Princeton Review Common App Essays

Attention, college applicants! The 2017-18 Common Application is now available. The Common App allows you to submit applications to multiple colleges and universities by completing one online form. More than 700 colleges accept the Common App.

Learn about the benefits of the Common App and get our expert tips on how to manage your time through the college admission cycle.

Top 3 Benefits of the Common App

  1. Save time. Instead of filling out the same information a dozen times, you only have to do it once.
  2. Reduce senior year stress. Through the Common App dashboard you can track what documents and letters of recommendation you have submitted and what is still outstanding for each school.
  3. Write only one essay (plus any supplements). You’ll submit one essay through the Common Application for all your schools. Some colleges may ask you to also answer a few supplemental questions. Check out the 2018-2019 Common App essay prompts now so you can start strategizing!

How to Start Your Common Application

Before you can submit your application, you’ll need to gather your materials. (Read up on all the pieces of your college application). Here are are your early fall priorities:

1. Create a Common App login.

You can create an account now and start working on your applications later.

2. Make a list of your target Common App schools.

Browse our college profiles, and think about what you want in your prospective college. Our Admissions Experts can help you put together your list!

3. Register (and prep for!) the SAT and/or ACT.

Plan to take the tests so that colleges will receive your scores by the deadline. If you’re thinking of applying  early decision  and you’re not happy with your previous scores, you should take the September ACT or the October SAT. 

4. Research the application requirements for every school on your list.

Even if all the colleges you are applying to accept the Common App, their requirements may not be the same! Does your dream school require certain SAT Subject Tests? Gather this information early on so you can plan your senior year testing schedule.

5. Compose a list of your extracurricular activities.

Don’t forget to include things you do outside of school like your weekend job or playing on a regional soccer team.

6. Ask for recommendations.

Ask your teachers for letters of recommendation early, and make sure they have all the information they need (like a resume of your accomplishments ) to meet the deadline.

7. Write your Common Application essays

You'll choose from one of seven college essay prompts. Keep in mind that many colleges may also ask you to complete supplemental essay questions that are tailored to their schools.

8. Start collecting parent or legal guardian information.

The Common App will ask you to list their information about their educational background and employer, so if you don’t have this info, start asking!

Don't forget to keep up your grades! Read our expert tips for managing homework AND your college applications.

The Common App: Dates & Deadlines

  • Common App goes live : August 1
  • Early Decision Deadline: Typically November 1
  • Regular Decision Deadline:  Typically January 1

Application eadlines vary by school, so be sure to triple-check the dates for each school where you plan to submit an application. Here’s a sample list of application deadlines for several colleges.

Exceptions to Note

  • College-Specific Requirements:  Not all Common App schools have the same writing, testing, essay, and letter of rec requirements. For example, if you’re applying early action to Stanford, you should know that October is the last acceptable SAT test Date and September is the last acceptable ACT test date. Make sure you’ve done your research!

  • Financial Aid:  The financial aid process is separate from submitting your Common App (and with different deadlines!). Learn everything you need to know about financial aid.


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The Staff of The Princeton Review

For more than 35 years, students and families have trusted The Princeton Review to help them get into their dream schools. We help students succeed in high school and beyond by giving them resources for better grades, better test scores, and stronger college applications. Follow us on Twitter: @ThePrincetonRev.

The Common Application, also known as the Common App, makes it easy to apply to multiple colleges using one application. Is your dream school a Common App college? Here’s everything you need to know.

What is the Common Application?

The Common Application is a single online college application form used by over 700 colleges and universities. Instead of filling out the same general information—like your address, GPA, and extracurriculars— a dozen times, you only have to do it once. The Common App dashboard also helps you track necessary application documents (like your letters of recommendation) and important deadlines.

What colleges use the Common App?

Common App colleges are a varied list of institutions: private, public, big, small, engineering colleges and liberal arts schools. Check out the full list of the 733 Common App schools.

When does the Common App open?

The 2017-2018 Common Application is open now! The Common App goes live every year on August 1.

When is the Common App due?

Your application deadline depends on whether you are applying early decision (typically November 1) or regular decision (typically January 1). Deadlines also vary by school, so be sure to check dates for every college you are applying to. You can find application deadlines (plus tons of school information) in our online college profiles.

What are the Common Application essays?

You’ll submit one essay through the Common Application for all your schools. Some colleges may ask you to also answer a few supplemental questions. Check out the 2018-2019 Common App essay prompts now so you can start strategizing about which essay to write.

Do you apply for financial aid through the Common App?

The financial aid process begins with filling out the FAFSA and is separate from submitting your Common App (and with different deadlines!). Learn everything you need to know about financial aid.

What does the Common App cost?

The platform itself is free to use, but every college charges their own application processing fee (usually $30 to $75 for U.S. applicants and more for international applicants). You can apply for a fee waiver if you need one.

How do you apply to Common App colleges?

Follow these steps to apply to college through the Common Application.

1. Create a Common App account.

All you need is an e-mail address to get started. You'll be prompted to create a login and password and to answer a few quick questions about who you are (parent, teacher, or counselor) and when you're applying to college.

2. Confirm which of the schools on your list accept the Common Application.

Not all schools accept the Common App. Colleges may require that you fill out their own application form or ask you to use another application system like ApplyTexas for Texas colleges. Add schools that interest you to the My Colleges list in your Common App account.

3. Review the admission information for every school you are considering.

Keep in mind that Common App schools can have different writing, testing, essay, and letter of recommendation requirements. Make sure you do your research! You’ll use the same Common College application form but admission requirements may differ from school to school.

For example, one college may require SAT Subject Test scores while another school might be test optional. Many schools will ask you write essays in addition to the Common App essay or have additional college-specific questions for you to answer. You’ll be able to submit all of these extras through the Common App dashboard.

4. Gather the information you KNOW you’ll need

For the most part every application will ask for a copy of your high school transcript, a list of your extracurriculars, and information about your parent or guardian's educational background and work history.

5. Start working on your application

Your Application Dashboard will show all your colleges and the status of each component of your application. Pick an essay topic, start filling in general information, or ask a teacher for a letter of recommendation. There's no college application task too big or small!  

6. Track the status of your application(s)

The icons on your Dashboard are there to guide your way. A green check means your work has been submitted to that particular college, a yellow circle means your application is still in progress, and a red dash means that a particular section is not required for admission to that college. 

6. Submit!

Submit all your application materials by 11:59pm (in your local time zone) on the deadline date posted in your Common App Dashboard.


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The Staff of The Princeton Review

For more than 35 years, students and families have trusted The Princeton Review to help them get into their dream schools. We help students succeed in high school and beyond by giving them resources for better grades, better test scores, and stronger college applications. Follow us on Twitter: @ThePrincetonRev.

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