500 colleges and universities in at least seven countries accept the common app for undergraduate admissions.

There are two versions of the common app for first time freshmen and transfer students, and the greatest advantage for using the application is the time that it saves students who want to apply to two or more member schools that accept the common app in their admissions processes. Schools that accept the common app and have their own applications are required to give equal consideration to common app users.

A number of schools that accept the common app require that students complete a supplemental form when additional information is needed from students that the schools cannot glean from the standard application.

Here are the main components of the common app that undergraduate students can expect to encounter when they use the form to apply to their schools of choice.


After students submit personal information that identifies them demographically, they are asked to input information about their high school under the Education section. Public and private high schools should have an associated code that allows colleges and universities to identify them. Students are also asked to input information about their schools’ guidance counselors so that certain forms that support the students’ applications can be sent directly to them. Home school students submit the names and contact information of their parents who teach them in lieu of guidance counselor information. Once the home school students select the universities for which they want to apply, they also must invite their parents in lieu of guidance counselors to be recommenders under a tab named “Assign Recommenders” that is shown with all listed schools. Students who have completed college courses can list specifics about the credit that they received within this section.


In the Academics section, students answer questions related to past academic performance. Grade point averages and standardized test scores must be submitted. The application takes into account the rigor of students’ immediate course loads, and students have an opportunity to state whether they have taken particularly challenging courses like advanced placement classes. The Academics section also allows students to highlight special recognition that they have earned for academic excellence.


Since colleges and universities seek to admit students who are well rounded, they want to know about the extracurricular activities in which students participated during their high school years. These activities could include paid work, volunteer opportunities or school sponsored programs. For example, the Activities section is where students state whether they volunteered to teach computer skills at their local senior center, participated on the school debate team or founded a student club that helped their classmates and school faculty to recycle electronic wastes at school.


The Writing portion of the common app invites students to show off their communication skills through two essays. One essay is about a preselected activity. The other essay is a personal statement that allows students to tell more about themselves and their accomplishments within a limit of 250-500 words.


The common app is a great initiative to streamline the admissions process, and the Virginia based non-profit organization that administers the application seeks to continuously improve the content, format and delivery of the common application.

Source: http://www.usnews.com/education/blogs/college-admissions-experts/2011/09/07/should-i-use-the-common-application