The Common Application (informally known as the Common App) is an undergraduate college admission application that applicants may use to apply to more than 400 member colleges and universities in the United States and various other countries. It is managed by the staff of a not-for-profit membership association (The Common Application, Inc.) and governed by a 13-member volunteer Board of Directors drawn from the ranks of college admission deans and secondary school college guidance counselors.
Its mission is to encourage the use of "holistic admission" a process that includes subjective factors gleaned from essays and recommendations alongside more objective criteria such as class rank and standardized testing.
Member institutions may also require a "Common App Supplement," and ask additional questions, with only two restrictions: 1) supplement questions may not re-ask questions already asked on the Common Application (except identifying information like name, address, date of birth, etc.), and 2) supplement questions may not ask questions that violate the NACAC Statement of Principles and Good Practice (such as "please rank order your college choices.").
There is a Common Application for first-year admission and a Common Application for transfer admission. Both versions allow the application to be filled out once online and submitted to all schools with the same information going to each. Once the application is submitted to a college online, it cannot be changed for that college; the student must contact the college directly if they wish to correct an error or provide more information. The online system also allows the student to submit and track other components of their application such as supplements, payments, and school forms.
Of the Common Application's more than 400 members, about one-third are "exclusive users" that use the Common Application as their only admissions application online or in print. If the member has a separate proprietary application, they are required to give equal consideration to applicants using either form as a condition of membership. For example, a college could accept either the Common Application or the Universal College Application.
* (Based on U.S. News and World Report Top 20 National Universities in the United States)
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