Common App: Your One-Stop College Application Tool

If you’ve been looking for an easier way to send your college application to multiple schools, then you have to check out the Common App. With one online form, you can apply to nearly 700 academic institutions in the U.S. and other countries. It also helps with tracking your progress and meeting deadlines.

You’ll still have to send additional information such as your high school transcript, results of college entrance exams, and an essay, if required.

What is the Common App?

The Common Application is a nonprofit organization currently comprised of nearly 700 diverse colleges and universities from across the world. Its mission is to bring access, equity, and integrity to the college admissions process. Since 1998, its online application has been used by hundreds of thousands of students to apply for college admission.

This year the organization expects that more than one million students will use the Common App to submit four million college applications.

After creating your Common App account, you will search the list of member schools and select the schools that you’re interested in applying to.

Then you can download each schools Requirements Tracker worksheet, which will help you to complete all of the requirements for each school on time.

General information that you will add to your application includes:

  • High school grades and courses (and a copy of your high school transcript)
  • Your extracurricular activities both in and out of school
  • Entrance exam scores and dates (SATs, ACTs, SAT Subject Tests)
  • Parent or legal guardian information

Tips for using the Common App

In a July 25, 2016, article for, “College Students Share Common App Tips, Tactics,” Cathryn Sloane gathered useful tips from college students who had used the Common App. One of those tips includes getting familiar with the Common App site—learn how the process works and create a plan that maps out all of your tasks. Check out this YouTube video from CommonAppMedia to take “A Common Application Tour.”

The Common App process also includes writing a personal essay to help give admissions officers a more rounded view of who you are.

“I think it is very important to remember that there is a word limit when you are writing your essay,” said one student, referring to the 650-word limit. “It may be helpful to plan out your essay before writing it. This way, you can ensure that the most pertinent information and details are present.”

Your personal essay

To help students write their personal essay, the app provides several writing prompts. Stacey Brook offered suggestions on how to use the prompts in her August 11, 2016, article for, “What No One will tell You About the New Common App Essay Prompts.”

Brook thinks that the prompts aren’t as important as students think they are. And it’s a mistake to get bogged down in choosing a prompt before you know what you want to write about.

“What doesn’t admissions know about you that you want them to know? What moments in your life have shaped you and made you the person you are today?” Brook said.

She suggested that students use pictures to help them reflect on the meaningful life events that shaped who they are, and the most meaningful memories.

Then they should be able to look at the list of writing prompts and find one that works for their personal essay.

For assistance in using the Common App, check out the Common App Solutions Center.

Do you know someone who has used the Common app? Tell us about their experience in the comments.

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