What is the Common ApplicationThe Common Application is a single application that nearly 700 colleges accept as their application for admission. Sometimes referred to as the Common App, this application allows prospective students to answer the general questions that all schools want to know just once, rather than filling out a different application for each school.

What You Need to Know

The Common App is a great time-saving tool for college applicants. The website is very helpful for getting students organized when applying to college. The application asks for your personal information, like name, address, email address and phone number. It will ask for your high school, your extracurricular activities, and your interests. There is a place for you to indicate who you would like to write recommendations for you, and will collect those recommendations for you.

The Common App also includes essay questions, which are often a source of stress for students applying to college. The essay questions can change from year to year, so you won’t know which questions you’ll be able to choose from until the Common App is available on August 1st before your senior year of high school, but answering essay questions from previous years is a great way to practice your writing skills.

Selecting Schools

The Common App website has tools that will help you decide which colleges you want to apply to, and what their requirements are. There are also ‘virtual counselors’ who can answer questions and provide guidance.

The Common App collects the information that all colleges want to know about each applicant, but many colleges want to know more. Many colleges have an additional application, called a supplement, that each applicant also needs to complete. This may include additional essay questions, requests for more recommendations, and other information. You’ll need to submit the Common App and the school’s supplemental application at the same time.

A Cautionary Tale

There is no fee for using the Common App, but every college charges a fee to apply. This is where the ease of applying to many schools using one application can come back to bite you. It’s tempting to apply to dozens of schools when it’s so easy to do, but when you remember that each college can charge an application fee of $50 to $100, it makes sense to pare down your list.

Don’t Rush

It’s not called the ‘college admissions process’ for nothing. It’s a process, and it takes time. Any decision that is as important as the choice of a college shouldn’t be rushed. Fortunately, you don’t have to complete the Common App in one sitting. You can stop, save your work, and return to it later. Just be sure to keep on top of the deadlines for individual schools.

Ask for Help

The Common Application can be confusing, so don’t be afraid to ask for help. If you are a high school senior, your guidance counselor can be a great source of information about the Common App, since they’ve probably seen it many times. Of course, no one should write your answers and essays except you.


The Common Application saves time for students who are applying to college, and helps them focus more on providing thoughtful answers to the application questions. The website also includes tools that help students narrow down their college choices, streamlining and enhancing the application process.

Related Resources: