What Is the Common Application For College? | A Complete Guide

What Is the Common App? This is a simple system that allows college students to send in their college applications to multiple schools without having to fill up applications for these schools individually.

I have always known the hassle that comes with sending college to your dream colleges.

Previously, applying to college was regarded as a demanding and time-consuming endeavor. Students had to complete each one independently because many colleges retained their own proprietary applications, which often required different components.


Today, this Common Application, a simplified application procedure that allows you to apply to many institutions at the same time, is accepted by the majority of colleges and universities. This method not only saves you time but also alleviates the stress of having to gather multiple application paperwork for each of your potential institutions.

Even if your school does not accept the Common Application, most colleges demand similar components so that credentials such as valid high school transcripts and standardized test results may be transferred easily.

When does the Common App open?

Every year on August 1st, the Common App begins for the following admissions season, which means candidates cannot submit the full application to any participating colleges before this day.

You may, however, start working on your Common App before it opens by creating an account and completing the essential information components!

Application deadlines vary per school, but most Regular Decision applications are submitted in December or January, prior to the desired enrollment date.

What Does the Common App Look Like?

What Does the Common App Look Like
Common App home page

The Common App was completely redesigned in 2019, which increased mobile device capabilities and offered the system a nicer interface. In addition to providing a better user experience, these mobile improvements enhanced access for millions of students who do not have access to a computer or the internet.

There are five tabs on the Common App site. Students usually begin by adding schools using the “College Search” tool. Students may view them once they have been uploaded on the “Dashboard” tab, which offers a summary of your application status and needed activities for each school.


The following step is to navigate to the “Common App” tab, where you will submit all of your application information, such as your family history, transcripts, and test results.

Below are the five Common App sections and an overview of how they work:

  • Dashboard: The first tab you’ll see after creating an account, Dashboard includes each of your prospective college’s application progress and required tasks.
  • My Colleges: Similar to Dashboard, My Colleges maintains a running list of your added colleges, as well as deadlines, application fees, and contact information for each school.
  • Common App: The Common App section is where you’ll fill out the majority of your application information, such as your family history, official transcripts, and test scores.
  • College Search: As the name suggests, this tab allows you to search for and add any colleges that use the Common App. Simply click on the blue plus sign to add a school to your list.
  • Financial Aid Resources: This final section teaches students how financial aid works, how to apply for it, and how to explore scholarship opportunities. You can also review financial aid offers here.

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How Does the Common App Work?

To start, new students must create an account and complete each section once. Required application materials include official transcripts, a list of extracurricular activities, SAT or ACT scores, contact information, academic awards, and a personal essay.

Although the shared application is a free service, some schools charge a separate application fee. However, according to usnews.com, this is not always the case: 48.9% of colleges do not charge enrollment fees. Be sure to check if there are any fees for each institution you are applying to.

After completion, check the school-specific additional requirements of your future university, e.g. B. Additional essays or letters of recommendation. Although your personal statement can usually be used for multiple schools, some colleges slightly modify or adapt their prompts to school-specific resources and opportunities, so be prepared to spend time writing them one at a time.

Today, the Common Application is the most widely used college application system in the United States, but many universities offer multiple ways to submit applications. For example, several private and Ivy League schools allow students to submit their applications through the Coalition app or the Universal College Application instead of the shared app.

Although both systems remain popular, the wide variety of essay prompts provided by Common Application and the large number of schools that accept it make Common Application the preferred option for most applicants.

How to fill out your Common Application

1. Gather Information

Before creating your profile, review your information to ensure you haven’t forgotten anything important. Important information includes transcripts, personal and parental information, test scores, achievements, and letters of recommendation.

2. Create your Profile

Input your registration type. There are different registration types, including first-time, transfer, or international students. Select the First-Time Student button if you’re a high school student applying for an undergraduate degree.

3. Confirm your Schools

Once you’ve created your account, choose your schools of interest. While the Common App has over 900 schools to choose from, each school typically has its own application fees (unless you have a fee waiver). Once you have finalized your list of schools (we recommend you apply to roughly 10-12 schools), you can look for those on the ‘My Colleges’ tab.

4. Know the University Requirements

Do your research! Not all universities are alike, and some have entirely different prerequisites. Review the university requirements and your program requirements to include all the necessary information for your application.

5. Get a Head Start on your Personal Statement

You can view essay prompts before August 1. Use the extra time to brainstorm, organize your thoughts, and start writing the first draft of your personal statement.

Don’t forget to start the supplemental essays (many colleges ask for school-specific essays or short-answer supplemental questions.)

6. Start your Application

Now you are ready to begin your applications. Start with the basic required information, teacher recommendations, and extracurriculars list. You can track everything through your Common App account.

7. Track your Progress

The Common App helps you stay on track and meet deadlines. A green check indicates which portion of your application is complete and submitted. These check marks allow you to track your progress while applying to multiple universities.

8. Submit your Application

Finally, submit your application to your desired universities.

Professional Tips On How To Use the Updated Common App

Before applying to college with the general application, read these important tips to help you stay on track.

1. Start early

Although the common application opens on August 1, students can start collecting materials and filling out information anytime before that date. Application documents such as letters of recommendation and official certificates can take a long time, so collect them early.

2. Familiarize yourself with the common application system

Some components of the app can be confusing and may require additional help to fully understand. For example, the Financial Aid section typically requires parental information such as income levels and tax returns.

3. Prepare your personal statement in advance

The shared app allows you to view possible writing prompts long before you open the app, giving you plenty of time to brainstorm, organize, and even write your personal statement.

4. Pay attention to application deadlines

Allow plenty of time to submit your application, as waiting until the last possible day to collect your paperwork can make an already stressful process even more difficult. A calendar or planner can help you keep track of upcoming due dates for all your schools.

Frequently Asked Questions About Common Application

What is the most common college application?

The Common App, which is utilized by over 900 institutions, is the most popular application system. The Coalition App is a prominent application platform that competes with the Common App. In recent years, the Universal College App has fallen out of favor.

How long does it take to fill out the Common App?

I recommend that you give yourself two to three months to finish your common application form because you will be needed to submit essays, which will take time.

Does the Common App require an essay?

Yes, the common App requires an essay. Most Common App colleges need the Common App college essay because this personal essay is used to make admission decisions. The most important advice from admissions professionals is to write your essay in the tone you speak and to pay attention to details.

What documents do you need for Common App?

you will need some basic information such as your name, home address, phone number, and birth date. Use your legal name exactly as it appears on official school documents and standardized assessments. This ensures that papers are assigned to the relevant person at institutions.

How many essays do you need for Common App?

Write only one essay (plus any supplements). You’ll submit one essay through the Common Application for all your schools. In Some cases, colleges may ask you to also answer a few supplemental questions.


Now that you’ve had an opportunity to become acquainted with the Common App, you may have more concerns regarding the application process or how to stand out to admissions staff. Creating a customized application strategy is a great way to get started on the path to your dream university.

The application deadlines might be perplexing. The deadline varies depending on when you want to apply to institutions. There are three deadline possibilities on the Common App. If you want to apply ahead of time, you can select between Early Action and Early Decision. Typically, the deadline for these applications is November 1st.

If you want to apply early, you should know which choice — Early Decision or Early Action — is ideal for you. While both choices assure that if you are admitted, your position is secured early (typically by mid-December), there is a key distinction between the two. to take while applying to universities

If you are admitted through Early Decision, you must attend that university regardless of your other applications or financial situation. Early Action, on the other hand, is not a legally binding decision. Acceptance to a university does not imply that you must attend. In the Regular Decision (RD) phase, you can select from a variety of alternatives and apply to additional colleges.

If you do not wish to apply early, the general admission date is usually January 1st (the most common RD deadline). You may use your Common App account to keep track of deadlines and decide which path to pursue while applying to universities.