Student Resources

What is the Common App?

What is the Common App?

Applying for college is a stressful and tedious process for most students and parents. And if you haven’t started any college application documents yet, the Common Application is the way to go when it comes to making the process a little less taxing.

The Common App is an essential platform for undergraduate students with an online college “common application” designed to make applying to various colleges and universities across the country easier by streamlining the admissions process. It is a service widely accepted by more than 900 schools and institutions for higher education, including several outside of the U.S.

This platform allows first time applicants along with common app transfer applicants to apply for multiple colleges at once using a single online application. Students simply fill out their general and personal details that most schools require, and use that information across the board.

How to apply for college?

Now that you know about the Common App, you’re probably wondering where to get started.

Applicants can go to and click “Apply Now” which will take you to the registration page. You can begin by creating your account, logging in, and working on your online application by completing the required fields.

You can also download the Common App mobile app for quick and easy access to keep track of deadlines, check on the status of your applications, and set reminders.

When to get started?

As a high school student working on your SAT and ACTS test scores, applying for college is just one more thing to add into your bucket. The best time to get started on is the summer before your senior year of high school.

Although it’s not necessary to submit your applications during the summer, it’s recommended to get an early start. Getting a head start gives you the opportunity to review the requirements for each of the schools you’re considering, including drafting supplemental essays and getting some of the tedious background information completed and out of the way.

By starting early, you can also seek out any help and assistance from your counselors and peers as needed, including seeking out scholarships. All in all, there’s no downside to starting early, we actually recommend it!

How long is the application?

The amount of time it takes to fill out the Common App is dependent and varies on the school’s admissions policy and requirements. On average, it takes about six weeks to complete the process, two weeks to complete any and all background information and at least another four weeks for any additional required documents.

In addition to your personal background information, you’ll need to gather any parental information needed such as their educational background and employer details. Other documents include letters of recommendations and academic transcripts. We recommend students to give their teachers and counselors enough time to submit all these materials to the Common App before application deadlines.

Although how long the application takes is dependent on you, it’s best to get an early start and give yourself some buffer time to gather everything you need.

What essay prompts are given?

As part of the application, the Common App requires all first-year applicants to complete prompted essays with a 650-word limit for each essay.

The required content for these essays has varied throughout the years. A few of the topics ask students to share examples of learning experiences or personal growth, while others ask students to share an essay on any topic of their choice.

If you want to get a head start, you can learn more about the essay prompts on the Common App’s website.

How does the Common App work for transfer students?

If you’re a student applying to transfer schools, the Common App process works in the same way it does for first-time applicants. While the process is fairly similar, there are some differences.

Unlike first-time applicants, transfer students will need to submit additional information from colleges they have previously attended. You will be required to list any college or university in which you attended, dates of enrollment, transcript and GPA.

In previous years, the Common App required a specific essay for transfer students, however it was updated this year. Transfer students have the same essay prompts as first-time applicants.

If you’re applying to transfer, you’ll need to take the same steps as a first-time applicant.

Having issues with the Common App?

If you’re experiencing issues or have questions about filling out the application, your high school counselors and admission officers at colleges that you’re applying to are the best source of help. They have the expertise and are equipped with the knowledge to assist with any questions you might have.

The Common App also offers a variety of resources to help make the application process easier for you, including step-by-step video tutorials throughout the application and year-round technical support 24 hours a day. You can also find answers to frequently asked questions or submit a question in the Student Solutions Center.

What does it cost and are there fee waivers?

The Common App is free to use as a student, however select schools charge application fees. If you’re applying to a school that has an application fee, you will be required to pay that cost when submitting your application. However, 46.5% of member schools don’t charge application fees to students.

The Common App does support applicants who qualify for fee waivers, those who qualify based on the standards set by the National Association for College Admission Counseling. If you qualify for a fee waiver, you will need to indicate any financial hardships in the application and the waiver can then be applied to any school.

If you have any questions regarding fee waivers, if you qualify, and how to apply them, you should reach out to your high school counselor or the colleges that you are applying for, for help.

Is the Common App the only way to apply for college?

No, while the The Common App was created to make applying for colleges easier for students, it isn’t the only way to apply.

Most schools allow you to apply online directly through their websites, while some states have their own application systems for students. Although the Common App is widely accepted by most schools, some state schools may require you to use their application system. Over 900 schools currently accept the Common App, including many competitive universities, such as Harvard.