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Common application: what is it, and what can you do with it?

If you have been investigating college application processes, you may have heard of the Common Application. But what is it, and what can you do with it? In this section, we will discuss everything you need to know about the Common Application.  


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What is it?

Also known as the Common App, this application is used to apply for admittance into undergraduate college. It can be used to apply to 517 member colleges in the U.S. as well as Germany, Italy, Switzerland, United Kingdom, France and Austria. The Common App is governed by a Board of Directors that is volunteer-based and managed by the administration of a non-profit membership association. They aim to encourage the use of “holistic admission” which is a process that includes subjective factors from recommendations and essays along with objective criteria like standardized testing and class rank.  

How to apply

There are several steps to applying. First, you will need to create an account. This can be done as early as you’d like. This includes filling out a profile with basic information, such as name, address, date of birth, phone number and email address. After you have created a profile, you will have the opportunity to search from over 600 schools to find the ones that meet your needs. You can then add them to your “My Colleges” list. When you have searched for colleges, you will be provided with deadlines for each school. The app includes a Virtual Counselor to provide you with information to help you decide which school is best for you. The app will also help you keep track of the application requirements for every school. You will then be asked to fill out general application information which is information that remains constant for all the schools on your list. This is information such as your high school courses, grades, activities, entrance exam scores and legal guardian information. After the general application information is filled out, you can start your application for schools.  

Pros and cons

While the Common Application process sounds like it can save you time and money, you should know that there are pros and cons to using it. One pro of the Common App is that it is accepted by hundreds of colleges. This is perhaps the biggest draw of using this process. To date, it is accepted by a variety of private colleges and state universities. It’s important to remember that not all universities and colleges accept the application, so you’ll need to look into what applications are accepted at the schools of their choice.

Another pro of the Common App is that is saves time streamlining information entry. After all, this was the reason why the application was developed in the first place. Before Common App was created, students were required to fill out the same basic information for every school they applied to, such as name, address, activities and qualifications. When you use Common App, this information is only entered once. Yet another pro to using the Common App is that students are able to customize applications. Students have the ability to change the essay for each college or create more than one application. This enables students to provide work that represents them best to each school.

One con to using the Common App is that supplements may require more work. For example, while many universities use the same basic information for admission, some competitive colleges prefer that students provide answers specific to their institutions. Supplements that may be required are additional essays, short-answer questions. or questions about the student’s choice of university. If universities require supplements, students may discover that using the application does not save much effort or time.

Another con is that for some universities, applying with college specific applications may showcase strengths better. The Common Application is meant to be generic for application into multiple schools. To decide which is best, students should compare the Common Application to the university-specific application to decide which will showcase them best.


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