Getting closer to attending college is thrilling, but the application process can be challenging. Gathering the necessary acceptance essays, transcripts, test scores, letters of recommendation, and documents, can be exhausting as well, especially if you have a variety of colleges to choose from. Here is where the Common Application comes in handy, since you can fill out a single application and send it to most of the colleges that you want to be accepted at.

In this article:

What’s the Common Application?

The Common Application is a college application form that is shared and accepted by almost 900 colleges, including small private institutions and big state schools, called member colleges. Once submitted, these member colleges will receive an application from prospective students in a quicker and more efficient way. Since the students get to choose from the list of member colleges, they will only need to fill out a single form instead of individual ones.

For most member colleges, the Common Application is enough, but do check with your advisor to make sure any of the colleges you want to enter does not need any other documents or forms. You can even explore the list of schools that accept the Common Application.

Who can apply with Common Application?

The Common Application is only used for undergrads and transferring students, but their parents and counselors can help the students fill out the application:

  • High School Students: students that are about to go to college, especially those that want to apply to more than one institution. Also, you can learn about ways of paying for college and college roadmaps.
  • Transferring Students: students currently enrolled in a college looking to transfer to another school.
  • Parents: parents can assist the current or prospective student in completing the Common Application
  • Recommenders: Including advisors, teachers, mentors, and such, that the student will need to first invite to participate in the application. Once the student adds them, recommenders will have the option to accept or decline the invitation. The Common App created a recommender guide for additional information.

What information do I need to gather?

To complete your Common Application form you will need to gather the following information or documents. The checklist below will help ensure you are using your time in the most efficient way, during this process.

  • Academic Honor and Achievements: think about national recognitions, for example, if you are an honor student or any other achievements that would make your application look good and stand out from other prospects.
  • Test Scores (SATs, ACTs, and such): each school has a different test requirement. Check with the list of colleges that you are interested in to make sure you took the tests that are important for them.
  • Parent or legal guardian information: you will need to add parents’ occupation, education level, and employment status. (This information might be used for demographic purposes from the college’s data recollection.)
  • A list of your extracurricular activities, work, and family responsibilities: here you should add the most prominent and important activities outside of the classroom. Think about hobbies, interests, clubs, and community engagement. When it comes to family responsibilities, don’t forget to let them know what it is that makes you different in comparison to others.
  • A copy of your high school transcript: these should be an official transcript that your counselor will submit online and can also be sent directly to the schools you are applying to.
  • Letters of recommendations: If you can get a counselor, a teacher, or advisors in academic, personal and professional types to write you a letter of recommendation, include these.
  • Essay: you will need to create a short essay (around 650 words), that explains why you are the right candidate for that particular school. Think about what makes you unique, and what is most important for you, avoiding clichés, and providing specific examples. Try to organize your thoughts and make sure you are concise.

If you have any doubts about the exact procurement requirements or processes for each school, please contact their admissions officer.

How much does the Common Application cost?

There is no registration fee for the Common Application but there are application fees for submitting a Common Application plus the individual college’s supplement. The fee varies by college, usually between $25 and $90, although there are some schools that don’t charge a fee.

Also, some students might be eligible for a Common Application Fee Waiver. You can check the requirements for the Common Application Fee Waiver here.

Is there any due date to apply?

There are two application deadlines: the “Early Action” deadline is November 1st of the current year, and the “Regular Decision” deadline is January 1st of the next year at 11:59 pm EST. It is not recommended to leave it for the last minute. Also, the application deadlines vary not only by state but also by the institution.

If you are preparing to go to college, these additional resources may be of interest: