The Common App: 2022 Breakdown

The Common App Essay

The Common App simplifies the process of applying to different schools and institutions.

Applying to college can be a time-consuming and stressful process for both students and parents. Teens may be juggling the SAT or ACT, college tours if offered, and applications to many institutions in addition to completing their senior year of high school.

The Common Application, which is accepted by over 900 institutions, including several universities situated outside the United States, helps students expedite an important aspect of the admissions process.

First-time and transfer candidates may both use the site to apply to many universities at the same time. As a result, students only need to fill out the information that most schools need once, such as their name, residence, and extracurricular activities.

“The objective behind the Common App is to try to minimize the hurdles that students have when applying to college,” Jenny Rickard, president, and CEO of The Common Application, explains.

Despite its popularity, the Common App may be difficult for certain families who are unfamiliar with the college application process. The following guidance may assist students and parents in navigating the college application process.

When Can I Begin Working on My Common App College Application?

Every year on August 1st, a new version of the Common App is released. Because college application dates vary, students should pay particular attention to when they must submit their paperwork.

Students asking for early action or early decision, for example, may need to submit an application in November or December, when the standard decision date is more likely to be January 1 for many institutions. Prospective students should use these ranges as a guideline and confirm deadlines with particular universities.

This year’s Common App updates include removing questions about high school student discipline and military discharge status; adding more citizenship status options for international and undocumented students and removing or making optional certain questions about geography and family; adding a question about students’ preferred first names; and expanding options for gender identity expression.

Students do not have to wait until August 1 to begin working on the Common App. They may sign up for an account at any time and then move their information to the new app when it launches.

How to Fill Out the Common Application

Here are the procedures for students to follow in order to work on an application using the platform.

  • To learn how to establish an account and log in, go to and click the “Start your application” button. Students may also use the Common App’s mobile app to stay on top of deadlines, invite recommenders, and create reminders.
  • Select whether you are a first-year student or a transfer student.
  • Fill up the blanks with user information such name, email, phone number, address, date of birth, and projected enrollment year.
  • Fill up the user profile with the necessary information on education, extracurricular activities, demographic data, household information, and more.
  • Collaborators such as instructors, counselors, and others who provide letters of reference or other supporting documentation should be included.
  • Look for and add colleges to “My Colleges.”
  • Learn about each college’s application standards and adhere to them while applying.

According to experts, the summer before senior year of high school is an excellent time for kids to begin working on their applications.

“If you are not going to be out of town or out of the country with no internet connection, please begin your application on August 1,” advises Marissa Warren, a school counselor at Yorktown High School in New York.

During the summer, students are not required to submit applications. However, beginning in August allows kids to check the criteria for colleges they’re interested in, write essays, and finish some of the onerous background material before becoming bogged down with schoolwork and activities, according to Warren.

Starting early also helps pupils to obtain the assistance they need at the start of the school year, she says.

How long does it take to complete an application?

According to experts, the time it takes to complete an application varies depending on the needs of the institution. According to Christine Chu, a leading college admissions consultant with IvyWise, a New York-based education consulting firm, kids should allow themselves at least six weeks to collect what they need for college applications. That gives you two weeks to complete any background information and around a month to complete any other essential documentation.

Many colleges ask first-year candidates to provide recommendation letters and transcripts in addition to any optional parental information required, such as job data and educational history. Students must provide professors and counselors sufficient time to submit documents to the Common App before deadlines.

High school counselors advise students to get recommendation letters from their instructors before the conclusion of their junior year, so that educators may work on them over the summer. Seniors who want recommendation letters should request them early in the school year, according to experts.

Where Can I Find the Common App Essay Prompts?

The Common App first-year essay questions for the 2021-2022 school year will be much the same as the seven prompts used in the previous year. However, one problem-solving question will be withdrawn and replaced with a question on kindness and thankfulness.

This year’s Common App will include an optional non essay question on how the coronavirus epidemic impacted students, which was introduced in 2020. This question’s answers are restricted to 250 words. According to numbers supplied by a Common App administrator, over 20% of all candidates in the 2020-2021 admissions cycle responded to the COVID-19 question.

Essays must be no more than 650 words long. The subjects vary. Some ask students to reflect on their experiences and give instances of learning or personal progress. Students may also contribute an essay on any subject of their choosing or just describe a topic that interests them.

The essay prompts are available on the Common App website for applicants to see.

Experts say it doesn’t matter which of the seven prompts is picked as long as it enables an applicant to give insight into his or her identity in ways that aren’t represented in other portions of the application.

“You never want to replicate what’s in any of those other things,” says Bonnie Casson-Deweese, KIPP Houston Public Schools’ director of college match. She encourages students to reflect about what makes them unique, rather than just their academic achievements. Being a high school valedictorian, for example, isn’t noteworthy when going to Harvard University since almost everyone who applies is at the top of their class, she adds.

Students are not required to write an essay at all institutions. Some colleges and universities may request students to submit a supplementary essay or extra material. When applicants log in to their student accounts on the Common App or download a PDF from the Common App’s website, they will be able to read the criteria for all institutions.

Applicants may also use the platform’s Student Solutions Center to examine extra questions for schools before beginning their applications.

What Should I Do If I Have Issues With the Common App?

Experts advise students who have doubts about filling out the application to seek assistance from their high school counselor and admissions professionals at the universities to which they are applying.

The Common App also includes a number of resources to assist with the application process.

The platform offers year-round technical help 24 hours a day, seven days a week, in addition to video training throughout the program. Applicants may use the Student Solutions Center to get answers to commonly asked questions or to submit a query. According to Common App personnel, response times vary, but the typical wait time is 20 minutes.

Can I Get a Fee Waiver for the Common App?

According to statistics given by the organization, the Common App is free to use, and 48.9 percent of member institutions do not charge application fees for first-year applicants. Students who apply to colleges that charge an application fee must pay it when they submit their applications.

Applicants who qualify for fee exemptions — those who fulfill the National Association for College Admission Counseling requirements – will be able to indicate this on their application.

“A student only has to mention financial difficulty once in the application, and that fee waiver may be used to any institution,” Rickard explains.

Experts advise students who have issues about whether they qualify for fee exemptions to contact their high school counselors or directly the universities to which they are applying.

What Tips Can Help You Fill Out the Common App?

Experts advise students not to wait until 11:59 p.m. on January 1 to complete applications. According to Common App advocates, schools will still accept applications that are a few minutes late, but the stress of racing against the time – and the increased chance for typos and other errors – isn’t worth it.

Aside from beginning early, experts advise students to use the Common App preview, which lets them to check their application before submitting it.

Students may also choose advisors who can see sections of an application as well as their progress.

Is it necessary for me to use the Common App while applying to colleges?

The Common App is not compulsory for students to utilize. While the platform is well-known, it is not the only one available for college applications.

Many colleges and universities enable students to apply online via their websites. Some states have application procedures via which students may or must apply to institutions. Texas, for example, has a statewide application system, however, some Texas institutions also accept the Common App.

Some well-known private colleges, such as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., exclusively accept applications via their school websites. Many prestigious schools and institutions, like Harvard and Amherst College, accept Common App applications.

Some institutions also accept the Coalition Application and the Common Black College Application, which serve historically Black colleges and universities. The Common App is used by many schools that utilize those platforms.

Is it important to colleges if I use the Common App or a different platform?

Colleges that enable students to apply via various platforms have no preference as to which one is chosen, but high school counselors may. According to experts, the Common App’s link with Naviance, a college and job preparation software company, makes it simple for counselors to submit documents to universities.

However, students should only apply to one institution utilizing the platform that works best for them.

“We encourage students to utilize whichever application best matches their lives and where they want to go or apply for school,” says Heidi Meyer, executive director of admissions at the University of Minnesota—Twin Cities.

What Is the Common App Process Like for Transfer Students?

With a few exceptions, the transfer part of the Common App functions in much the same manner as it does for first-time applicants.

Transfer students, unlike first-time applicants, will be required to provide extra information from institutions attended. Transfer students are asked to include any college or institution attended, dates of enrollment, college curriculum completed, and GPA on the Common App.

Transfer students must additionally write an essay. Last year, the Common App changed the transfer essay requirement, making the question prompts the same as for first-time candidates.

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Toshiko Osaka