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What is The Common Application and what are some advantages and disadvantages of using it to apply to college?

This question was asked by Derek from Oklahoma. He's a sophomore in high school who wants to go to college, so he's beginning his research to better understand his options and how to apply. #university #higher-education #admissions-counseling

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Adrienne’s Answer

Derek, a standard college applications should include 3 letters of recommendation, PSAT Score, an essay, your SAT Scores and a copy of your School Cumulative Record plus your current marking period grade(s). Make sure you meet with your guidance counselor to see what exactly you need for each college. If you are a strong communicator and/or public speaker then you may want to request an interview with a College Representative to show your level of enthusiasm and your hard work ethic, especially if you feel your SAT Scores are not very reflective of who you are as a student. If you are applying to specialize in theater or music, an audition is probably required. Additionally, make sure all your report card information is correct, as typos occur. Since you are a Sophomore, start contacting colleges or go online and begin to familiarize yourself with what is needed to complete an application.

Regarding disadvantages, some state schools are harder to become accepted into due to a larger amount of applicants and lower tuition costs compared to a private college. However, in the end, I noticed that even when attending a state university, the final cost is similar to a private university. Some state schools require more credits causing you to spend more money and time. However, you should always look into financial aid and contact their office even when you are enrolled, especially if you feel you deserve more assistance. Currently, start thinking about if you want to attend a large university or a smaller institution. Make sure whether or not you need personalized attention and instruction versus larger classroom sizes and/or online classes. Start researching places and talk to your older classmates who are now in college and inquire about their experience.

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Troy’s Answer

Good day,

Great question and your already smart by getting involved with this. I help my students with this, using turbotax, FAFSA and other important issues to simplify your life.

The common app is simply a large distribution tool to help get your strengths and qualities out to the universities quicker. Take your time give yourself credit and you will start hearing from lots of colleges so you can have better options at picking one that is a great fit.

My best and keep at it your doing excellent!

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Daniela’s Answer

Hi Derek,

11 Things To Know About the Common Application:

  • You can create more than one application.

Students can create up to 10 versions of their application, but 97% of applicants generate three or fewer. Ninety percent of students stick with the original application.

  • You can upload a new essay.

Students can create an alternate version to update or correct an essay (or any other part of the application). The process is explained in detail on the main instructions page of the student’s account. Students should NOT use alternate versions to tailor essays to individual colleges. That is what the supplements are for.

  • Watch the essay word count.

Because the essay is an uploaded document, the online system cannot enforce a word count. Nonetheless, applicants are expected to adhere to the instructions specifying a range of 250-500 words.”

  • No need to update an application to add the latest ACT or SAT scores.

There is no need to update testing via the application itself. Students are asked to self-report testing already taken and indicate future tests to be taken. Thus colleges know if a student has new scores pending, and the student should send those scores directly to the colleges from the testing agencies.

  • Don’t forget to preview.

Students often forget to preview the application, which allows them to see exactly what the college will see. Once they hit submit, they cannot retrieve the application. If they discover errors afterward, it’s too late for that application.

  • Make sure you really did submit the application.

The application, supplement, and payment submissions are three distinct processes. Students sometimes misunderstand this and think that submitting a payment or supplement also submits the application. Their My Colleges page will always show the correct status for each submission at each college, but some students fail to check this information and incorrectly assume a college has received an application when in fact it has not.

  • Communicate with your high school counselor.

If counselors are submitting their school forms online, the forms will not arrive at their destination college until and unless the student submits a Common App to that college. About two thirds of our members accept alternate applications, so it is important for students to communicate with counselors if they elect not to submit a Common App.

  • You can mix online and snail mail forms.

Students want to know if they can submit online if their counselors and teachers elect to mail school forms, and the answer is absolutely yes. They also want to know if the submission sequence matters (app before school forms or school forms before app), and the answer is no.

  • f you don’t know, ask.

Have a question, just ask by heading to the Common Application’s Support Center.

  • Low-income students can obtain fee waivers for their applications.

All schools that use the Common App accept both the NACAC and College Board fee waivers. As long as students meet the criteria outlines by these organizations, members will accept the waiver. Students indicate their intent to submit a fee waiver in the Payment section of the application. From there, students need to consult with their counselors, who need to verify eligibility.

  • It’s best not to wait until the last minute to apply!


The Benefits of Using the Common App: The Common App offers several benefits to students looking to apply to college for the first time or transfer to a different school.

  • It’s free: There is no fee to use the Common App. The only cost to students is the application fee that each university charges. So for example, if a student wishes to apply to The University of Kentucky, Kalamazoo College and Yale University, they would simply fill out the Common App once, and then pay each schools application fee through the Common App website.

  • It saves time: Rather than filling out a different application for each school you might want to attend- which, trust me, is NOT fun- students simply fill out one application and select which member schools they want it sent to!

  • Everyone’s using it: Cliché I know, but it’s true! Over 1 million college admissions are processed using the Common App each year. So if you have questions, it’s almost guaranteed that your high school counselor or college advisor will be able to help you out. In fact, some schools now only accept the Common App.

The Disadvantages of Using the Common App: No application process is perfect and the Common App is no exception.

  • Online vs. Paper: There is no longer a paper version of the Common Application. Although most people nowadays have access to the Internet, some do not, and the fact that the Common App is now all digital could cause an issue for some students.

  • Membership is selective: In order to become a member school, colleges and universities must apply. Because of this, there will most likely be one or two schools you wish to apply to that are not members.


Good luck!

Thank you comment icon thank you sir Janaki