BLOG: All Things Higher Ed

Should I use the Common App?

Everyone wants their college application to stand out from the crowd. So, should you use the Common App or not? Is it legit? Free? Safe? Actually, it’s all of those. You can save time, but sometimes the college’s own application is the better choice. 

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What’s the difference between a college application and the Common Application?

Every college or university has its own application process. When you go to their website, you’re sure to find an “apply now” button on their homepage. Just click on it, and you can apply directly to that university.

Fill out a few of these applications, and you’ll realize that you keep putting in the same information again and again. You’ll repeat your name, address, high school(s), GPA, SAT and/or ACT scores, and information on your extracurricular activities.

With the Common Application you can apply to up to 20 colleges and universities and only put in your general information once. You can even create the admissions essay that several universities require and attached it to all your applications.

When should I use the college’s own application?

Not all colleges use or accept the Common App. If one you’re interested in is not listed on their site, you’ll have to use the college’s application. Don’t let this stop you from applying. If you’ve found a program or college that you’re interested in, taking the time to fill out a separate application is worth the effort.

When should I use the Common App?

Basically, you should use the Common App if you are interested in applying to several colleges. They currently have over 1,000 colleges listed. You can apply to a maximum of 20. It saves you time and keeps all your information in a dashboard for you. You’ll see important information like application deadlines including dates for early consideration all in one location. 

Is the Common App free?

Using the Common Application is free. However, each college has an application fee that covers the cost of processing your application. The fee is the same whether you use the college’s own application or the Common Application. 

Some students may qualify for a fee waiver and many colleges in the United States participate in an application fee waiver event in September or October each year. Apply during this fee waiver period and you’ll save a lot of money. 

Do I have to know what colleges I want to apply to?

Starting your search is often the hardest part. The Common App can help here, too. When you start your college list, you can filter your search by public or private; small, medium or large schools; rural, suburban or urban setting; even historically Black colleges and Hispanic serving institutions.

Once you have your list, take the time to go to each institution’s website. When there, ask yourself:

  • Do they have the majors I’m interested in?
  • What are their dorms like? 
  • Is the campus the right size for me? 
  • Are there support services for students? 
  • Do they have the extracurricular activities I want to take part in?

Next, visit the campus to see if it feels right for you. Then you’re ready to start applying.

Who can use the Common App?

The Common Application is for first time students and transfer students at the undergraduate (bachelor’s degree) level. International students can also use the Common App. While the listings now are mainly for U.S. schools, there are some international institutions listed as well.

Is the Common App really just one and done?

Not exactly. When you choose the colleges you want to apply to, each college can add supplemental questions, essays, letters of recommendation and other requirements specific to their institution. You’ll see these extras listed in your common app dashboard. You’ll also pay the application fee for each of the colleges you choose. You can do all this right through the Common Application. 

Do colleges treat applications from the Common App differently?

According to U.S. News and World Report, “Don’t be afraid that colleges will pay less attention to the Common App than their own application – they won’t.” In fact, any college or university that accepts the Common App must sign a document saying they will not favor their own application. Some colleges only accept the Common Application with some supplemental questions of their own. 

Colleges are looking for qualified students who are eager to study and learn. If they use both their own application and the Common App, they don’t care which way they receive your information.

Are there any disadvantages to using the Common Application?

The biggest one is that not all colleges accept it. You might be tempted to overlook some colleges you’re interested in just because they’re not listed on the Common App. Don’t make this mistake. Taking the time to apply through the college’s own system is worth finding the perfect fit.

The other problem is some people get carried away with the ease of using the Common App. Don’t apply to schools just because they don’t require anything extra and it’s just another click. Take the time to look at each college’s website before you start sending out your applications. You’ll get a feel for their community, how their goals fit yours and if they have a program you want to spend the next four years of your life pursuing.

Central Michigan University uses both our own online application and the Common Application. Submit your application starting August 1, or take advantage of Michigan’s application fee waiver month and apply in October. Schedule a visit to our campus. Many of our students say that they knew CMU was the right place for them the minute they stepped on campus and met our faculty, staff and students.

Blog: All Things Higher Ed posted | Last Modified: | Author: by University Communications | Categories: University Communications
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