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What is the Common App for college admissions, and how does it work?

The Common Application for 2017-18 is live now. You can use it to apply to nearly 700 colleges and universities in the US, Canada, China, and some countries in Europe. Here’s how it works
BY BrainGain Magazine Staff Writer |   09-08-2017

If you plan to apply for admission to undergraduate programs, you can use the Common Application, or “Common App”, to apply to any of 693 colleges and universities in the United States, Canada, China, and several European countries. This digital application system is run by a non-profit 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.

It seeks to promote access and integrity in the college admission process, which relies on subjective factors (by means of essays and recommendations) and more objective criteria such as standardized test scores.

In order to use the Common App to apply for admission, you need to follow these five simple steps.

1. Create an account. You can do this at any time. At this stage you will need to provide only basic information, including your name, date of birth, and phone number. Your email ID will be your user name.


2. Add schools. The app lets you search, identify schools that meet your needs, and add them to your “My Colleges” list. It has a ‘Virtual Counselor’ feature that offers tips on picking the right schools.


3. Understand what the schools want. The application process is not the same for all institutions. The Common App has features that let you compare and track requirements, to ensure you get everything across by the deadline.


4. Gather your basic application information. Schools’ processes may vary, but the general application information will be common to all the schools you apply to. This includes your high-school transcript, list of extracurricular activities, standardized test scores, and parent/legal guardian information. Getting this out of the way as early as possible will leave you with more time for the rest of your application.


5. Start the application. You can consult the Virtual Counselor or the Applicant Solutions Center on the Common App site if you have a doubt or question. The same information will go to all your chosen schools. However, some schools may require you to answer additional specific questions.

After you submit your application, you cannot make any changes via the Common App. However, in case you do need to make a correction after submitting, you can contact the college or university concerned directly.

In the 2017-18 application cycle, many students will benefit from two new developments. The first is a Common App feature called Courses & Grades, which allows applicants to self-report transcript information while filling out their application. Seven member schools of the Common App are piloting this feature: Chapman University, University of Southern California (both in California), George Washington University (Washington, DC), New York School of Career & Applied Studies of Touro College & University System (NY), Ohio State University (Ohio), Purdue University (Indiana), and West Virginia University (West Virginia). The idea is to streamline the application process for students. Of course applicants’ high schools will still be required to submit transcripts.

The second new feature is the Common App for Transfer, where you can learn about and apply for transfer admission. It will become available in early 2018, initially for about a dozen member colleges and universities. From August 2018, all members of the Common Application are expected to offer this feature.

If plan to apply during this admissionis cycle, why not get started now? Get the nitty gritties out of the way, so that you can devote more time to your personal essay, portfolio, and the other things that set you apart from everyone else. Good luck!

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