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Using the Common Application as Your College Application

By Peterson's Staff updated on Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The Common Application for college is a time saving tool accepted by more and more schools each year — public, private, large, and small.

Depending on where you plan to apply, you may be able to save yourself from writer's cramp because you only have to complete it once. After that, you can send it out over and over in clear, crisp photocopy form. Better yet, it can be accessed and completed online at, a site dedicated exclusively to the Common Application.

A college application that's easy to access

Member schools of the Common Application organization are allowed membership only if they adhere to a holistic applicant evaluation process. If you're checking the sites of your favorite colleges, and they're members of the organization, then there's a good chance they'll have a link right on their site that will take you straight to the college common application. As an added bonus, several dozen of these schools will reduce or waive their application fees if you apply online.

It's not unusual for some college applications to require a brief supplement and an occasional extra essay, so if you plan to use the Common Application, make sure you're submitting everything that the school is requesting. You may want to contact the admission office directly to see if any other college application form is necessary. Information about additional requirements — and often the forms themselves — are usually found on college Web sites as well. If you're applying Early Decision, make sure you find out if there are any other steps you need to accomplish to ensure your college application is complete.

Treating the Common Application for college equally

Rumors abound that some schools don't treat the Common Application with the same regard as their own. Thankfully, these rumors appear to be mostly just that — rumors. Colleges accepting the Common Application pledge to give it equal weight, and they do. In fact, some schools now use only the Common Application and have done away with school-specific application paperwork altogether. Perhaps they like the diversity of responses it generates. After all, the five very broad essay-question options of the Common Application offer more opportunity for creative responses than the same generic essay question on the 100 other college applications that are reviewed on any given day.

Go beyond the college application form

However, if you're still worried that bypassing an institution's own college application will make an admission officer less-than-enthusiastic, then make sure there's more to your resume than just the Common Application itself. Find a way to express your interest in each school you apply to by visiting campuses or interviewing with an admission officer — or better yet, both! Even a brief note asking for specific information suggests that you have a genuine interest in their school.

For a list of participating schools and to access the college Common Application online, visit

About the Author

Peterson's has more than 40 years of experience in higher education, and the expert staff members here are all ready to leverage their considerable knowledge and experience to help you succeed on your educational journey. We have the information, the know-how, and the tools -- now all we need is you!

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