The Common Application: helping students apply to multiple colleges

Serving over one million students for first-year and transfer applications, the Common Application is networked with over 500 private and public institutions in the U.S. and overseas. The Common App website helps students and colleges to access and input similar application information.

“The idea is that rather than having to separately apply to every single college, you can centralize some things,” says Katherine Oleson, chair of communication studies. “There is a general set of information that each college which a student is applying to can access.”

If a student is applying to two different schools, “both of those schools are going to want similar information, they’re both going to be interested in the coursework completed and a student’s community involvement,” says Oleson. “What happens in Common App is a student works through many different screens of common information and enters all that information in.” Common information consists of current grade point averge, demographics and a mailing address which a college or university would be looking for.

All of the tedious information which used to be typed over and over again is no longer required because with the Common App,  it is only typed once. “I think students really appreciate that,” says Oleson.

Once the transfer student finishes the personal statement essay, each college will then have separate supplementary essays based on that specific college. It is challenging, however, to write a common shared essay which all the schools access without going into much detail about a specific college. That’s why it is so great that the schools have individual supplement essays in which a student can articulate why they would like to go to a specific school.

Associate Director for First Year Advising Programs Emily Kolby agreed, stating that “different colleges have different processes, so creating an application requiring all applicants to fill in the same fields can be challenging.”

No matter what challenges occur, whether it is essays or certain sections within the website, the advising faculty is “trying to work with the program to make it a smooth process for students,” added Kolby.

Not all colleges and universities use the Common App. For instance, the University of Washington has its own application process that does not require or need the Common App. However some colleges will link applications to the Common App website.

The Common App website has become so used that Seattle University has created a YouTube walkthrough of the application process for students interested in applying.

This free of charge application helper is a growing tool among students and universities alike, making the application process easier and less time consuming.