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|Legal status||Public charity|
|Purpose||Higher-education application processing|
The Common Application (informally known as the Common App) is an undergraduate college admission application that applicants may use to apply to any of more than 800 member colleges and universities in 49 states and the District of Columbia, as well as in Canada, China, Japan, and many European countries. Member colleges and universities that accept the Common App are made up of over 100 public universities, 10 Historically Black Colleges and Universities, and over 250 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 13-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.
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 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 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.
Of the Common Application's more than 700 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"
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. 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. Common App representatives threatened legal action, alleging copyright infringement, resulting in the website's creators taking the protest site 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. 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.’" 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.
The Universal College Application was started in 2007 and as of March 2015 has 46 participating institutions.
The Coalition Application was created by selective consortium of colleges and universities known as the Coalition for Access, Affordability and Success in September 2015. Over 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.
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 53 currently participating Member Institutions at the same time for $35. Students pay no other application fees.
- College admissions in the United States
- Transfer admissions in the United States
- Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS), UK
- The Common Application: Explore Colleges
- Common Application Membership Requirements Archived 2014-02-10 at the Wayback Machine
- 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.
- Sander, Libby (25 January 2013). "Immigrant-rights Group Unveils a 'Fair Common Application'". The Chronicle of Higher Education University. Retrieved 4 September 2013.
- Anderson, Nick (23 December 2013). "New Common App for college weathers storm". The Washington Post.
- "More Than a Million Applications Submitted via the Common App through November 1". November 3, 2017.