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Should You Use the Common Application?

common applicationThe Common Application has made the college and university application process much easier for many students. By permitting students to apply to multiple schools using a single application form, the Common Application streamlines the process and saves applicants loads of time.

I applied to eight schools and remember what a relief it was that three of my schools accepted the Common Application, meaning less work for me! The Common Application is a bit more complicated than you might first think, however, so it’s important to get all the details.

All About the Common Application

The idea behind the Common Application is that students need to fill out only one application for all of the schools they apply to. Although the application was first accepted by only about 15 schools, today it is accepted by more than 500 colleges and universities in the United States. This means that you can fill out one Common Application and use it for any of these schools.

Since 2007, the Common Application has faced competition from the Universal Application, which is meant to be more inclusive. The Common Application limits membership to schools that judge applicants based on a “holistic process” including at least one letter of recommendation and one college admissions essay, two elements that the Universal Application doesn’t require. So far, a little more than 40 schools accept the Universal Application, including big names like Harvard and Duke.

Pros and Cons of the Common Application

The benefits of the Common Application for students are pretty obvious: it saves time and effort by cutting down on the paperwork and essay writing that goes into the completion of multiple different college applications. Since such a huge number of schools accept the Common Application, it’s likely that students can apply to many — if not all — of the schools on their list using this single application.

Despite the benefits of the Common Application, it has been suggested that using the Common Application rather than a school’s personalized application (some institutions give you a choice between the two) can decrease your chances of admission.

There is no firm evidence to support this claim, and schools that accept the Common Application are required to sign a document stating that they won’t favor school-specific applications. However, if you have a choice between the Common Application and a school-specific one, to be on the safe side it may be best to go for the latter.

Potential Pitfalls of the Common Application

There are some other potential pitfalls to consider when it comes to the common application. First of all, it’s important to remember that not all schools accept the common application. Be sure to verify whether a school accepts it or not — never assume! Also, never let a school’s stance on the Common Application determine whether or not you apply there. You should never limit which or how many schools you apply to due to a difficult application process!

If you do complete the Common Application, remember that many schools — even if they accept the Common Application — require supplements, like extra essays or recommendation letters. If you take care to keep track of all these details, however, the Common Application can be a great way to save time and relieve some of the stress that comes with the college application process.

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