Common Application

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Common Application Inc.
Common Application logo.png
Common App logo
Abbreviation CA
Formation 1975 (1975)
Type Non-profit NGO
Legal status Public charity
Purpose Higher-education application processing
Lee Ann Backlund
Mary Lou Bates
Danya Berry
Eric J. Furda
Patrick O'Connor
Jenny Rickard
Greg Roberts
Robert Springall
Gail Sweezey
Mitchell Thompson
Gil Villanueva
Chris White
Mission Providing reliable services that promote equity, access, and integrity in the college application process

The Common Application (informally known as the Common App) is an undergraduate college admission application that applicants may use to apply to any of 625 member colleges and universities in 47 states and the District of Columbia, as well as in Canada, China, and many European countries.[1] 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,"[2] 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.").

Digital application system[edit]

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 he or she wishes to correct an error or provide more information. The Common Application also allows the student to submit and track other components of his or her 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.[3]

"Fair Common Application"[edit]

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,[4] and representatives from the Common Application threatened legal action, alleging copyright infringement, causing the protest site to be taken down.[5]


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. This has led some to question college institutions' dependence on the Common Application.[7] 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.’"[8]


The Universal College Application was started in 2007 and as of March 2015 has 46 participating institutions.

A selective consortium of colleges and universities known as the Coalition for Access, Affordability and Success announced in September 2015 a competing application which features online "lockers" for storage of portfolio items starting in grade 9.[9][10]

See also[edit]


External links[edit]