The Common Application

Widely accepted at colleges and universities across the country

The Common Application first came into use in 1975 with only 15 member colleges; the original application was administered by the National Association of Secondary School Principals. Today students can use the Common Application to apply to more than 390 member colleges and universities in the United States. Students can use one application to apply to any college within the system, therefore reducing the workload of the application process

While the Common Application gives admissions officers an extensive look into the background of a student’s academic life, it is often hard for a school to get a detailed picture of the student’s full character from the application alone. Oftentimes colleges will have requirements in addition to the Common Application. This can range from a few short yes or no questions regarding alumni relations and minority status to full essays pertaining to involvement in student activities and personal thoughts on higher education.

Students are able to fill out the online version of the Common Application only once and submit it to all schools with the same information presented in each application. Students can also choose to fill out the application online and print a PDF version of it to send in by mail.

Students can send variations of the same application with edits to specific schools by using the “copy” feature at the top of the online application. This feature is useful for items such as exam scores. Once the application is submitted to a school it cannot be edited. If a student should need to make edits to the application once it is submitted, they must contact the school directly.

The online Common Application does not allow you the opportunity for lengthy answers to questions—especially essays. Students must make their point and keep their answers brief, but intellectual.

Students must sign up for the Common Application in order to take advantage of the online features. Students can sign up for the application online at

Colleges that accept the Common Application do so by choice. Schools are required to give equal consideration to students who submit a proprietary application or the Common Application. The Common Application is not offered to schools that do not give equal consideration to both. In addition, the Common Application encourages schools that use it to embrace a holistic approach to admissions.


This article was written by Melissa Borowski Dronberger

Melissa Borowski Dronberger is a former staff editor for Melissa writes extensively on the topic of undergraduate studies and the college search process.

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