All About the Common App

What is the Common App?

The Common Application (or Common App) is the free online college application used by 800 colleges and universities in the United States and abroad. For many schools you apply to, the Common App is the only application you have to submit.
The Common App asks you questions on many topics. In addition to objective data, students also submit essays, activity lists, and other pieces of information that reveal their personal background, academic interests, character, and personality. Even though it’s a standardized form, students can still use the Common App to present a powerful and unique story about themselves. 

Features of the Common App include:

  • College Search, which enables you to search for prospective colleges using criteria like name, state, and your semester entry term.
  • A My Colleges section, where you can view up to 20 colleges you’re considering, including any supplements those schools require.
  • The Dashboard, which shows you at a glance what you’ve completed, and still need to complete, for each college.
  • The actual Common Application itself.

The Financial Aid Resources section, which connects students to tools and resources to pay for college. In this section, students can get tips on filling out the Free Application For Student Aid (FAFSA), which is necessary to apply for need-based financial aid. Students can also connect to scholarship opportunities through a tool called Scholar Snapp.

Access Story2’s Guide to the Common App. You can also unlock more Story2 admissions prep materials for the Common App, essays, and interviews, sign up for unlimited office hours, and enroll in live online courses that help you complete your personal statement in just 2 hours. © Story2 2019. All rights reserved.

The Common App is long and can take a while to fill out. To best prepare yourself, you’ll want to make sure you have the following materials before you start:

  • A copy of your high school transcript

    You will be asked to enter your high school grades and current courses, and some colleges may ask you to self-report your entire high school transcript.

  • A detailed list of your activities, work, and family responsibilities

    This will help paint a clear picture of who you are outside of academics. Share things like extracurricular activities, work, volunteer experience, and hobbies. Being as detailed as possible here will ensure you provide admissions committees with a well-rounded profile.

  • Academic honors and achievements

    A list of any awards or recognitions you’ve received in high school.

  • Your SAT or ACT scores and dates

    You will be asked to self-report your scores.

  • Parent / legal guardian section

    You should have your parents’ occupation, employment status, and education level handy. If your parents graduated from college, you will need to provide the name(s) of the school(s) they attended, as well as what kind of degree they earned.

In addition to the information above, you will be asked to write an essay, and to submit letters of recommendation. Be sure to have identified and asked your recommenders (e.g., teachers, counselors, advisors, work supervisors) far in advance to make sure that they have enough time to write you as strong of a recommendation as possible before the deadline.

When is the Common App due?

Speaking of deadlines, you’ll want to make sure you are aware of the Early Action, Early Decision, and Regular Decision deadlines for each of the schools to which you are applying. The good news is that the Common App website lists all of this information for you once you select your colleges. You’ll also want to take note of which schools have Rolling Admissions—these schools begin reviewing applicants as soon as their applications are submitted, even if it’s far ahead of the deadline. For schools with Rolling Admissions, you can increase your chances of getting in the sooner you apply.

When does the Common App become available?

The Common App usually becomes available on August 1. Though you can start working on it as soon as it opens, know that schools that have supplemental applications may not make their questions available until later.

What does the Common App cost?

The Common App is free to fill out, but you will have to pay a fee to submit. This processing fee varies and is set by each individual college.