What is the Common Application?

Monday, August 2, 2021

What is the Common App?

If You’re Applying to College, Here’s What You Need to Know About the Common App

The Common Application officially opens for the 2021-22 college application season on August 1, allowing students across the globe to begin their college admissions journey. But what is the Common Application, exactly? Who can use it and when? Understanding the Common App and other college application options can make your college prep strategy easier to formulate.

What is the Common App?

The Common Application is an online college application platform used by over 900 colleges and universities in the US, UK, and Canada that allows students to apply to multiple schools using one centralized application. The main Common Application requires students to submit basic information about themselves as well as information about their high school education thus far. It also features the main Common Application essay, also known as the personal statement. Aside from the main Common Application, certain colleges and universities might also require a “supplement,” or a separate section specific to that school where they can ask additional questions including extra essays or short answer questions.

The Main Common Application
As mentioned before, the Common Application gathers basic info on applicants, including information on education, courses, and more. First, the Common App asks basic questions including students’ names, addresses, ages, and backgrounds. Next is the education section, where students input information about their school, when they will graduate, and counselor info. The education section also allows students to input any information about college coursework they may have completed.

Then, students will input information about their courses from 9th grade to present, as well as any academic awards, acknowledgments, and more. After that, students move on to enter information about their testing and activities, before completing the essay. The Common App also includes an “additional information” section where students can briefly elaborate on any portions of the application that they feel needs extra context, like maybe a dip in grades or changes to their extracurricular schedule due to the pandemic.

Common App Essay
After filling out the main Common App, students will be prompted to complete the application essay should any of the schools they have on their My Colleges list require it. The Common App essay is 250-650 words long and must address one of the prompts provided. Here’s a list of the most recent Common Application essay prompts.

My Colleges
When students set up their Common App account, they will be prompted to add schools to their list within the application. Students can add colleges to their My Colleges section by navigating to the “College Search” section and typing in the name of the school they’d like to include. Students can add up to 20 schools to the My Colleges list. The My College section is also where students will access school-specific supplements, including additional essays or short-answer questions asked by specific schools.

Why Use the Common App?

In many cases, the Common App eliminates the redundancies often found in the process for students applying to a balanced college list of 10-15 schools. Instead of submitting 10 different institutional applications that will ask the same questions about demographics and education, students can fill out all of this basic information once and use it for multiple applications.

At some colleges, the Common App is the only application form that is accepted, which is why it’s so important for students to become familiar with it. The Common App also makes it easier for counselors and teachers to complete letters of recommendation, as they can upload them directly to students’ applications using a special invitation initiated by the students.

Other Application Options

In addition to the Common Application, there are also other centralized application options that students can utilize, like the Coalition application. However, the Coalition application has fewer member colleges, and most of the colleges that use it also use the Common Application, so unless you’re applying to the one school that uses the Coalition application exclusively, you’re more likely to find the schools to which you’re applying on the Common App.

There are other schools, like MIT, that don’t use any universal application and instead use their own institutional application. Make sure when preparing for the college admissions process that you understand which application the schools to which you are applying use.

Want to learn more about the Common Application? Check out our guide here!

Applying to college can be an exciting, albeit confusing, process. Don’t fall behind on your college prep! Download our free College Planning Checklist below in order to stay on top of your college admissions tasks, including everything you need to do when applying to college this fall!

Related Topics

College Application Tips, Common App
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