Common App

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Common Application Inc.
Formation1975; 49 years ago (1975)
TypeNon-profit NGO
Legal statusPublic charity
PurposeHigher-education application processing
HeadquartersArlington, Virginia, United States
President & CEO
Jenny Rickard
WebsiteTemplate:Official URL

The Common Application (informally known as the Common App) is an undergraduate college admission application that applicants may use to apply to over 1,000 member colleges and universities in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, as well as in Canada, China, Japan, and many European countries.[1][2]

Member colleges and universities that accept the Common App are made up of over 250 public universities, 12 historically black colleges and universities, and over 400 institutions that do not require an application fee. It is managed by the staff of a not-for-profit membership association (The Common Application, Inc.) and governed by a 18-member volunteer Board of Directors drawn from the ranks of college admission deans and secondary school college counselors. Its mission is to promote access, equity, and integrity in the college admission process, which includes subjective factors gleaned from essays and recommendations alongside more objective criteria such as class rank.


Of the Common Application's over 1,000 member institutions,[2] about one-third are "exclusive users" that use the Common Application as their only admissions application online or in print (listed If the member has a separate proprietary application, they are required to give equal consideration to applicants using either form as a condition of membership.[3]

Digital application system

There are different Common Applications for first-year admission and transfer admission. Both versions allow the application to be filled out once online and submitted to all schools of the applicant's choosing, with the same information going to different schools. Once the application is submitted to a college online, it cannot be changed for that college; the student must contact the college directly if they wish to correct an error or provide more information. The Common Application also allows the student to submit and track other components of their application such as supplemental questions, recommendation letters, application fees, and school forms. Students may also roll over their account information within the Common App tab of the dashboard from year to year, using the same user name and password.

Although the Common Application allows applicants to self-report standardized test scores (including the SAT and ACT) and international educational qualifications (such as GCE A-levels or the Baccalauréat), the vast majority of colleges require an official score report from a testing agency.

"Fair Common Application"

To protest the inequity of the college application process for undocumented immigrant students, many of whom were brought to the U.S. as very young children, the immigrant rights group Students for Undocumented Dreams and Decision Equity Now (SUDDEN) launched the Fair Common Application website in 2013. Visitors to the website are able to sign a petition for the Common App to change its current demographic options to include undocumented American immigrants. The group argued that this, coupled with a failure to mention undocumented immigrants in the Common App's non-discrimination clause, left undocumented applicants unsure if they could use the application service. By petitioning to change this policy, the group hoped to see a clearer application that helps undocumented Americans avoid the "separate and unequal" admissions process for international students.[4] Common App representatives threatened legal action, alleging copyright infringement, resulting in the website's creators taking the protest site down.[5]

Technical difficulties

From August to October 2013, the Common App drew criticism due to multiple issues with their website. On August 1, 2013, the Common Application launched its new CA4 system.[6] Counselors and students reported portions of essays being deleted, formatting issues, instructor recommendation problems, payments being sent out multiple times and more. By December 2013, managers claimed the "glitches" with the Common App appeared to have been resolved, with one admissions director describing the situation as "basically ‘business as usual.’"[7] In late October 2017, the Common App was temporarily taken offline due to unusual spikes in system activity. Despite the brief disruption, more than 1 million students submitted via Common App through November 1, 2017.[8]


The Universal College Application was started in 2007 and as of March 2019, had 10 participating institutions.[citation needed]

The Coalition Application was created by selective consortium of colleges and universities known as the Coalition for Access, Affordability, and Success, in September 2015, in response to the Common Application's 2013 outages. The organization is now called the Coalition for College; more than 150 US-based universities participate. The Coalition application was created as a more "holistic" application, and includes "lockers" where students can create a portfolio starting in 9th grade.[citation needed]

The Common Black College Application (CBCA) was started in 1998 to augment the marketing and recruitment efforts of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) while increasing the educational options for students interested in attending a HBCU. Students are able to complete the CBCA and apply to any number of the 60 currently participating Member Institutions at the same time for a one-time fee of $20. Students pay no other application fees.[citation needed]

See also

  • Coalition for College
  • College admissions in the United States
  • Transfer admissions in the United States
  • Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS), UK


  1. "Explore colleges using Common App | Common App".
  2. 2.0 2.1 "Common App launches 2022-2023 application with more than 1,000 colleges and universities". Retrieved 2022-09-03.
  3. "Common Application Membership Requirements". Archived from the original on Feb 10, 2014.
  4. Enser, Christyn (4 February 2013). "Group creates 'Fair Common App' for undocumented students". USA Today. Archived from the original on 24 August 2013. Retrieved 4 September 2013.
  5. Sander, Libby (25 January 2013). "Immigrant-rights Group Unveils a 'Fair Common Application'". The Chronicle of Higher Education University. Retrieved 4 September 2013.
  6. Hoover, Eric. "Common Application Plans for (More) Growth". Archived from the original on 2021-05-16. Retrieved 2021-05-16.
  7. Anderson, Nick (23 December 2013). "New Common App for college weathers storm". The Washington Post.
  8. "More Than a Million Applications Submitted via the Common App through November 1". November 3, 2017.

External links