The Common App is a not-for-profit organization that has its own website, which will give you access to all the forms you need. You may also find hardcopies at your high school.
Years ago, high school seniors had the arduous task of requesting college applications from each school to which they were applying. They filled out each one individually and mailed them off. Recently, many colleges accept online applications, but students still have to go to individual websites. Wouldn't it be nice if there were one application seniors could send to all colleges? There is!
Enter: The Common Application.
How does it work?
The Common Application is a single application that you can send to multiple schools. You can apply online or mail in a hard copy.
Which students it?
The Common App is an option for anyone applying to select four-year universities for an undergraduate degree. Currently, it isn’t an option for students looking to apply to community colleges or trade schools. It is widely used as member schools (schools that are part of the Common Application consortium) received 2.5 million applications last year. The application comes in two forms--one for first-year students and another for transfer students.
Which colleges does it go to?
As of this year, 488 colleges and universities accept the Common Application. These schools range from small liberal arts colleges to large state schools. The Common Application site gives a full list of all the member schools and even includes a database of application requirements and deadlines for each school.
What are the components?
You can complete the Common App either through their online system or by downloading a hard-copy of the application and mailing it in.
- The first couple pages ask you to fill in demographic information about yourself and your plans and information about your family.
- Then, you're asked to list all the schools you've attended and all your standardized test scores (SAT, ACT, TOEFL, AP, and SAT IIs).
- The next section is for your extracurricular activities and work experience.
- The final section includes a short essay about one of your extracurricular activities or work experiences and a longer essay. For the longer essay, you can choose from one of six topics. The topics change from year to year, but option #6 "Topic of your choice" remains the same.
There are also pages for teacher evaluations and a "school report," which is a form your principal or guidance counselor completes. If you opt to complete the application online, you can insert the email addresses of the teachers who have agreed to write recommendations, and the form will go straight to them.
When should I start thinking about the Common App?
While it may be wise to start thinking about your college essay at the end of your junior year, most students start filling out their Common App at the beginning of their senior year.
Where do I get it?
The Common Application is a not-for-profit organization that has its own website, which will give you access to all the forms you need. You may also find hardcopies at your high school.
Why should I use it?
Simple: The Common App is easy. The whole point of the Common Application is to make your life easier. Instead of filling out 6-10 different applications and having to juggle the different sets of paper or online portals, you fill out one application for as many colleges as you please (from that list of 488.) A recent study from Stanford University found that since the Common Application has become widespread, students are applying to more colleges. It stands to reason that the more schools you apply to, the higher your chances of being accepted by a 4-year institution and the more likely you are to enroll.
There is a catch. (Don't worry, it's a minor one.) Some of the Common App member schools have "supplemental applications." Typically, the supplemental application consists of additional essays or letters of recommendation. Some schools, like Princeton University, ask personal questions like your favorite song or quote. It's a little more work, but the Common App takes care of the bulk of the application. The site gives you access to all the supplements.
- The Common App certainly streamlines the college application process. But an application checklist, like the one provided by the College Board, can also help you stay organized.
- You can't use the paper form of the Common App for some schools and submit online for others. The organization instructs that you have to choose one way or the other for all your schools.
- While college admissions officers tend to say that online applications are easier for them to deal with, college counselors often suggest downloading the paper form and completing the application by hand. Then, once you've got a hard-copy filled out, transfer the information to the online application. Why take this extra step? Counselors argue that it's easier to miss typos and other mistakes while you're typing in tiny boxes on your computer screen. You're more likely to be accurate if you fill it out by hand.