Summer vacation provides every student with a much-deserved opportunity for rest, relaxation and time with family and friends. For rising seniors it should also be a time to prepare for the college application season. Many students will use the Common Application ( if they are applying to out-of-state institutions. Here are some answers to a few questions you might have regarding the Common Application.

• What is the Common Application? In 1975, in an effort to simplify the college application process for students, several colleges and universities collaborated to develop a universal college application. The group started with 15 private “member” colleges. This coming academic year, more than 500 public and private institutions will accept the Common Application.

• Why should I use it? The Common Application can be a definite time saver for any busy high school student applying to more than one of the Common Application member institutions. These institutions agree to give the Common Application the same consideration as their school-specific applications. The Common “App” allows students to report the same information to numerous colleges in a universal format, which in turn frees them up to put their energies into school work, campus visits and essay writing. Most Arizona students applying to out-of-state schools typically use the Common Application.

• Which schools accept it? You can view the Common Application member list at: Our three Arizona public universities (NAU, ASU, UA) unfortunately, do not accept the Common Application.

• How much does it cost? The Common Application does not charge a fee for the application, however, member institutions can and do charge fees that range from $0 to $75 per application.

• Is an essay required? Yes, the application provides students with five essay prompts. Students must write one essay based on the prompt of their choice. The prompts are well-written and allow students from every academic, social, cultural and economic background to tell their unique stories. Students should thoughtfully use this opportunity to allow admissions committees to get to know them beyond the basic information presented in their application. The essay has a 650 word limit. Essays should be written in a Word document and then cut and pasted into the application.

• What is a Common Application Supplement? Some institutions require a supplement to their Common Application. Supplements typically ask institution-specific questions regarding a student’s legacy, desired major, reasons for attending the college, etc. A few institutions also require additional essays as part of their supplements. This is also a place for students to submit their resumes if requested.

• When should I apply? The Common Application is set to launch on Aug. 1. At that time students can review and begin filling out the application, and can save their work as they go. The Common Application also prompts students to request letters of recommendation and school forms online from two teachers and their counselors. As with all applications, students should be sure to read the admissions website of each school they apply to, taking special note of application deadlines.

The Common Application is an effective tool to streamline the college application process. Why not check it out before the start of the school year?

• Barbara Phelps is an independent college consultant and Ahwatukee Foothills resident. She assists students in grades 9-12 with the college planning, search and application process. Reach her at (602) 697-4543, or

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