The Common App

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For both students and their parents, the college application process may be time-consuming and demanding. Teenagers may be balancing their final year of high school, the SAT or ACT, college visits (if offered), and applications to several universities. To make this process easier, Common Application is an undergraduate college admission form that candidates can use to submit their applications to any of the more than 950 member institutions located in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Canada, China, Japan, and numerous European nations. Despite its widespread use, some families unfamiliar with the college application process may find Common App confusing. After going through this guide, parents and students can easily navigate the application.

The Common App

When Does Common
App Open?

Every year on August 1, the Common Application’s new version goes live. Students should pay special attention to the timeframes for submitting their paperwork because there are differences in the deadlines for college applications.

For instance, the deadline for students applying for early action or early decision can be in November or December. In contrast, the deadline for those applying for regular decisions is typically January 1. Prospective students should use these ranges as guidelines and confirm deadlines with specific universities.

Students can begin working on Common App anytime, not only on August 1. They are always welcome to get started by setting up an account.

Creating a Common
App Account

Even if they do not intend to apply for several months or several years, students can register themselves in the Common App account. They can create a college list at any moment by responding to the common app tab’s questions. Below are steps that would have to be followed:

  • Create an account and select the sort of student you are.
  • Make new login information. During the application process, colleges may need to contact you, so be careful about the email address you choose. Consider utilizing a personal email account because your high school address occasionally filters out these emails.
  • Fill out all required registration fields:
    • Some fundamental details about you, including your name, address, phone number, and birthdate.
    • Your legal name exactly as it appears on all official school correspondence and assessments. By doing this, colleges may be sure that documents belong to the right person.

The summer before high school seniors’ senior year is a fantastic time for students to start working on their applications.

Although students are not required to submit their applications during the summer, starting in August allows them to research the prerequisites for the schools they are considering, compose essays, and finish some of the tiresome background work before they get overburdened with assignments and extracurricular activities. Additionally, starting early enables students to receive the support they require at the start of the academic year.

Components of the
Application Process

Gather materials: It takes time to complete your application. It can take much longer if you must constantly stop to look for information, such as a certificate for a continuing education course or the location of your previous internship. Before starting, gather this information to give yourself a head start.

Creating an Account: An account on the common app can be created quickly and easily. Even if students are not applying for a while—say, a few months or a few years—students can still register a common app account. You can create a college list at any moment by responding to questions in the common app tab.

Adding Colleges: You can begin adding institutions once you have made an account, researched the colleges that accept the common app, and created your account.

Engaging Supporters: Official school forms are something that all universities require. Additionally, many universities may require recommendation letters. These kinds of forms will be submitted on your behalf by counselors, teachers, and recommenders.

Understanding the Requirements: It is important to become familiar with the application requirements of each college and to follow those requirements precisely when applying.

Planning the Essay: Essay writing can occasionally feel like the most significant component of your application. Manage this activity more effectively with a bit of planning, organizing, and drafting.

Submitting the Application: Submission is a three-step process, namely, reviewing your application, paying the application fee (if applicable), and submitting your application.

How Long Does it Take to Fill
Out the Common App?

From the above components, you must have seen that applying the common app is a long-haul process. But typically, the time needed to complete an application varies depending on the needs of a school. However, students should give themselves at least six weeks to gather everything they need for college applications. That gives you two weeks to complete any background forms and around a month to gather the rest of the necessary paperwork.

It is important to note that many colleges ask first-year candidates to submit reference letters and transcripts in addition to any optional parental information required, such as employer details and educational background. Students must allow adequate time for professors and counselors to upload such documents on the common app before deadlines.

High school guidance counselors advise students to request recommendation letters from their professors before the conclusion of their junior year so that teachers can complete them over the summer. Experts advise seniors who require reference letters to request them as early in the academic year as possible.

What are the Common ‘Common App’
Essay Prompts?

One should always look at the previous year’s essay prompts to get an idea of what the prompts for the current year are going to be. So, the common app first-year essay prompts for the current school year will mostly be the same as the seven prompts used for previous years as we enter the third year of the pandemic.

Of course, that is not the only factor. Over 95% of ‘common app’ poll respondents, including students, counselors, professors, and admissions officers, concur that the prompts inspire effective essays. The common app did the same thing with them last year, save for the addition of a new one on gratitude.

Prompts are not topics; it is essential to remember that. They are only thought-provoking questions. Students might be told through prompts how much freedom they have when it comes to what they write.

The complete list of essay topics for 2024–2025 is listed below. The COVID-19 question that is optional will still be included in the Additional Information section.

  • Some students feel that their application would be completed without some aspect of their past, identity, interest, or talent. If this describes you, kindly share your experience.
  • The lessons we learn from the challenges we face can be crucial to future success. Tell about a time when you had to overcome a difficulty, failure, or setback. How did it make you feel, and what did you take away from it?
  • Consider a period when you questioned or opposed a principle. What made you think that? What happened as a result?
  • Consider a favor someone has given you that surprised you by making you grateful or joyful. What impact or inspiration has this appreciation had on you?
  • Describe a success, occurrence, or epiphany that triggered a time of personal development and a fresh perspective on yourself or others.
  • Describe a subject, notion, or idea that you find so fascinating that you lose all sense of time. Why does it captivate you? What or who do you go to for more information?
  • Submit an essay on any subject you like. You are free to use a piece you have already written, one that responds to another challenge, or one that you created yourself.

Navigating the Common App and
Questions that May Arise

Students who need assistance filling out the application can speak with their high school counselors and the admission professionals at the institutions they are applying to. Several resources are available on the common app to aid the application process.

In addition to offering video tutorials throughout the program, the platform provides year-round, round-the-clock technical assistance. In the Student Solutions Center, applicants can submit a query or receive solutions to frequently asked questions. Representatives for Common App claim that while response times fluctuate, the typical wait time is 20 minutes.

Cost of Common App
and Fee Waivers

According to information provided by Common App, 48.9% of member institutions do not charge an application fee for first-year students, and the common app is free to use. Students must cover the expense of the application fee when submitting their applications to universities that charge one.

The application will allow applicants who meet the criteria established by the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) to request fee waivers.

Any school to which a student applies will accept their request for a fee waiver if they mention their financial difficulties once on their application. Students should speak with their high school counselors or directly with the universities they are applying to if they have any doubts about whether they are eligible for fee waivers. Read this for further understanding.

How to Make Common
App Filling Easier

Apply early; do not wait until the last minute. Along with getting started early, it is advised for students to make use of the Common App preview, which enables them to check their applications before submitting them. Additionally, students can designate mentors who can view the specifics of an application and its development.

Common App for

You can organize and submit letters of reference with the help of the common app for recommenders. You may manage your school’s data, track requests, and upload transcripts here. Additional options are available on the first-year Common App for recommenders to monitor students’ Common App progress.

Students may ask teachers, counselors, or advisors to serve as more than one recommender by an application, such as a teacher and another recommender.

An email invitation with a link to register for an account will be sent to the recommender after a candidate adds them to their application. If they so choose, recommenders can decline an invitation or utilize paper forms instead. Recommenders can log in from there whenever they want to start working on their recommender forms. Listed below are the recommender types in the common app:

First Year Recommender Types

  • Counselor 
  • Teacher 
  • Other Recommender 
  • Advisor 

Transfer Recommender Types

  • High School Official 
  • Academic 
  • Personal
  • Professional

Is Common App the Only Option
to Get Into College?

Common App is not compulsory for students to utilize. Despite being widely used, the platform is not the only one for college applications.

Students can apply to several schools online by visiting their websites. They can or must use some states’ application processes while applying to institutions. Texas, for instance, has a statewide application system; however, some Texas schools also accept Common App.

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Georgetown University in the District of Columbia are two renowned private colleges that solely accept applicants through their websites. But the common app is used to submit applications to many selective schools and universities, including Harvard and Amherst College.

Some schools accept the Coalition Application and the Common Black College Application, used by historically Black colleges and universities, are additional submission methods. The common app is utilized by many schools that use those platforms.

Which Application Platform is the
Best to Apply for College?

Colleges that accept various platforms for application submission do not prefer one over another, but high school guidance counselors could. Counselors may easily submit supporting materials for universities thanks to Common App’s integration with Naviance, a company that produces software for college and job readiness. However, students should only submit one application to each college, using whichever platform suits them best.

And unlike first-time applicants, transfer students must submit additional information from their universities. Common App prompts transfer applicants to name any colleges or universities they have attended, their enrollment dates, college coursework credentials, and GPA.

Transfer students must additionally submit an essay. The question prompts for the transfer essay requirement on Common App were recently changed to match those for first-time applicants.