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Everything You Need to Know About the CommonApp [2022-2023]

A girl plans to complete CommonApp

We all know applying to college takes time and discipline. Thankfully there's the Common App to streamline the process. You've heard about the Common App, but you might wonder how to use it or if it costs money. We answer these questions and more in this guide to the Common App.

Meet the Common App

The Common App is an undergraduate college admission application that can be used to apply to more than 1,000 universities and colleges worldwide. You don't have to use the Common App, but it saves you time and effort if you do. 

However, not all colleges accept the Common App. Some schools require you to apply directly through them. You can find a complete list of the member colleges on the Common App website. We also share the link to the specific page below.  

General Common App Questions

To get started, here are some of the most basic Common App questions answered for you. 

What Is the Common App? Why Does it Exist?

In the early 70s, fifteen colleges and universities came together, united by one goal: to make applying to college easier. In 1975, they debuted the Common Application. Even 45 years ago, colleges realized the need to make applying for higher education simpler. 

What began as a paper booklet is now 100% digitized, adapting to the needs of students as the years have gone on. So, in short, the Common Application is a college application that more than 1,000 schools accept in a united effort to make applying for higher education less of a burden for high school seniors.

Why Use the Common App?

The Common App saves you time, money, and effort. With the Common App, you can complete one application and submit it to more than 1,000 different colleges and universities. 

Does it Cost Anything to Use the Common App?

Nope. The Common App doesn’t charge for students to use their platform. However, some colleges charge an application fee, which can be paid via CommonApp. The cost of application submissions will vary between colleges. 

Can I Get a Fee Waiver?

A fee waiver form can be filled out for applicable students on Common App.

Once financial hardship has been established, it will apply to all college application submissions. So you don’t have to fill out that form multiple times. 

Not sure if you qualify? The Common App website provides this list of criteria for eligibility. 

You can also speak with your high school counselor or directly with an admissions officer from the school you’re interested in if you have questions or need assistance with a fee waiver.  

Which Colleges and Universities Accept the Common App? 

As of the 2022-2023 academic year, over 1,000 institutions accept the Common App. And that number is growing each year. You can click the link for a full list of colleges and universities that accept the Common App.

There are other application platforms, such as the Universal Application and Coalition Application. However, both have fewer member institutions and different goals in mind. For instance, the Coalition App requires college members to have a certain amount of diversity in their student body, as well as a cap on national student loan debt. 

Ultimately, you’ll want to determine which platforms offer you the most advantages, i.e., which has the most colleges you’re interested in and features you want to use. Today, though, we’ll thoroughly discuss the Common App and what to remember if you decide to move forward with filling out your college applications using this platform.

Do Colleges Treat Common App Candidates Differently? 

Definitely not! Colleges and universities want you to use the platform that works best for you. If that happens to be the Common App, then use it. All member colleges have pledged to treat applicants from Common App the same as any other platform, whether through their own website, statewide platform or otherwise. In fact, there are a number of colleges that only use CommonApp. 

The one recommendation that most admissions advisors would give is that demonstrated interest is a bit more important. Because it can be incredibly easy to apply once you’ve filled out all required aspects at once, colleges and universities want to confirm that you are truly interested in their institution.

To show demonstrated interest when using the Common App, make sure that you’re individualizing the answers to any “Why Our Institution” questions. Then follow the colleges’ social media pages and attend any virtual events or opportunities they offer prospective students. 

Questions About Timing & the Common App 

Now we’ll move into some questions about timing and when the application is due. 

When Does the Common App Open?

Every year, the Common Application opens on August 1st. The exact same day every year, making it a good gauge of when to: 

If you’re applying for Early Admission or Early Decision, applications can be due in as little as four months, while regular admissions deadlines can be as little as five months away (depending on where you’re applying). The Common Application can be a great place to get started with your application, especially if you have two or more colleges that accept it. 

When is the Common App Due? What’s the Deadline?

When the Common App is due depends on what type of application you’re submitting. Are you applying Early Action, Early Decision, or Regular Decision? Once you narrow that down depending on the schools you’re applying to, you’ll see that the Common App due date is usually November or January. But here are the specific details. 

  • Early Action: If you’re going to apply for Early Action, you’ll most likely need to submit your Common App by November 1st. But since you’re not committed to an Early Action School, you’ll also want to submit your Common App to Regular Decision schools which we talk about in a minute. 
  • Early Decision: Like Early Action, Early Decision applications are usually due around the 1st or the 15th of November. But some schools offer Early Decision II, which means the Common App for those schools would be due sometime in January. 
  • Regular Decision: Students applying Regular Decision will usually need to submit their Common App in early January. 

And the application deadline is always 11:59 pm on deadline day in your local time zone. To stay on top of these dates, you may want to bookmark this link for future reference.

The Common App Requirements Grid

Of course, these deadlines are not to be confused with the deadline or due date for the FAFSA

How Long Does It Take to Fill Out the Common App?

It really depends on the school and how much information they want. Ideally, you should begin your applications at least six weeks before the due date because you’ll want to work on parts of it, save it, and come back to it. 

But to set yourself up for success, begin gathering documents and other components of your application, like the letters of recommendation, long before you’re ready to start the application itself. 

Questions About Completing Your Common App

Finally, we wrap up with questions about filling out your Common App. 

Do I Need a Letter of Recommendation for the Common App?

The Common App itself doesn’t require letters of recommendation, but the schools you’ll be applying to will. 

Each school will specify its own requirements for the letters of recommendation part of the application. For instance, some will specify who they want your letters of recommendation to be from, while others will just ask for a specific number of them. 

It’s like that for test scores and transcripts, too, so be sure to pay close attention to what each college or university requires so you’re sure to submit the right documents. 

I Messed Up On My Application — How Do I Fix it? 

You can edit all sections of the application an unlimited number of times, excluding one: the essay. You can only edit it a maximum of three times. The best way around this is simply to use the essay section right before submitting it. Do your writing and editing in Word or Google Docs so you can edit it as often as you need. 

Can I Preview My Application Before Submitting it? 

Yes! And you should, too. Once you’ve filled out everything, click “Review and Submit.” This will automatically generate a PDF, which, if possible, you should print and manually look over. The simple act of looking at a printed application versus a digital one can allow your eye to notice mistakes it previously missed. 

Click the link for directions on printing your Common App. 

Should I Fill Out My Demographics on the Common App?

Whether or not you share this information depends on personal preference. Colleges ask for this information so they can keep track of the demographics of their application pool and admissions. Some schools consider race and ethnicity when evaluating applications, and underrepresented minorities may be given an advantage in admissions. 

Do You Apply for Financial Aid Through Common App?

Nope! For that, you’ll want to fill out the Free Application for Federal Aid (FAFSA), which every college-bound student should complete as soon as possible after the application opens.

Final Thoughts on the Common App

Now that we covered your questions about the Common App, you should be ready to work on yours. Be sure to pay attention to when it's due for each school you’re applying to so you can stay on track. It’s also a good time to start looking for scholarship money to help you pay for school. 

Beyond offering a $1,000 scholarship each month, Cappex has an up-to-date database where you can find and save scholarships. Click the button below to create a free account now. You’ll automatically be registered for the Cappex Easy Money $1,000 Scholarship. 

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