Should I Use The Common Application?

Consider the pros and cons of submitting one application to multiple schools.

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Many students have heard of The Common Application but aren't exactly sure what it is or how to use it. This week, our question focuses on the pros and cons of The Common App, and we get to hear responses from former and current members of The Common Application's board of directors.

Q: What exactly is The Common Application and what are its advantages and disadvantages?

A: The Common App adds efficiency, but use it wisely.

Eric Furda, dean of admissions, University of Pennsylvania This is an interesting question for me to answer since I was just elected to serve on The Common Application's board of directors. I think of The Common Application as a "standard vehicle or instrument" for a student to apply to more than 400 colleges/universities. The benefit for students is that they fill out responses to questions that all of these institutions have in common but used to ask independently (and the student completed multiple times). Obviously, this is more efficient.

Colleges that utilize The Common Application and still have their own institutional application do not put students at a disadvantage. The University of Pennsylvania uses The Common Application exclusively, along with a Penn-specific supplement. The only disadvantage, which students can directly control themselves, is that they should not apply to schools that may not be the best match for their interests, simply because it is easy to add more schools to their list in The Common Application.

[Get more tips from the U.S. News guide to applying to college.]

A: The Common App is a powerful tool, so use it!

Ralph Figueroa, director of college guidance, Albuquerque Academy Full disclosure: I am a former member of the board of directors of The Common App and currently sit on the advisory committee of The Common Application Outreach Committee. The Common Application is a nonprofit organization of colleges dedicated to promoting college access through the use of holistic admissions. This means that the 456 member institutions will take the time to evaluate your application beyond just the numbers.

Even more helpful, you can fill out The Common Application once and send it to any of the 456 Common App schools. This is a huge time saver. Don't be afraid that colleges will pay less attention to The Common App than their own application—they won't. So if you have two or more Common App colleges on your list, use it!

[Get help with finding the right school.]

A: The Common App facilitates the college application process.

Don Fraser Jr., director of education and training, National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) Competitive college admissions is a time-consuming process that has become increasingly intricate; therefore, students appreciate any effort that helps to facilitate completing and sending college applications. The Common Application offers students the ability to complete one application and essay and send it to multiple member schools, as opposed to having to complete each individual college's application.

Furthermore, The Common Application can be done online, which helps students stay organized. Students need to keep in mind that many colleges have supplements that also need to be completed. This could mean writing additional short essays, so make sure to budget appropriately.

Visit the Unigo Expert Network for 20 more experts discussing the pros and cons of The Common Application, and to have your own questions answered.