As you prep to apply to college, you’ve likely heard of Common App. It is one application that lets you use the same information to apply to multiple colleges.

This has a lot of benefits:

  1. You’re not filling in the same information across multiple applications, which saves time.
  2. You can also invite your high school counselors and teachers to submit their recommendations directly through the Common App platform, where the recommendation will be filed along with your application.
  3. There is a mobile app where you can track your application materials.

Getting to know the Common App will help you maximize it and use it as a tool as you apply to college. You’re likely to become very familiar with it during admissions season. Here’s what to know before you get started.

When does the new Common App cycle open?

The Common App opens on August 1. It can be a good idea to get started on it as soon as it opens. Filling out the fields you can now, adding schools, and becoming familiar with the dashboard can make the process go more smoothly once senior year starts. Keep in mind that deadlines may vary between the schools on your list. You will be able to see your deadlines on the Common App dashboard.

What schools use Common App?

Over 1,000 universities and colleges use Common App. Other schools that are part of the Coalition for College use a different type of application called the Coalition Application. Some schools have their own application and also accept the Common App. In these cases, there’s no advantage of using one application over another.

What are Common App essay requirements?

Common App has several essay prompts, and you can choose which one makes the most sense for you. This essay can be sent to all your schools, but each college may have additional writing prompts that are custom to that school. In most cases, you are able to fill these out within the Common App portal.

How do I request a fee waiver for Common App?

Even if all the colleges you apply to use Common App, you’ll likely have to pay an application fee for every school you apply to. Application fees vary, with the average being $45. Some applications can cost as much as $100.

You can request a fee waiver through Common App if your family financial circumstances fit the criteria.

How are letters of recommendation sent on Common App?

Ask your teachers and guidance counselors to upload their letters of recommendation through the Common App portal. They are likely doing this for dozens of other students, so they should be familiar with the process. You won’t be able to see the letters, but you can choose which letters of recommendation go to which schools—so, for example, if you’re applying to a school with a strong performing arts program, you might choose the letter from your drama teacher.

You’ll be able to see on your dashboard when your letters have been submitted. If the deadline is approaching and letters still haven’t been submitted, it’s okay to reach out to your recommenders and ask if they need any more information.

Can you edit the Common App after submitting?

Once your application is submitted, it belongs to the admissions office. You can’t make any adjustments. If there is an error, you would need to contact the school you submitted the Common App to and ask for recommendations for how to fix the application.

That said, you don’t need to submit all your applications at once. You can submit applications to different schools at different points in time.

Common App Tips

  • Write all essay prompts offline. Instead of filling out any essays within Common App, write them in a word processing program and then copy and paste.
  • Decide who your advisors will be. Having a parent, guardian, or high school counselor look through your materials can be helpful. But too many advisors can be complicated. Choose one or two people to do a final pass through your materials.
  • Give yourself a deadline a week or so prior to the official deadline. That way you have time to fix things in case anything comes up.
  • Consider submitting applications on a rolling basis. This way, you can spend a week focusing on polishing a few applications, rather than trying to finish everything at once.

Once you get to know your way around Common App, it can be an easy way to keep track of deadlines and application materials during the hectic application season.

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