Frequently Asked Questions on the “Common Application”

For many college-bound students, the “Common Application” seems like a godsend at first glance – one single application for multiple schools.

But – because the Common Application is still relatively new – families have a ton of questions about it. For example, will using it hurt or help an applicants’ chances?

Today I’ll answer some of those questions, and also break down the the pros and cons.

– Scott

FAQs about the Common Application

1.  Who Accepts the Common Application?

At the moment, 488 schools accept the Common Application. The majority are private schools, but some public schools – and even international destinations – accept it as well.

Quality isn’t a deciding factor, either – you’ll find Ivy League schools on the rolls, along with top-notch liberal arts colleges like Amherst and Bates.

In short, you aren’t limiting yourself very much using the Common Application. To find out if your favorite school is on the list, check here.

2. Will using the Common Application hurt my candidacy?

Absolutely not. The group of schools that accept the Common Application are part of a consortium devoted to seeing the admissions process from a holistic viewpoint.

That means that, rather than judge applicants solely by test scores or GPAs or admission essays, these schools are committed to viewing the candidate in his or her entirety. That means academic performance, yes – but it also includes extra-curriculars, achievements in non-traditional areas, and other factors.

These schools use the Common Application specifically to de-emphasize the importance of an application packet, and do a better job viewing an applicant as a whole. So using the Common Application won’t hurt your candidacy in any way.

3. Will I still have to write an essay?

The Common Application has space for an essay with a minimum of 250 words (and no maximum). And most schools still like to see essays in applications.

It may not be as important a part of the process – a Common Application essay is less likely to act as a tiebreaker between candidates with similar credentials – but it still has a role.

Universities want to see your ability to think, to analyze – and do work similar to what will be demanded of you in class.
In other words, it can’t hurt to write a good essay.

4. Will my Common Application get lost in the shuffle?

It’s true that schools which accept the Common Application get more applicants – and a more diverse pool of applicants at that.
It’s also true that you’ll have less chance to personalize your application – since most Common Applications are submitted online.

Keep in mind – schools that accept the Common Application have vowed to treat it on an equal footing with any other application – and many schools don’t actually have any alternative to the Common Application.

To your college admissions success,

Scott Weingold
Co-Founder, College Planning Network LLC
Publisher, – The free educational resource of College Planning Network


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Editor's Note: Scott Weingold has been ranked the #1 “College Financial Aid Expert Worth Knowing About” in the entire country by  He has co-authored the book, “The Real Secret To Paying For College. The Insider’s Guide To Sending Your Child To College – Without Spending Your Life’s Savings.” Scott also publishes a popular free online newsletter, “College Funding Made Simple" which reveals insider’s tips, methods, and strategies for beating the high cost of college.

Scott is the co-founder and a principal of the widely renown College Planning Network, LLC – the nation’s largest and most reputable college admissions and financial aid planning firm. CPN is a proud member of the Better Business Bureau, the National Association of College Funding Advisors, the National Association for College Admission Counseling, the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators and the Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education.

Scott, along with his college funding advisory team, helps thousands of families throughout the country with their college planning needs and offers a series of free educational webinars and workshops on “How To Pay For College Without Going Broke In The Process!” He's been featured or mentioned in The Philadelphia Inquirer, Yahoo News,, Voice America with Ron Adams, Crains Cleveland Business, and on Cleveland Connection with James McIntyre.  Scott has published numerous articles and is a professional speaker who has addressed thousands of audiences online and offline throughout the United States.  His actionable insights and candid, open approach have earned him & his team numerous media interviews, citations, and speaking opportunities, and his free online video workshop is one of the Internet’s most widely viewed pieces in the college funding space.