The Common Application is a standardized college application that offers students the ability to complete a single application and essay and send it to multiple member schools, as opposed to having to complete each individual college's application. In most cases the Common Application is submitted electronically. The online system does a great job organizing documents and keeping track of the different application components such as supplements, payments and school forms.
Nearly 600 colleges and universities accept the Common Application. If a member college has its own institutional application, the school is required to give equal consideration to applicants using either form. Additionally, member colleges must agree to evaluate applications holistically, meaning that they will take the time to evaluate an application beyond just the numbers.
While the Common Application represents a significant time savings for applicants, the ease of completing the Common Application can lull one into a false sense of security. Setting aside ample time to fill out your application will ensure a neat and thorough application that communicates that you are a student who is serious about applying to the school. It is especially important to not rush the writing section: in holistic college admissions reviews written sections can give an advantage to students who are willing to spend time on them. Bear in mind that many colleges have supplements (additional forms specific to individual schools) that need to be completed. Supplements often require writing additional short essays, so be sure to budget your time appropriately. As the main portion of the application is shared with all schools, applicants should never reference a particular college in the body of the Common Application.
There is an additional caution regarding the Common Application. Because of the ease of simply hitting the send button, the temptation to add additional schools is a strong one. Remember two things: the importance of fit and containing costs. Ask yourself if the school is one that is truly a fit for you and bear in mind that application fees add up quickly. Be discriminating in your decisions about where to apply and hold to the careful research you have done up to this point.