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The Common Application: What a deal!

The Common Application is a great aid in the college admissions process, almost all private colleges, and even a few publich colleges use the Common Application.

If you set up an account prior to August, 2013, you will need to re-register, and set up a new profile on the new format of the Common Application.


Large university systems such as the UC system, the Cal State system, and NYU use one application, which can then be sent to each of its schools.

The Common Application allows that same ease of application with almost 500 mostly private schools. One application, one essay, from a list of choices, a one-to-two page supplement for each individual school, and you are pretty much set.

Everything you need is in one place, lists of participating schools, all necessary forms, instructions about what to do, and a check list for getting things done.

Each college or university also has their own application/admissions site, with an application, should you choose to use it, but why would you? On the Common Application site, you can fill out one application, paste in your essay, and send it off to the schools of your choice.

From the list of participating schools, you can see which require a short supplemental essay, and fill out the additional short supplemental application, if required.

The Common Application Web Site has Academic Rec forms, midyear reports, counselor forms, everything required by the (mostly) private schools that participate in this program.


Common Application Web Site



Comment/note on the Common Application

The purpose of the Common Application is to make applying to (mostly private) colleges and universities easier.

About those supplements:

HOWEVER:In the past two years or so, as the number of schools using this feature has increased, so has the complexity of the process. This is not due to anything connected with the Common Application, but rather with the supplements to it that most colleges require.

More essays, short answer questionsOver the years many of the supplements have moved from asking for basic information, and a brief statement about why you chose this particular school, to requiring yet another essay. Sometimes two, or short answer responses that take time.

Word count,character count On top of that, some have a "character count" restriction. So it may be more difficult to compose on the form and express your thoughts.

  • (For character counts, use your word utility, or do a Google search for "Free Character Counter, cut and paste.)

    Optional Sometimes the college presents this as a "feel free to comment, but optional," essay, but when an application suggests a response is "Optional," one should always write the essay.


    Supplements for athletes and other special groups of students

    More on the essay requirements You many not discover some of these essay requirements until you are actually filling out the application, and have completed what you thought were the required essays. Two for the Common Application: one required, one optional.

    The essay topics can be more philosophical, for instance, than your original topics, and require thought and reflection. This is not easy for anyone, and for a high school student, this can come as a stressful shock.


    My advice?

  • If you are applying to no more than two schools using the Common Application, use the colleges' own on-line application.If applying to several Common Application schools, set up your account early, and enter all your intended colleges of choice. The application tells you the requirements of each school as to supplements. Print each supplement so you are aware of the requirements on each.

  • In the "Download Paper (PDF) version of the Common App section, you will see a link to schools and supplements. Do not rely on this, because some of the supplements do not show up until you are working on the application itself.

  • Always check out the web sites of your schools of interest, and check their admissions pages for anything else you may need to do.
  • Register on each school's site as a potential applicant, in addition to registering at the Common Application site.

  • Use an adult email address, something besides HawaiiSurferDude, Shellycool, or any of the 10,000 versions of LiTLePRiNceSs777, etc.


  • Applications Essays

    Some Common Application Essay Topics

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