The Common Application, Universal College Application, and Your Application

Each college has its own application for admission. In the past, students had to fill out a unique application for each college to which they applied. Many of these applications, however, asked for the same basic information. Applying to multiple colleges was such a tedious task that it discouraged students from exploring all their options.

Two Web services, The Common Application,, and The Universal College Application,, offer students the ability to apply to multiple colleges using one basic form. The goal of both services is to save students time. Each site allows students to enter basic information that many college require like high school name, GPA and test scores once for multiple applications.

Colleges support the use of these applications and do not discriminate against applicants who use the Common App or Universal App instead of their institutional application. In fact, many colleges only use the Common Application or the Universal Application as their sole application for admission.

Student use of these services is free, but each college may require their own application fee. These fees may be paid online or mailed to the college. Fees must be received for an application submitted online to be considered.

Here are the details on each service:

Common Application:

  • Oldest online application
  • More than 300 member colleges
  • Most of the members of Common Application are private institutions
  • Common Application governs which colleges can join as members
  • Students may submit online or use a paper application
  • All students must submit at least one teacher or counselor recommendation; some colleges will require more recommendations
  • All member institutions require an essay from one of six questions. Some colleges will require additional essays
  • Applicants have a place to include additional information they might want to share
  • Some colleges may require “supplemental information,” forms, essays or other requirements that not all Common Application colleges require
  • Some questions may be responded to differently for each college such as: academic interest, career interest and financial aid intent
  • Member institutions that are “test optional” are allowed to suppress test information so that test scores are not reported
  • Students are not limited to the number of applications they can submit using the Common Application

Universal Application

  • Launched in 2007
  • 57 colleges are currently enrolled
  • The only requirement for colleges who want to be members is that they must abide by the National Association for College Admission Counseling’s Statement of Principles of Good Practice which emphasizes ethical principles in the college admission process
  • Universal Application colleges are not obligated to require essays or recommendations and may decide individually what to require of the applicants
  • The application has several pages of general standard questions and allows colleges to add their own optional questions
  • Students are not limited to the number of applications they can submit using the Universal Application
  • Some of the colleges require that both the application and the supplemental forms be submitted from the same account before the application can be processed

Reminder: When using the Common App or Universal App, be sure to print a copy of each application you submit and keep a copy for your records.

Learn more about the college admissions process from the resources at Cappex. Search for colleges and find your perfect fit.