What is the Common Application?

The Common Application, or Common App as it's more popularly known, has drastically changed the face of college admissions since its inception in 1975. By allowing students to complete a single application but submit it to multiple schools, the Common App has made much of the admissions process substantially less time consuming. At least partially as a result of this standardization, however, the average applicant today applies to significantly more colleges than in previous decades.

For the 2012-2013 application season, the Common Application will be accepted at 488 different colleges and universities, a number that has doubled in the last ten years and continues to increase by 10-30 every admissions cycle. This year, the Common App will even be accepted at several international institutions, which could lead to more rapid growth in the near future. Schools that currently accept this application include all eight Ivy-League universities, most private liberal arts colleges, and some of the largest public universities (such as the SUNY schools, the University of Michigan, and the University of Virginia) in the United States. You can view a complete listing of all schools that accept the Common App during the 2012-2013 admissions cycle on the Common Application Website.

Why should you care about the Common App?

Well for starters, it makes life for college applicants markedly simpler. With most students today applying to five, ten, or even more schools, the Common Application significantly decreases the amount of paperwork your average applicant needs to fill out. Instead of listing the exact same biographical information, high school coursework, and extracurricular actives on ten different applications, you simply provide that information once.

The Common Application also asks you for a single essay that will be provided to all of the schools to which you apply. Like the application, the essay instructions are straightforward: write an essay of 250-500 words on one of six possible topics. However, that sixth topic is actually a "Topic of your choice" option, so in reality you can write on just about anything. Thanks to the Common App, students no longer have to write a unique essay for every single school on their lists.

But along with that convenience comes increased pressure. Although most top-tier colleges will require you to submit one or more supplementary essays along with your Common App essay, that main essay remains a primary component of your application. Because you're not writing a different essay for each school, you need to ensure that your common essay shines in every respect. If it doesn't, you could be significantly decreasing your chances of admission at not just one school, but all that receive your Common Application. The common essay not only makes the application process easier, but also makes it vitally important that your essay impress all who read it.

At EssayEdge, we recognize that the Common Application poses some unique challenges. That's why we've carefully analyzed each of the essay prompts on the 2012-2013 Common Application and provided in-depth advice to help students who are preparing to write. Our ultimate goal is to help you succeed, regardless of where you're applying or which topic you've chosen. The links below will take you to each of the topic-specific articles on our blog - we encourage you to check out one or all of them. And if you want even more help with your Common App essay, our experienced editors are waiting to help you write to the best of your ability. The College Standard Service is ideal for those applicants looking for a leg up on their competition. Check it out!

2013 Common Application Essay Prompts (click for in-depth advice on each):

  1. Evaluate a significant experience, achievement, risk you have taken, or ethical dilemma you have faced and its impact on you.
  2. Discuss some issue of personal, local, national, or international concern and its importance to you.
  3. Indicate a person who has had a significant influence on you, and describe that influence.
  4. Describe a character in fiction, a historical figure, or a creative work (as in art, music, science, etc.) that has had an influence on you, and explain that influence.
  5. A range of academic interests, personal perspectives, and life experiences adds much to the educational mix. Given your personal background, describe an experience that illustrates what you would bring to the diversity in a college community or an encounter that demonstrated the importance of diversity to you.
  6. Topic of your choice.

For more information on the Common Application or to download application forms, visit www.commonapp.org.

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