Everything You Need To Know About The Common App
What is the Common App?
Years ago, if a student wanted to apply to multiple colleges, they would have to fill out every single application individually. Each application required a fee, separate essays, grades, test scores, etc. The more colleges you wished to fill out an application and apply, the more difficult the process became. The Common App was originally created by 15 institutions as a test to help simplify the college application process. Now over 1000 colleges and universities allow students to apply through commonapp.org.
When does the Common App open?
The Common App becomes available every year on August 1.
When is the Common App due?
The deadline for the Common App will depend on whether you wish to apply for early decision (usually November 1) or regular decision (usually January 1). The deadlines may vary by school, so always check with the institutions you wish to apply to.
How long does it take to fill out the Common App?
Generally, it will take a few weeks to fill out the college application. The application process takes more time for students with special circumstances. Give yourselves two weeks to provide any background information required and a month for other required parts. Applicants to the majority of universities must provide the admissions departments with a host of documentation. This commonly includes high school transcripts, letters of recommendation, SAT or ACT scores, and more.
Start thinking about asking your teachers for recommendation letters by the end of your junior year. That way they can start working on the letters in the summer and you’ll have them in time to submit with college application materials! Seniors should ask teachers for recommendations as early in the year as possible.
What are the essay prompts for the Common App?
The Common App essay prompts do not change too much from year to year. Common prompts ask students to reflect on their life experiences, accomplishments, or thoughts. Students have up to 650 words for each essay. Not all schools require students to submit an essay, but some schools may require student to submit supplemental essays.
What are the fees for the Common App?
The Common App is free, but every college charges their own application processing fee (usually $30 to $75 for U.S. applicants and more for international applicants). You can apply for a fee waiver if you need one.
Do you apply for financial aid through the Common App?
The Common App is not for applying for financial aid. That is a separate process that starts with filling out the FAFSA.
Do I have to use the Common App?
Students do not have to use the Common App to apply to colleges. You can always apply individually through the college’s website.
Can I use the Common App to transfer schools?
The Common App for transfer students is very similar to that for first-time applicants. There are some additional questions such as asking students to list any colleges they have previously attended, dates of enrollment, coursework, and GPA.
Do colleges care if I use the Common App instead of applying directly?
Colleges available through the Common App do not have a preference to whether you apply this way or directly through their website. Some school counselors may prefer students use the Common App as its integrations make it easier for some to submit documentation, but students should send one application per college using whichever platform works best for them.
How do you apply to colleges through the Common App?
1. Create an account at commonapp.org
Use your email address to create an account on the website. When signing up, you will be prompted to answer a few questions about who you are (Student, Parent, Counselor) and when you are applying to college.
2. Confirm whether your school accepts the Common App
Select the colleges you want to apply to and add them to your My Colleges list. Remember that not all colleges accept the Common App, so make sure you check that the ones you apply to are available and which ones you may have to apply to through their website.
3. Review the admission requirements for each school
Different schools will have different requirements. Some schools may be test optional where other schools may require the SAT and ACT. Some will only require the basic Common App while others will add supplemental requirements. Make sure you are aware of the requirements for each institution.
4. Gather the information you need
Once you have confirmed the information you need, start gathering any required documents, including transcripts and letters of recommendation.
5. Work on your application
As you collect the documents you need, begin filling out the rest of the application and writing those essays!
6. Track the status of your application
The Common App has helpful guides to let you know what is needed for your application. A green circle indicates that the application you submitted is complete, a yellow circle indicates there are still outstanding items that need to be resolved, and a red arrow indicates that the particular section is not required for admission to the college.
Applications are due the night before the deadline at 11:59 pm.