US College Application Programs: The Common Application

~2 Minutes / ~462 Words
Last Updated Dec 12, 2020

The process of applying to American universities is fairly streamlined. Many university applications are similar, which makes life much easier for families and for students. The process, however, still can be a lot to manage, which is why Occam Education created VitaeMe (download here for iOS and Android), the app that will keep you organized and on track during the college application process.

The first article in this blog series will discuss one of the  three of the most common applications used by colleges and universities in the US:

The Common Application

This application, which is used by nearly 700 schools, is the largest application of its kind. Prestigious institutions like Johns Hopkins and NYU use this application, as well as some smaller, private institutions like Pepperdine University in California. This one is fairly predictable, even though not all schools will require the same things. For instance, some schools require the student to answer some questions about themselves, while others do not.

What To Expect on The Common App

The main section is a basic application that all schools the student applies to through the portal will see, and it includes the following sections:

  • Profile: covers the student’s demographic, citizenship, and basic contact details.
  • Family: information about the student’s parents/guardians and siblings.
  • Education: asks for information on all schools the student has attended, grades, courses they have taken, and honors, among others.
  • Testing: information about the student’s test scores, including country-specific exams. (An example of a country-specific exam is the A-level, taken by students in the UK.)
  • Activities: a student may list up to 8 activities they have participated in, including school extracurricular activities, hobby clubs, music lessons, paid work, family duties, and philanthropy work among others.
  • Writing: an essay roughly 500-550 words long. Students may select from five topics, which change yearly and may be viewed on the Coalition Application’s home page.

There are a few specific questions each university will ask. These questions may be usually about financial aid or general questions about the student’s life. Each university also has their own form for submitting letters of recommendation and may also ask the student to write additional essays.

There are some universities that use their own applications (for instance, Georgetown). However, many of the most prestigious schools can be found through the Common App. When we at Occam work with students, we help students manage their Common App to ease the student’s workload and ensure that nothing gets left out. This is also why we created VitaeMe (download here for iOS and Android), the app that works like a college admissions consultant, right from your phone! Join us for the second post in this series to learn more about the Coalition Application.