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The Common Application (informally known as the Common App) is an undergraduate college admission application that applicants may use to apply to any of 517 member colleges and universities in 47 states and the District of Columbia, as well as in Austria, France, Germany, Italy, Switzerland, and United Kingdom. It is managed by the staff of a not-for-profit membership association (The Common Application, Inc.) and governed by a 13-member volunteer Board of Directors drawn from the ranks of college admission deans and secondary school college guidance counselors. Its mission is to encourage the use of "holistic admission" a process that includes subjective factors gleaned from essays and recommendations alongside more objective criteria such as class rank and standardized testing.
Member institutions may also require a "Common App Supplement," and ask additional questions, with only two restrictions: 1) supplement questions may not re-ask questions already asked on the Common Application (except identifying information like name, address, date of birth, etc.), and 2) supplement questions may not ask questions that violate the NACAC Statement of Principles and Good Practice (such as "please rank order your college choices.").
The online application system
There is a Common Application for first-year admission and a Common Application for transfer admission. Both versions allow the application to be filled out once online and submitted to all schools with the same information going to each. 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 supplements, payments, and school forms.
Of the Common Application's 517 members, about one-third are "exclusive users" that use the Common Application as their only admissions application online or in print (listed here). 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.
"Fair Common Application"
As a protest regarding the Common Application's lack of identification for "undocumented immigrants", the immigrant rights group Students for Undocumented Dreams and Decision Equity Now launched the "Fair Common Application," which would fix what they believe is a "separate and unequal admissions process." No colleges accept the alternative application, and representatives from the Common Application threatened legal action, alleging copyright infringement, causing the protest site to be taken down.
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. Counselors and students reported portions of essays being deleted, formatting issues, instructor recommendation problems, payments being sent out multiple times, and more. This has led some to question college institutions' dependence on the Common Application  By December, the "glitches" with the Common App appeared to have been resolved, with one admissions director describing the situation as "basically ‘business as usual.’"
- The Common Application: All Members
- Common Application Membership Requirements
- Enser, Christyn (4 February 2013). "Group creates ‘Fair Common App’ for undocumented students". USA Today. Retrieved 4 September 2013.
- Sander, Libby (25 January 2013). "Immigrant-rights Group Unveils a 'Fair Common Application'". The Chronicle of Higher Education University. Retrieved 4 September 2013.