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What is the Common App?

What do I need to know before using The Common College Application?

What is the Common App?

Considering applying to more than one college or university? 

By now you’ve probably heard of The Common College Application — an application that allows you to submit your application to various colleges, which saves you time and money.

If you aren’t familiar with the common college application, here’s a short rundown: The common college application (available online or in paper form) is used by more than 600 colleges. Members include public and private schools nationwide, as well as international schools. For a complete list of members, go to

Is it for you?
The Common App isn’t for everyone. For instance, not all schools nationwide are members. So it could actually be more work for students when applying to schools that aren’t members. Do your homework and check to see if the majority of the schools you are applying to are members. 

Recent additions to the Common App (2015-2016)

New Essay Prompts
The biggest announced change that will affect college applicants is the unveiling of new essay prompts for 2015-16. The wording of prompts was adjusted and one prompt was entirely replaced.  

Once Required, Now Optional
Colleges can choose to make the essay optional. That means it’s possible a student may not need to write any essay and still enjoy the benefits of using the Common App. 

The Common App will no longer require member institutions to accept a letter of recommendation. That will be the choice of each school. 

Technical Changes
There are also changes to the print preview option and essay editing limits.

Applicants can now preview any part of the Common App at any time. Students used to have to complete all of their application but wait for the submission stage before previewing the application in it’s entirety. 

Until this year, students could edit the Common App essay up to three times after the first submission. Now there is no such limitation.

What else is there?

What is the Universal College Application?
The Universal College Application (UCA) works a lot like the Common App, but with fewer schools to choose from (only 44 schools). The application fees are paid directly to the colleges the student applies to. There is no extra charge paid to UCA.

What is the Common Black College application?
The Common Black College Application allows you to select your top four choices, but your application is made available to all 44 HBCU (Historically Black College/University) Member Institutions. The fee to apply is $35 and they do not accept fee waivers.

What is the Coalition for Access, Affordability and Success?
This is a new option for students made available late in 2015. There are 80 colleges and universities associated with the Coalition so far. The main difference with the Coalition is the ideas of an online virtual locker that offers a private space for students to collect and organize materials throughout their high school journey. Students will have access to the locker and will be able to share documents with their counselors, teachers, and mentors who can provide guidance along the way.


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