What Is The Common Application? Everything You Need To Know - Crimson Education ZA (2023)

Navigating the university application system can be overwhelming. Each application requires extensive information, making the application process time-consuming and tedious. The Common App simplifies the college application process by providing a singular place to input basic application information. Let's take a deeper dive into this Common App and how it works. This simple guide is a great place to start before beginning the application process.

What is the Common App?

The Common Application, more commonly known as the Common App, is an easy-to-use online application form that gathers all your information in a single space enabling you to fill out one central application that goes to multiple universities. When creating an account, you only input general information (name, address, extracurriculars, GPA, test scores) once.

More than 900 schools in the US and many worldwide accept the Common App. While the Common App is used more often than any other college application system, many colleges allow students to submit their applications through the Coalition Application and the Universal College Application.

When does the Common App open?

The Common App opens every year for the upcoming admissions cycle on August 1st, meaning applicants cannot submit the completed application to any participating universities before this date. However, you can begin working on your Common App before it opens by creating an account and filling out the general information components! Application due dates will vary depending on the school, but most Regular Decision applications are due in December or January before the desired enrollment date.

How does the Common App work?

The Common App allows you to create an account, track your progress, monitor deadlines, and send requests for financial aid. The Common App is easy to use, and it is also entirely free to create your profile. Keep in mind that specific university programs require additional fees.

After creating a profile, you can choose from a wide range of schools. Once you select your universities, the Common App allows you to monitor and review your unique application’s requirements, deadlines, and individual progress.

When is the Common Application due?

Application deadlines can be confusing. Depending on when you aim to apply to universities, the deadline may vary. On the Common App, you have three deadline options. If you wish to apply in advance, you can choose between Early Action and Early Decision. The deadline for these applications is generally November 1st. (Read below about the third deadline option — Regular Decision.)

If you wish to apply early, it is important to understand what option — Early Decision or Early Action — is the best option for you. While both options ensure that if you’re accepted, your spot is secured early (usually by mid-December), there is a critical difference between the two. If you are admitted through Early Decision, you must attend that university regardless of any other universities you have applied to or your financial status. Early Action, however, is not a binding decision. Acceptance to a university doesn't mean you are required to attend. You have the freedom to choose between various options and apply to more universities in the Regular Decision (RD) round.

If you don't want to apply early, the deadline for general admission is typically January 1st (the most common RD deadline). You can track deadlines on your Common App account and determine what route you want to take when applying to a university.

What Schools accept the Common App?

The Common App includes more than 900 schools, including several universities outside the US. You can comfortably explore all Common App schools online. You can also filter through regions, financial aid options, and even universities that require no application fees! The Ivy League schools and many non-Ivy League schools accept the Common App. Even though many universities are added to the Common App list each year, some schools, like the UC schools, Georgetown University, and MIT don’t use the Common App and have their own application systems instead.

Key Components of the Common App

Personal Essay

An important component of your Common App is your personal statement. This essay goes to all of the universities you apply to, enabling admissions officers to better understand who you are as an individual. In 650 words or less, you must reflect on your accomplishments and provide personal anecdotes beyond your quantitative achievements.

At Crimson, we understand that all students are unique, and while some students find comfort in writing a personal statement, other students may find essay writing intimidating. After working with admissions experts, receiving essay support, and peer review, Crimson students feel confident in the essays they submit to admissions officers.

  • How to Answer the 2022/23 Common App Essay Prompts
  • How to Write the Perfect Personal Statement

Supplemental Essays

Another key component of the application process includes supplemental essays. The Common App’s supplemental essay section is a space where you can include the additional essays your desired programs require. Universities typically have at least one supplemental essay.

  • Harvard Supplement Essay
  • Yale Supplemental Essay

5 Common App Essay Tips

Test Scores: SAT and ACT

When applying to US universities, you must submit your test scores, SAT and/or ACT, and other academic requirements like grades and school transcripts.

Admissions officers consider your test scores when determining whether you will progress through the application selection process. At Crimson, we support students in their SAT and ACT preparation through personalized learning plans, online tutoring, practice tests, and extensive guidance.

  • What is a Good SAT Score
  • What is a Good ACT Score

Activities List and Awards

The Common App includes a section dedicated to your accomplishments beyond the classroom. Extracurriculars and awards compromise 30% of your application’s weight.

The Common App gives you ten spots to rank your best accomplishments. In a limited number of characters, you are asked to describe the nature of the activity, your role (leadership details), and how long you engaged in that extracurricular. For example, a student may talk about being a writer for their school newspaper and working their way to the editor in their final year of high school. In every case, ask yourself, "What does this activity tell the admissions officers about who I am, what matters to me, and how I will contribute to the campus community?"

For academic awards, students have five slots to rank their achievements, including a title, grade, and level of recognition. As with extracurriculars, it is important to highlight impactful awards and strive for quality over quantity. When it comes to compiling your list of accomplishments, start early and give yourself enough time to contribute to your activities and make an impact.

  • How to Build an Extracurricular Profile for US Universities
  • 15 Successful Activities of Students who got into Ivy League, Stanford, and more!
  • How to nail your Common App Activities list

5 Common App Activities List Tips

Letters of Recommendation

The final section of your application includes three references, two from teachers and one from a school counselor. These letters of recommendation testify to who you are and what you can accomplish at a university, and they are a vital component in your application. Although teachers and school counselors typically write the references, there are situations where students may not have a school counselor with whom they have a close relationship. Crimson can help you determine suitable references for your application in these cases.

  • How To Ask For A Letter Of Recommendation For College Applications

How to fill out your Common Application

1. Gather Information

Before creating your profile, review your information to ensure you haven't forgotten anything important. Important information includes transcripts, personal and parental information, test scores, achievements, and letters of recommendation.

2. Create your Profile

Input your registration type. There are different registration types, including first-time, transfer, or international students. Select the' First-Time Student' button if you’re a high school student applying for an undergraduate degree.

3. Confirm your Schools

Once you’ve created your account, choose your schools of interest. While the Common App has over 900 schools to choose from, each school typically has their own application fees (unless you have a fee waiver). Once you have finalized your list of schools (we recommend you apply to roughly 10-12 schools), you can look for those on the ‘My Colleges’ tab.

4. Know the University Requirements

Do your research! Not all universities are alike, and some have entirely different prerequisites. Review the university requirements and your program requirements to include all the necessary information for your application.

5. Get a Head Start on your Personal Statement

You can view essay prompts before August 1. Use the extra time to brainstorm, organize your thoughts, and start writing the first draft of your personal statement.

Don’t forget to start the supplemental essays (many colleges ask for school-specific essays or short answer supplemental questions.)

6. Start your Application

Now you are ready to begin your applications. Start with the basic required information, teacher recommendations, and extracurriculars list. You can track everything through your Common App account.

7. Track your Progress

The Common App helps you stay on track and meet deadlines. A green check indicates which portion of your application is complete and submitted. These check marks allow you to track your progress while applying to multiple universities.

8. Submit your Application

Finally, submit your application to your desired universities.

Final Thoughts

Now that you've had a chance to familiarize yourself with the Common App, you may have additional questions about the process or how you can stand out to admissions officers. A great way to start paving the path to your dream university is to book a free one-on-one consultation with one of our expert academic advisors. They can build a personalized application plan for you.

Whatever you need, we are here to help! Click on the link below to get started!

What Makes Crimson Different

Key Resources & Further Reading

  • Join our free webinars on US university applications
  • Free eBooks and guides to help with the college application process
  • The Ultimate Guide to Gaining Admission to Top US and UK Universities 2022
  • How to Crush Your US College Application eBook
  • How to Apply to US Universities
  • Crimson Pathfinder: A New Tool For Students To Get Started With The College Application Process


Is there a Common App for HBCU? ›

If you're interested in primarily HBCUs, you can save money by using the Common Black College App, which charges a flat $20 application fee. If you're applying to multiple colleges, including HBCUs that do not participate in the Common Black College App, consider the Common App.

What do you need for the Common App? ›

Filling out your application takes time.
  • A copy of your high school transcript. ...
  • A list of your activities, work, and family responsibilities. ...
  • Test scores and dates from your college entrance exams (SATs, ACTs, etc.) ...
  • Parent/Legal guardian information. ...
  • Academic honors and achievements.

Do HBCU require essays? ›

Most member schools don't require letters of recommendation and essays, so you won't need to submit either on your application.

What colleges look at Common App? ›

All the Ivy League universities as well as top non-Ivy League schools like Stanford, Northwestern, Vanderbilt, Caltech, etc. use Common App. However, there are still plenty of schools that have their own application system or use an alternative online application portal similar to Common App.

What are the easiest HBCU to get into? ›

The easiest HBCU to get into are:
  • Albany State University with 91% rate of acceptance.
  • Clark Atlanta University with 71% rate of acceptance.
  • Fort Valley State University with 61% rate of acceptance, and.
  • Morehouse College with 58% rate of acceptance.

How much is the Common App fee? ›

What does the Common App cost? The platform itself is free to use, but every college charges their own application processing fee (usually $30 to $75 for U.S. applicants and more for international applicants). You can apply for a fee waiver if you need one.

Does Common App need essays? ›

The Common App college essay is required by most Common App schools. This personal essay plays a critical role in many institutions' admission decisions. Admissions experts' biggest tips include writing how you speak and focusing on details.

Do colleges care if you use Common App? ›

Some students worry that the Common Application may actually hurt their chances for acceptance. However, colleges and universities that accept the Common App sign a document stating that they will not favor the traditional, school specific application over other options.

How many essays are required on Common App? ›

Write only one essay (plus any supplements).

You'll submit one essay through the Common Application for all your schools. Some colleges may ask you to also answer a few supplemental questions.

What is the lowest GPA for HBCU? ›

What GPA do you need to get into an HBCU? The typical GPAs for students accepted into many HBCUs schools range from 2.5-3.0. Other HBCUs may require higher GPAs. For example, students accepted at Hampton University and Florida A&M had average GPAs above 3.25.

What are the requirements for a HBCU? ›

any historically black college or university that was established prior to 1964, whose principal mission was, and is, the education of black Americans, and that is accredited by a nationally recognized accrediting agency or association determined by the Secretary [of Education] to be a reliable authority as to the ...

Which HBCU does not require SAT or essay? ›

Ditching mandatory standardized testing was a common practice among HBCUs for 2022 admissions. Howard University, Hampton University, Spelman College, Morehouse College, Tuskegee University, and Morgan State University are among the HBCUs that opted for optional testing.

What GPA goes on Common App? ›

What GPA do I use? For the UC's and CSU's you will use your 10-12 academic weighted GPA. For all other universities you will use your 9-12 total GPA, colleges will specify weighted or non-weighted.

Which GPA should I put on Common App? ›

If your school calculates both weighted and unweighted Class Rank/GPA, report the weighted value. If your school does not calculate a cumulative numerical GPA, or if it uses a GPA scale that is different than the options available in the drop down menu, leave the Cumulative GPA field blank.

Does Common App ask for GPA? ›

In many college applications, such as the Common App, you will usually be asked to provide both your weighted and unweighted GPA. This allows colleges to see both how you're doing in challenging courses and how you're doing overall.

What is the poorest HBCU? ›

Spelman College is the least affordable HBCU.

Only one other school — Howard University, a four-year private school in Washington, D.C. — has a net cost above $40,000.

Who is the #1 HBCU? ›

Best historically black colleges and universities in the United States 2022
HBCU Rank 2022US College Rank 2022University
1109Howard University
2126Spelman College
3383Xavier University of Louisiana
=4401-500Morehouse College
7 more rows

What's the hardest HBCU to get into? ›

Hardest HBCUs to Get Into
  • Spelman College. Spelman College, an all-women's school located in Atlanta, Georgia, is known for its high academic standards and outstanding reputation. ...
  • Howard University. ...
  • Morehouse College. ...
  • Hampton University. ...
  • Xavier University of Louisiana.
May 3, 2023

How many colleges should I apply to on Common App? ›

When it comes to the number of colleges you should apply to, many experts suggest students submit four to eight applications, though some experts recommend submitting as many as 15 applications. Regardless of expert opinion, your college decisions depend highly on your wants and needs.

Do you pay for each school on the Common App? ›

Paying Your Fees

Though the common application lets you apply to any school that interests you, you will need to pay a fee for each common application you submit.

Is it better to apply to college through Common App or directly? ›

Some colleges may accept all of these forms of applications and some schools may only accept one form. However, the Common Application is generally the best choice, as this application is most widely used across the country.

What not to start Common App essay with? ›

Many essays included things that you should not do in your college admissions essay including: Never rehash your academic and extracurricular accomplishments. Never write about a "topic" Never start with a preamble.

How long does it take to fill out the Common App? ›

Depending on the college you are applying to, you'll need approximately 20 minutes to complete the Common App. Each university has its requirements, and after filling your Common App, you still have to do your essay and questions the university may demand.

Do colleges actually read your Common App essay? ›

The person who reads your application in a college admissions office might be a dedicated admissions officer, a faculty member, or a student or part-time essay reader. They are reading your essay in the context of your application overall.

Does Common App include transcripts? ›

Common App for transfer also accepts electronic transcripts from Parchment and National Student Clearinghouse. If your school uses a different service, transcripts should be mailed, instead of sent electronically.

Can colleges see your advisor on Common App? ›

If you choose to invite an advisor, that action will remain private. The advisor invitation and profile information will not be visible to any of your colleges or any other invited recommender.

Is Common App worth it? ›

The primary benefit of using the Common Application is that submitting a standard form will save you time. If you find the college process stressful, the Common Application frees you up to focus on your college essays, visit schools or otherwise prepare for college.

Do you answer all Common App questions? ›

The only questions that a student is required to answer on the Common App have a red '*' next to them. All others are not required. That doesn't mean, necessarily, that you shouldn't answer them but understanding the ramifications if you do are important.

Does Common App require letter of recommendation? ›

Some schools may ask for two teacher recommendation letters, while others may require one teacher recommendation letter and one guidance counselor letter. The Common Application makes it easy for you to request recommendations from your teachers and guidance counselors through its intuitive interface.

How do I make my Common App essay stand out? ›

A standout college essay has several key ingredients:
  1. A unique, personally meaningful topic.
  2. A memorable introduction with vivid imagery or an intriguing hook.
  3. Specific stories and language that show instead of telling.
  4. Vulnerability that's authentic but not aimed at soliciting sympathy.
Oct 25, 2021

What HBCU has 100 acceptance rate? ›

Langston University

Do HBCUs accept non black students? ›

Students of any race and ethnicity can apply for an HBCU, provided that they meet the grade requirements. Usually when applying for university in the US, you're required to fill out one application per school.

What are 3 benefits of a HBCU? ›

Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs)

consistently outperform non-HBCUs in student experience, affordability, and after college preparedness for Black students.

Can you get a full ride to an HBCU? ›

Many HBCUs offer partial and full scholarships to enrolled students. Learners should inquire about these institutional scholarships when applying to college. Additionally, local chapters of Black fraternities and sororities, alumni chapters, and other organizations offer scholarships, including those described below.

Which HBCU has the most white students? ›

The Whitest Historically Black College In America : Code Switch Bluefield State College in Bluefield, W.Va., is 90 percent white. Its alumni association is all black, and it still gets federal money as a historically black institution.

Are HBCU free? ›

South Carolina HBCU Makes 2021-2022 Tuition-Free for Full Time Students. Clinton College, a small, historically Black college in South Carolina, is offering free tuition in 2021-2022 for all its full-time students attending in-person or online, according to NBC news.

How long is a college essay? ›

Although there are often no strict word limits for college essays, most essays are shorter rather than longer. Common App, which students can use to submit to multiple colleges, suggests that essays stay at about 650 words.

What schools require an essay? ›

List of Schools That Require the SAT With Essay
SchoolState/CountryRequire or Recommend
University of California, Berkeley (UC Berkeley)CARequire
University of California, Davis (UC Davis)CARequire
University of California, Irvine (UC Irvine)CARequire
University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA)CARequire
123 more rows
Jul 15, 2021

Do you have to write an essay for community college? ›

what are Community college requirements? Community colleges don't require essays or SAT scores. They just need your high school diploma, basic information about you, and some proof of residency to qualify for discounted tuition.

Is a 5.3 weighted GPA good? ›

On the weighted scale, a strong GPA could range from a 4.0 to a 5.3 – indicating to colleges that you're taking challenging courses (Advanced Placement, Dual Enrolled, etc.) and keeping up A's and B's. On the unweighted scale, a good GPA could range from a 3.0 to a 4.3, which spans the A/B average values.

What is the highest GPA? ›

Generally, most high schools subtract (. 3) for a minus grade and add (. 3) for a plus grade, where 4.0 is considered the highest GPA. Though the calculation of average GPA is quite simple on a 4.0 scale, you can always contact your school's counselor's office for better estimation and results.

What is a 61 GPA? ›

30 more rows

What happens if you make a mistake on your Common App? ›

If you realize you've made a mistake, don't panic. College admissions officers aren't going to nitpick over a minor error, but several errors may show you in a bad light. If you have significant errors or omissions, reach out to the admissions office of the college you applied to.

What happens if you put the wrong GPA on Common App? ›

With this being said, can this have any impact on my admissions decisions? No. Applicants make this mistake every year. Your transcript and school profile will list the grading scale, and colleges will use that, just like they will use the transcript for your GPA.

Do I have to report my grades on the Common App? ›

Some colleges require that you complete the Courses and Grades section of the Common App. If your college is not on this list, you do not need to complete the Courses and Grades section.

Do colleges look at just GPA? ›

More than just GPA.

As they evaluate your academic performance throughout high school, colleges will look at both your overall GPA and the individual grades you received in your courses. Different high schools have different ways of calculating GPAs, including various weighting systems.

Which GPA do colleges look at? ›

Colleges will look at either weighted or unweighted GPAs in your application. They do tend to prefer weighted, because it gives more information about the difficulty of your classes, but don't worry if your school uses an unweighted scale.

Is Howard University on Common App? ›

In addition to the main Common Application essay, Howard University has one optional essay that may be accessed via the Writing section of the Common App. Students are not required to submit the optional essay.

How do I apply for HBCU? ›

Applying to HBCUs
  1. Steps to choosing an HBCU.
  2. Consider size, location and environment.
  3. Choose the type of school.
  4. Evaluate your financial picture and aid opportunities.
  5. Visit.

Is Howard on the Black Common App? ›

Top HBCUs aren't members

For instance, Spelman College, which is the number one HBCU, says US News, accepts admission applications exclusively via the Common App. Other high-ranking HBCUs that aren't members of the CBCA include: Howard University.

Does Common App have FAMU? ›

(a) Florida A&M University uses the common application form for undergraduate admission to any one of the state universities. Applications may be located at www.famu.edu/admissions. (b) Each applicant must submit an admission application along with the requisite nonrefundable fee.

Does the Common App have all colleges? ›

No, not all colleges accept the Common Application. Only 600 of over 2,400 colleges in the US use the Common App.

What GPA gets you into Howard? ›

With a GPA of 3.55, Howard University requires you to be around average in your high school class. You'll need a mix of A's and B's, and very few C's. If you have a lower GPA, you can compensate with harder courses like AP or IB classes.

Is Howard the Harvard of HBCU? ›

What University is Known as the Black Harvard? Howard University has often been referred to as “The Harvard of HBCUs.”

What GPA do HBCU accept? ›

What GPA do you need to get into an HBCU? The typical GPAs for students accepted into many HBCUs schools range from 2.5-3.0. Other HBCUs may require higher GPAs. For example, students accepted at Hampton University and Florida A&M had average GPAs above 3.25.

What is the hardest to get into HBCU? ›

Hardest HBCUs to Get Into
  • Spelman College. Spelman College, an all-women's school located in Atlanta, Georgia, is known for its high academic standards and outstanding reputation. ...
  • Howard University. ...
  • Morehouse College. ...
  • Hampton University. ...
  • Xavier University of Louisiana.
May 3, 2023

How much is the application fee for HBCU? ›

Students currently can instantly apply to 64 different HBCUs, paying one $20 application fee. Unlike the similarly named Common App, which is used by hundreds of colleges, the CBCA is exclusive to HBCUs.

Can white students attend HBCU Howard? ›

Tracing its history to 1867, from its outset Howard has been nonsectarian and open to people of all sexes and races.

Is the black Common App free? ›

It is $20 to complete the Common Black College Application.

Which schools don t use Common App? ›

Which Colleges Do NOT Accept the Coalition or Common App?
  • Brigham Young University.
  • California State University system.
  • Georgetown.
  • Loyola University Chicago.
  • MIT.
  • United States Military Academy (West Point)
  • United States Naval Academy.
  • University of California system (including UCLA and UC Berkeley)
Sep 19, 2022

Which HBCU does not require SAT? ›

Ditching mandatory standardized testing was a common practice among HBCUs for 2022 admissions. Howard University, Hampton University, Spelman College, Morehouse College, Tuskegee University, and Morgan State University are among the HBCUs that opted for optional testing.

Do Ivy Leagues use Common App? ›

As the leader in college application systems, the Common App is accepted by approximately 950 colleges and universities. Though the majority of these schools are larger, public universities, several international institutions and all Ivy League universities accept the Common App as well.


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