4 Things to Know About the Common App

The Common App is an extremely convenient way to apply to multiple colleges without having to re-enter the same info multiple times through different portals. Hundreds of American universities require prospective students to submit an application through the Common App website, or at least have it available as an option.

Before you eagerly get started, however, keep in mind these four important things to know about the Common App:

1. You may be eligible for a fee waiver

Aspiring college students should know that the Common App website itself is free to use; what students end up paying is the application fee(s) for the individual college(s) to which they apply. Keep in mind that the application fees are likely to vary from school to school.

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However, you may be eligible for a fee waiver, which would allow you to apply to colleges at no cost. Generally, fee waivers are reserved for lower-income students who meet eligibility requirements established by the College Board or NACAC. Be sure to select the fee waiver option if you plan on choosing this method. If you are unsure whether this option applies to you, speak with your high school admissions counselor. Also, be aware that checking the fee waiver option alone does not guarantee that your application will be viewed by a school; you must prove you are eligible to receive it.    

2. Word counts should be abided by

Since submitting essays on the Common App is a matter of merely uploading a document, some students may think that the word count is irrelevant. Students may think it will go unnoticed if they write an essay that exceeds the word count; but in fact, disobeying the word count is always ill-advised. College admissions officers will likely take notice, and it would probably not be beneficial to your application’s status. Failure to follow directions can suggest that a student is careless or defiant.

Be aware that word counts are established for a reason. One of the reasons is to reduce the volume of paperwork that admissions counselors must review for each application. When you are a college official who has to sort through thousands of applications, an extra paragraph makes a difference. In the end, this saves valuable time for admissions staff to be able to devote fair attention to all applications they receive. Students should be mindful and respectful of this, as well as of other applicants who are indeed abiding by these rules, and stay within the allotted word count.

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3. The “preview” feature is a helpful tool

The “preview” feature allows you to look over your completed application before you submit it once and for all. This is a wonderful way to catch any silly mistakes or typos, and it will show you the near-to-exact way your application will appear to colleges. It is often best, though, to rest your eyes for awhile before giving your application that final glance; the eyes tend to get tired and skip over details that may better grab your attention at a later time. Come back to your application anywhere from a few hours to a day later, and then hit the “submit” button only once you are completely satisfied.

4. Don’t wait until the last minute

Between homework, studying, touring campuses, and everything else you have on your agenda, you may find yourself procrastinating with your college applications. It will be tempting to wait until the last few days, or even the last few hours, before a deadline to submit your application. If possible, make an effort to have your application completely filled out, along with all supplements and essays, at least five days prior to the deadline. This will give you time to compensate for any potential curveballs that are thrown your way.

These are just a handful of tips you should know about the Common App. Feel free to consult the Common App’s Frequently Asked Questions page to learn more about it, or do a little more of your own research on the side. Best of luck with your admissions endeavors!


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